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property surveys


What is Land Surveying?

Land surveying allows you to understand your land boundaries. A survey is performed in order to locate, describe, monument, and map the boundaries and corners of a parcel of land. It might also include the topography of the parcel, and the location of buildings and other improvements made to the parcel.

Who Are Land Surveyors?

Professional land surveyors are trained to use an intricate combination of law, math, engineering, and physics to work out and establish property boundaries. They use specialized equipment like GPSs, prisms, software, radios and robotic total stations to complete the survey. 

Why Have Land Surveyed?

As a property owner, you are able to have your property surveyed at any time but you will most likely hire a surveyor when you’re buying a home or constructing something. A survey ordered for property transfer is known as a Mortgage Location Survey, which follows its own set of standards.  Even if you are buying a property with no plans of construction in mind, you will want to have your land surveyed so you know exactly where your boundaries of ownership lie; you’ll know what’s yours, and what’s not. A Boundary Survey will detail the exact boundaries of your land, using natural boundaries or artificial boundaries set in a written document.

Services of a professional land surveyor are most commonly needed when:

  • Buying or selling a home or parcel of land;

  • Dividing land into smaller parcels or consolidating parcels

  • Installing fences, septic systems or other improvements

  • Suspecting someone is encroaching on your property


1. ALTA/ACSM Survey

For commercial closings, lenders will usually require a type of survey called an “ALTA/ASCM Survey.” ALTA stands for American Land Title Association, and ACSM stands for American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. An ALTA/ASCM survey is a Boundary Survey that must meet certain stringent standards established by these two organizations. The purpose of this type of survey is to provide a title company and/or lender with the necessary location and survey data to issue an American Land Title Association or Extended Coverage Title Insurance policy. An ALTA/ACSM survey usually shows the relationship between existing improvements on a particular parcel of land relative to the boundaries set forth in the property’s deed.  This is one of the most comprehensive types of land survey because it covers all of the features and characteristics of the property.

2. Boundary Survey

A boundary survey is used to locate the corners and boundary lines of a parcel of land. This type of survey involves both record and field research, including any measurements and computations needed to set the boundary lines in accordance with applicable state laws. A boundary survey may also involve locating easement lines and encroachments.  In this type of survey, the surveyor will set (or recover) the property corners and produce a detailed plat or map. To accomplish this, the surveyor will research the public records and do research in the field, take measurements and perform calculations. This survey is used for the purpose of identifying the property’s boundary lines, such as for construction or permit purposes

3. 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 on the development plans. A construction survey may also involve both horizontal and vertical grading in addition to an As-Built survey.

4. Location Survey/Drawing 

A Location Survey shows the location of the improvements on the property in relation to the apparent boundary lines of the property. It generally involves a physical inspection of the property and is accurate to plus or minus a few feet. This type of survey will generally cost a few hundred dollars. It should not be used for the purpose of identifying the property’s boundary lines, such as for construction or permit purposes (you’ll need a Boundary Survey for that). A location drawing shows the property lines and locates any and all improvements on the lot, using the legal description and any recorded easements, right of ways, etc., of which the surveyor is made aware. A location drawing has precision of one foot in each direction. A location drawing is not based on markers at the property.

  When it comes to obtaining a mortgage and title insurance, (in conjunction with purchasing a new home), a location drawing is typically the type of survey required.  However, if a new purchaser decides to purchase a new property and plans improvements to the property (such as a shed, fence or a deck) it is important to know exactly where your property lines are and where the building setback lines are so that you do not encroach on your neighbors property, or violate a building code which could be costly. This is where the benefit of the boundary survey would come into play and where the added expense can really save the homeowner in the long run.

5. Site Planning Survey

Often a requirement for development permit applications, a site planning survey combines the elements of boundary and topographic surveys for site planning. This survey is used to plan design improvements and developments before construction begins.

Site planning surveys are frequently used for designing house lots, subdivisions, stores, playgrounds, commercial & industrial sites, and streets and highways.

6. Subdivision Survey

A subdivision survey is used to divide a parcel of land into smaller tracts, lots, or estates. This type of survey is also used to design streets and drainages, and it must be recorded by the local and state government agency. This survey is also known as a partition survey.

7. Topographic Survey

The purpose of this survey is to locate both natural and man-made topographic features on a parcel of land. Examples of such features include fences, utilities, buildings, elevations, streams, trees, improvements, and contours. A topographic survey may be required by a state or local government agency or might be used by architects and engineers for planning site improvements and developments.

A topographic survey is typically implemented through a combination of aerial photography and ground field methods. This type of survey is not limited by property boundaries.

8. Mortgage Location Survey

Ordered by a lender or title insurer, a Residential MLS is intended to provide proof that certain improvements are actually located on the property as described in the legal description. The survey plat must show particular information discovered from measurements taken at a site, and not necessarily evidenced by public record.

commercial MLS is a low-cost alternative to an ALTA Survey, although it also sacrifices some accuracy. The commercial mortgage location survey follows the same state standards as a residential mortgage location survey, so the lender must be willing to accept these standards in place of the ALTA standards. A mortgage survey is not a boundary survey and should not be used for construction or making boundary determinations. **Missouri does NOT require a lender to get a survey, any and all surveys will come the directive of the buyer/owner.

9. Spot Survey

The legal name for a "Spot Survey" is: Surveyors Real Property Report. The SRPR has two main functions:

  • Prove there is a house on the lot. Yes, it sounds absurd that a house be built on the wrong lot, but it does happen. A SRPR is a cursory check of the property and the main thing we want to verify is that the home is indeed located on the right lot!

  • Show the easements. Part of the surveying process is to review the easement deeds that are listed in a title commitment and show them graphically on the survey drawing. The easements listed in the title commitment and on the recorded subdivision plat are reviewed by the surveyor and then shown on the drawing.

Because property corners aren’t marked and because the state statues require a minimum amount of work to be performed, a “spot” really shouldn’t (and can’t) be called a “survey”. Calling it a “survey” is misleading and misrepresents what the client is receiving. Remember, it is only a cursory check by a licensed land surveyor.

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