A Land Survey is probably something you don’t want to have done because it’s just another cost to add to an already fairly spendy project, but it’s something that will provide you with absolute peace of mind. Hiring a professional surveyor can help you avoid unforeseen lawsuits in the future should you erect a fence on what you thought was your property. You may think you know where your property lines are and you might be correct, but if you’re wrong, you could end up building on your neighbors property resulting in a dispute, build too far in on your property, which could lead to losing part of your property by adverse possession or you could put the fence directly on the property line, which by law gives you joint ownership of the fence. Let’s dig into what all is involved in a land survey and how to go about getting one so that you can own the fence you pay for and keep all of the land you own.
What is a Land Survey?
A Land or Property Survey is a legal document compiled by a professional land surveyor that includes specific information regarding your property. They use sophisticated tools to ensure precise measurements of the boundary lines of your property, easements as well as zoning categories.
The boundary lines of your property define where your plot begins and ends. This is the line that determines what is yours, what is not and will greatly help you determine where to put a fence.
An easement is property that you have permission to use, but do not actually own. You may be using property thinking that it’s yours, but it legally belongs to another person or organization. A survey will identify whether this is the case or not. The most common types of easements are for utilities and driveways.
Zoning Categories simply identify your property as commercial or residential.
When you have a survey done by a professional you should receive a black and white illustration of your property that is a map showing physical boundaries, space between properties and the physical location of roadways and driveways. It should also show basic map information such as road names, your address and the surveyor’s information.
Along with the map illustration, you will receive a written report containing all of the technical measurements of the property boundaries, descriptions of any pertinent physical objects and a listing of any easements if they exist.
Is it Really Necessary to Get a Land Survey Just to Have a Fence Installed?
This question is kind of like asking “do I need to measure before I cut?”. Sure, you could wing it, but if you’re not precise, it could lead to more trouble than it’s worth. A survey allows you to know precisely that you are within your legal right to build a fence and ensure that you own it while avoiding any legal battles that might result in a wrong placement of the fence.
Consequences of wrong placement of a fence:
- Joint ownership if the fence is built directly on the property line.
- Forfeiting ownership of the fence by building on property you don’t own.
- Adverse possession, which is losing part of your property by building your fence too far away from the property line on your side.
Hiring a professional to perform a survey ensures that you know where the boundary lines are. It’s common to think that if you bought your house years ago and a survey was done that it will still be valid, but that’s not necessarily true. Things can change over the years, such as structures being torn down, new ones built. A surveyor’s liability only lasts six years from the last survey date. If it’s been more than six years, It’s a good idea to get an updated survey.
Can I Do a Land Survey Myself?
There are ways to find basic measurements of your property. On the homeowner’s deed to the property, there is a physical description of the property that often includes measurements. You can use these measurements and use a measuring tape and compass to mark your property lines. If you have a metal detector, you can use it to find the metal stakes (property pins) that were placed in the ground to mark the property when the house was built. You should be aware that property pins can be moved for various reasons. If you’re going to go the DIY route, understand that you will more than likely not be as accurate as a professional surveyor and you are taking the risks listed above.
Will the Fence Company do a Survey?
A fence company is unlikely to be equipped to give you a complete legal survey. You’ll have to have one done by a professional survey company.
How do I get a Land Survey?
More specifically, you might be wondering, “How do I hire a land surveyor?”. Well, fortunately each state has a land surveyor association and those associations have websites with a database that allows you to search your specific area by town and county for a list of surveyors where you live. The Texas Society of Professional Surveyors allows you to search a database of their members, so if you don’t know where to start, clicking that link and putting in a search is a good place to start.
Oftentimes, the fence company you want to hire already has a relationship with a good surveyor that they could recommend to you. You can also ask your neighbors and friends for recommendations if they have had experience getting a survey.
What to Look for in a Surveyor Company
In addition to having a good recommendation and proof of previous work, there’s a few things you should make sure of before hiring a land surveyor.
- Can perform the specific service you need – the right type of survey with the proper zoning (i.e. boundary survey in a residential zone).
- Have adequate experience in the work you are hiring them to do.
- Are a registered professional land surveyor.
- Has errors and omissions insurance.
- Willing to give a written proposal defining scope of work, payment expectations and estimated date of completion.
It’s also a good idea to hire someone in the neighborhood you live in if possible. Someone who is familiar with an area and has completed surveys in it is less likely to make mistakes.
Butler Contracting Builds Fences!
Once you get the survey done and you’re confident you know where the fence needs to go, hire us to install it for you! We can consult you on material and how to handle those awkward parts of your property line. Give us a call at (844) 628-8537 or use our Fence Estimator Tool to get a rough idea of quote.