The Value of Property Surveys

A property survey is a drawing that maps out boundaries as well as the placement of dwellings, outbuildings and physical features, such as roadways and creeks, of a specific piece of land. A permanent record of land placement and property lines, these maps are considered official records and are often used to settle property disputes, determine land value and ownership history. There is significant value in having your property surveyed.

There are two basic types of residential property surveys:

  1. House location, or drive-by:

The purpose of this type of survey is to indicate the location of the residence and any other large structures on the land as well as the orientation of these building to one another.

  1. Cadestral land survey:

Includes specifics on boundaries, easement and property lines, which are determined by a surveyor visiting the property and taking measurement that are compared to archived land records to arrive at a complete, legal description of the property.

A property survey is helpful in formally identifying key aspects that affect your land.

Boundary Lines:

Before building a fence, adding onto your home or making any other significant improvements, it’s wise to know exactly where the boundaries of your property lie. Over time as homes pass through different owners, this information can become blurred and often, too, do the boundary lines. The surest way to determine that you-and your neighbors-make improvements to your piece of property is to undergo a survey.

Rights-of-Way, Easements, Abandon Roads:

A survey will indicate all conditions legally imposed on your property. As an example, if your land blocks your neighbor’s access to the road, there may be an agreement allowing them to walk or drive on a portion of your land to reach the street.

Access, Ingress and Egress:

A survey should indicate whether there is a physical access point to a public roadway from the property as well as the suitability for emergency vehicles, delivery trucks or as a driveway for occupants.


A survey will report zoning jurisdiction and classification (residential, light industrial, etc.) The zoning ordinance of your property can impart certain restrictions on how your property can be used.

Joint Driveways, Encroachments, Overhangs, Projections:

This portion of the survey may reveal an obligation for you to support your neighbor’s property by maintaining your own. The survey may a structure overhanging or impinging your land or that of your neighbor’s. Common encroachments include fences, detached garages, sheds and driveways. If discovered in a survey, these should be immediately addressed.

Utilities and Associated Equipment:

Many properties include both above and underground utility services such as gas, electrical and telephone lines as well as drains, wires, etc.. A utility company may have the right to use a portion of your property for the maintenance of utilities. As such, they may also have the right to determine the upkeep of certain things on your land, such as the height of trees that could impede utility lines. Knowing the specific location of underground utilities is crucial prior to any digging or construction.

Existing Improvements:

Surveyors review all improvements to the property and confirm these buildings, alterations or repairs are within the law and meet requirements regarding height, bulk, dimension, frontage, setbacks, parking and building lines. Of course, should you be in violation, the surveyor will then write up a notice indicating what changes are necessary for compliance.

There are many valid and vital reasons to have a property survey conducted, the least of which is to fully comprehend which of the above issues affect your land. If you plan to build a fence, patio, pool or garage and do so without fully understanding boundary lines and other issues, you may have no recourse but to remove the structure if it is found to be in violation of the property boundaries or affect public utilities.

Survey fees range from $500 to $1,000 based on lot size and location. It is also wise to have a survey done before buying a property, as often things are uncovered that can and should be addressed during negotiations.