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Land Surveys: What Kind Do I Need?

Posted by mansfieldcommercial on September 11, 2023

Common Types of Land Surveys

You may already know it’s a smart decision to get a survey done when buying a piece of property, but did you also know there’s a variety of different survey’s that can be done, each with different areas of focus, and different respective uses? Knowing the basics in the different survey types can help you make important value decisions on what needs to be done and when.

Topographic Surveys:

This is a terrain focused survey that provides information about the natural and artificial features of a piece of property. Topographical surveys provide varying levels of detail about a property’s contours, bodies of water, structures, vegetation, elevation, and general landscape. Topographical surveys can vary in detail and provide this data for the whole site or focus in a particular area of a site. A topographical survey provides critical information in certain use cases, such as when considering a site for development. Architects and engineers will likely ask for this survey early on in the project planning process, so often it’s smart to have this work done early in the property acquisition stage.

ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys:

ALTA/NSPS (American Land Title Association / National Society of Professional Surveyors) Land Title Surveys, are surveys conducted during real estate transactions. These surveys follow strict standards and provide extensive information about boundaries, easements, zoning restrictions, encroachments, and features impacting a site. This type of surveys primary goal is to identify potential risks associated with a property. This is an advisable survey to be conducted during any property acquisition.

Boundary Surveys:

Boundary Surveys provide basic information about the precise boundaries of any specific parcel being studied. This type of survey includes a mapping of the land’s monuments, corners, lines and limits. It helps clarify where property starts and ends, and identifies potential encroachments, and acts as a legal description of the property’s boundaries. At an absolute minimum, a boundary survey is always advisable when buying a parcel.

Construction Surveys:

This type of survey is ordered when you are going to commence construction. A construction survey helps to precisely locate elevations and dimensions for features of a project such as roads, utilities, and building pads. Using information provided on construction plans, the survey crew places markers on site to locate features of the construction plan accurately on site. This helps contractors, architects and engineering personnel ensure designs are accurately implemented and in line with legal requirements such as neighboring property boundaries and setbacks.

Elevation Certificates:

An Elevation Certificate can prove to be a critically important document, especially when considering property that may be impacted by flood zone. Referencing FEMA mapping, the certificates provide information on flood zone, lowest points of elevations, building location and elevation, and other characteristics. These certificates can be used when evaluating or property impacted by flood zone, planning construction or renovation of a building impacted, as well as for flood insurance purposes.

Subdivision Surveys:

As the name suggests, these surveys are conducted when splitting a larger parcel into smaller lots. This survey helps determine boundaries, dimensions, and legal descriptions of the respective smaller parcels. These surveys are common in dividing up land for development purposes, such as a new neighborhood.

As-Built Survey:

As the name suggests, this is a survey of the existing conditions of a site and what’s been built to date. What’s existing does not always align with what was planned for or approved. An As-Built survey can accurately document existing property conditions in preparation for planned changes to a property. While previously approved site plans and construction drawings can be helpful, it’s important to note that they may not accurately represent the work that was done.

The Bottom Line:

It’s great to know you need a survey, but knowing what kind you need is even better. Understanding current needs, as well as the future needs of your property and project can help to determine the type of survey that’s right for you, and potentially save you time and money in the long run.

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