When do I need a Land Surveyor?
The information contained here is not legal advice nor is it land surveying advice. This is general information that may be helpful to you as a property owner. For assistance with your specific situation, please contact a Professional Land Surveyor, a qualified attorney or, if necessary, a local law enforcement official in your community.
Who is a Professional Land Surveyor?
A Professional Land Surveyor (PLS) is uniquely qualified by education and experience. He or she has become registered by passing a series of Massachusetts Land Surveyors examinations. Only a Professional Land Surveyor duly registered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (see 250 CMR) is legally permitted to perform land surveys in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
When do I need a Survey?
- When purchasing or selling land.
- Before land is subdivided by deed or subdivision.
- When a lending institution requires a mortgage loan inspection.
- Before building a house, fence, septic system or other improvements close to the property line.
- When required by local authorities prior to the issuance of a building or other permit.
- For drainage planning, topographical and subsurface utility studies.
- When purchasing Title Insurance.
- When the Property line location is in question and/or an encroachment is suspected.
What can a Professional Land Surveyor do for me?
- Review your deed along with other evidence and render a professional opinion as to the locations and conflicts of the boundaries of your land.
- Set or identify monuments at your property corners or at specific locations on your property line.
- Locate buildings, fences and other improvements in relationship to property and easement lines.
- Prepare a plan of your property indicating boundary measurements, monuments found and/or placed, existing fixed improvements along with dimensional relationships of buildings, fences, land areas and newly created property lines. This Plan can be prepared in accordance with Registry of Deeds Standards for eventual recording.
- Appear in Court as an expert witness.
- Prepare existing conditions mapping suitable for use by your architect or engineer as a basis for design of improvements.
- Prepare Flood Certificates relating to the property or structures located on the property.
Protect your Investment
To protect your investment, retain a Professional Land Surveyor prior to planning your development and investing funds. The Professional Land Surveyor can locate the boundaries of a property upon which improvements are planned or being constructed, and can layout any proposed improvements. These professional services assure that your improvements are positioned correctly possibly preventing costly complications.
What should I receive from a Professional Land Surveyor?
A Land Surveyor can provide you with some or all of the following products, depending on the needs of your project and the type of survey:
- A drawing of the property, surveyed, certified by the surveyor responsible for the work, showing what was surveyed
- For boundary surveys, the drawing should indicate the property corners found or set, location of improvements, occupation lines, easements and encroachments across boundaries.
- If this drawing is to be recorded, it should be prepared according to Registry of Deeds Standards.
What will a Land Survey cost?
A land surveyor’s fee depends on many factors including:
- Type of survey, size, shape and accessibility of the property, terrain, vegetation and time of year.
- Availability and credibility of existing records and monuments in the vicinity of the subject property.
- Applicable Standards: Will this survey need to be performed according to Massachusetts Land Court Standards? Does the Town or local approving authority have any additional requirements required for this survey?
- Conflicting deed calls, hostile or uncooperative neighbors. The land surveyor can usually provide an estimate for the cost, based on general experience and the specific job requirements. The final cost may vary because of specific issues related to your project.
Many Professional Land Surveyors charge by the hour. The cost is dependent on many factors such as the type of survey and equipment required, weather conditions, availability of existing records and controlling survey monuments, type of terrain, access to the property and the surveyor’s familiarity and knowledge of the area.
In addition to salary costs, hourly fees include allowance for business overhead, such as taxes, rent, telephone, postage, utilities and other costs related to the conduct of a Professional Land Surveying business. The costs for monuments, vehicle mileage, copying, recording fees, and other related costs associated directly to the service provided to you may be charged in addition to the hourly fee.
Due to these variables, it is often difficult to determine a flat rate fee for a land survey. Most often a land surveyor can provide an estimate of final cost based on their general experience.
To reduce the possibility of a misunderstanding or disagreement, the land surveyor should require that you sign an agreement or contract that includes a description of the services to be performed, an approximate completion date, a lump sum fee or hourly rate and payment schedule.
Types of Surveys Available
A Professional Land Surveyor can provide several different types of land surveys for you:
- Boundary Survey: This survey establishes or reestablishes property boundary lines and corners upon the ground to locate improvements in relationship to the property line.
- ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey: This survey is done on commercial property for the purpose of supplying the title company and lender with survey and location data necessary for issuing title or extended coverage title insurance.
- Topographic Survey: This survey locates natural or man-made features, such as buildings, fences, trees, streams and elevations of the land. Government agencies, engineers or architects may require this survey.
- Mortgage Loan Inspection: This inspection does NOT constitute a boundary survey. The sole purpose of the inspection is to obtain mortgage title insurance. The inspection shows an approximate location of improvements and is a cursory check for encroachments that may affect the subject property. No property corners are set and the information must not be used or relied upon for the construction of any improvements.
Other Types of Surveys May Include:
- Condominium Surveys
- Subdivision Surveys
- Construction and Site Plans
- Record or As-built Surveys
- Land Court Surveys
- Settlement and Deformation Surveys
- Court Exhibit Surveys
- Aerial Photo and other Control Surveys
- Hydrographic Surveys
- GIS Data Accumulation
How Can I Obtain the Services of a Professional Land Surveyor?
Be sure to look for a Professional Land Surveyor (PLS) who is licensed in the state where your property is located. Base your decision for retaining the services of a Professional Land Surveyor on his/her reputation, experience and availability, not on the fee or costs associated with his/her services. While MALSCE cannot specifically recommend a firm to someone requesting a particular service, we can give you some helpful resources for finding firms in Massachusetts:
- Link to the Massachusetts Association of Land Surveyors and Civil Engineers (MALSCE) Proprietors’ Council. These are firms that are ready to work with you.
- Contact a reputable real estate attorney, local municipality, banker or title insurer in your area.
- Consult the yellow pages under the listing of Surveyor-Land.
- Visit the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Professional Engineering and Professional Land Surveyors website: http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/licensee/dpl-boards/en/