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What Does A Land Survey Tell You?

Surveyors play an integral role in land development, from the planning and design of land subdivisions through to the final construction of roads, utilities, and landscaping

A land survey, or simply survey, is the scientific process of measuring the dimensions of a particular area of the earth’s surface, including its horizontal distances, directions, angles, and elevations. Artificial structures, such as a road or buildings, may also be noted in a survey. Once these measurements are taken, they can be used to make a map or even a globe. However, not all surveys are the same, so let’s take a look at three major types.


Legal Mistake

Land surveys are useful because they can prevent costly legal mistakes such as building on another person’s land or property, or even breaking local building codes and regulations.

All too often, the survey shows that you and your neighbors were operating under the wrong assumption. You both might have the placement of the boundary line between your properties wrong. Before erecting that fence, you want to ensure it will be built on your property, not your neighbor’s property.


They can expose potential building setbacks and help you plan around them, saving time and money further down the line.

Right of way

A survey will show all the conditions imposed by law that are reflected in your property’s title report and other agreements.

If your property blocks your neighbor’s access to the road, for example, there may be an old agreement (called an “easement”) that gives your neighbor the right to walk across your yard to the street. This information should be a public record.

Existing Improvements

The surveyor will usually certify that the buildings and other improvements, alterations, and repairs to your property at the time of the survey do not violate laws or other restrictions.

Types Of Land Survey

There are some different types of land surveys, and we have included a list below with a short explanation of each type.

  1. Boundary Survey: make sure the work is within your property’s limits and helps fence off your property in the right locations.
  2. Topographic Survey: A topographic survey includes field measurement and preparation of a plat to establish land elevations. These surveys are typically contracted by a residential or commercial property owner before making improvements to the property such as, but not limited to, additions, landscaping, or parking lots.
  3. Subdivision Survey: Just like the name implies, this survey is used to divide a piece of land into smaller pieces, also called lots. A subdivision survey must be recorded by a government agency, most likely both local and state.
  4. Construction Survey: This type of survey requires staking out structures located on the property, including walls, buildings, roads, and utilities. Staking provides construction personnel with directions for implementing the improvements shown in the development plans. A construction survey may also involve both horizontal and vertical grading in addition to an As-Built survey.
  5. Location Survey: Similar to a boundary survey, a location survey provides additional information on the location of interior improvements. This type of survey is most commonly used to fulfill the requirements of a zoning permit or loan application.