Surveyor Definition

What is a Surveyor?

Surveyors are hired to verify property boundaries and prepare detailed drawings before finalizing the purchase of property or beginning a construction project.

REtipster provides real estate guidance — not legal advice.

The information in this article can be impacted by regional legislation and other unique variables. For the real deal, always consult with a qualified legal professional before taking action.

What Does a Surveyor Do?

Surveyors are hired to verify property boundaries and prepare detailed drawings before finalizing the purchase of property or beginning a construction project. Surveyors handle the maps and plots for deeds and other legal documents.

When a surveyor prepares a land survey, it can be used to determine the legal description of a property, the size of a parcel, the location of structures and any improvements on a property, the location of easements and restrictions on a property, flood areas, and encroachments, among other things.

surveyors at work land survey

For example, a property survey will:

  • Certify the legal description for the property and identify the precise property boundaries.
  • Disclose any rights-of-way, restrictions or easements that allow other property owners or utility companies the right to access portions of a property, so the owner will know not to build in a location that infringes on the utility company’s rights.
  • Certify that there are no gores, gaps, or overlaps between the subject property and any adjacent properties.
  • Identify any surface water on the subject property, location of flood zones, and uncover evidence of suspected underground water so the owner can get a more specific inspection if needed.
  • Determine a property’s zoning classification and any zoning restrictions that affect any future plans for construction.
  • Make sure the property owner avoids building on a cemetery or family burial ground.

If a property owner is in a heated dispute with their neighbor over the placement of a fence or the ownership of a rotting tree, a surveyor can help settle the issue without bloodshed.

Surveyors often work for the county government or for private engineering firms. They are also hired by individual property owners to verify the metes and bounds of a property (usually prior to closing).

When to hire a Surveyor

If you’re investing in vacant land, there are things you need to know that affect a property’s value that often can’t be seen from a satellite map or the seller’s description (not to mention, many vacant lots don’t even have a registered street address, which makes them difficult to find with conventional mapping tools).

A land survey answers some important questions:

  • Are there any land features such as steep hills or flood zones that would make development difficult?
  • Is the land accessible? If there are no roads available, can you obtain an easement?
  • What utilities are available and will you be able to arrange them on your own if they’re not?
  • Are there any restrictions that will affect your plans for development?
  • Are there any easements, encroachments, or rights-of-way that might interfere with planned use or development of the property?
  • What is the precise size, shape, and dimensions of the property?

Land surveys are put together when a surveyor creates or follows the property’s legal description (as written in the recorded deed) and referencing all the other title documents of record that affect the property.

RELATED: Legal Descriptions: How They Work and Why They Matter

If you plan to build a new structure on your land, a survey will help you verify the amount of space you have available to build in accordance with the local zoning and planning department, which plays an important role in perfecting the building plans.

what is a surveyor

For construction projects, the surveyor prepares maps and reports for site plan approval, locating the construction project, size limit of structures, proper foundation depth, elevations, use restrictions on the property and whether any other easements cross over the subject property, The surveyor is often asked to certify the survey to the construction lender, title company, and parties having an interest in the construction project.

Bonus: Get a FREE copy of the INVESTOR HACKS ebook when you subscribe!

Free Subscriber Toolbox

Want to learn about the tools I’ve used to make over $40,000 per deal? Get immediate access to videos, guides, downloads, and more resources for real estate investing domination. Sign up below for free and get access forever.

Understanding Different Types of Surveys

Because a land investor’s survey needs are different than those of a homeowner adding a garage—and both are different from the needs of a lender—there are many different types of surveys.

These are some of the most common, although the commonly known names may be slightly different depending on where you live.

Mortgage or ALTA/ACSM Survey

This is the comprehensive survey most lenders need for underwriting requirements. It ensures the property is as described in the legal documents and covers all the features and characteristics of the property.

Boundary Survey

This is the survey a homeowner would get to identify and verify the legal boundaries of a property.

Location Survey

This is a boundary survey augmented with information about interior improvements. It’s usually used for lending purposes and zoning permits.

Site Planning Survey

This survey combines a topographic survey of roads, ditches, utilities, and embankments with a boundary survey. Site planning surveys are used to design home lots and subdivisions, commercial and industrial developments, transportation infrastructure, and recreational facilities.

Subdivision Survey

If you invest in vacant land you want to develop a larger parcel, a subdivision survey is necessary to divide the parcel into lots or tracts. It’s filed with the county recorder and used to design streets, drainage, and other essential elements.

Who Pays for a Surveyor?

That depends on why the survey is done. If your lender needs a mortgage survey, then the borrower will pay the surveyor fees in their closing costs.

On the other hand, if an easement issue caused a lien against a property, the seller may need to hire a surveyor to get it resolved before the property can be sold. In that case, the seller pays the fee.

Surveyor costs vary depending on the size of the parcel and the complexity of the survey. According to national averages, you can expect to pay about $500 – $1,000 per acre for a property survey.

Reviewed by Mark H. Zietlow, Innovative Law Group

The Best Real Estate Investing Strategy I’ve Found

The most powerful strategy I've used to build my real estate investing career is NOT what you might guess.

Land investing (that's right, buying and selling vacant land) is a massive opportunity that most investors aren't paying attention to. For the few land investors who know how to pursue this business with the right acquisition strategy, it's an extremely lucrative and low-risk way to build serious wealth from real estate.

If you want to get the inside scoop on how to start and run your own land investing business, come and check out the Land Investing Masterclass – where I've put together a full 12-module course with dozens of videos, bonuses, downloads, group coaching sessions and a members-only forum (where we spend time answering questions every week). There is no better place to learn this business from the inside out!

Did you find this article to be helpful?

Our goal is always to provide our readers with the most up-to-date and relevant content so that we can continue to empower others! Please share your feedback.

Bonus: Get a FREE copy of the INVESTOR HACKS ebook when you subscribe!

Free Subscriber Toolbox

Want to learn about the tools I’ve used to make over $40,000 per deal? Get immediate access to videos, guides, downloads, and more resources for real estate investing domination. Sign up below for free and get access forever.

Scroll Up

Welcome to REtipster.com

We noticed you are using an Ad Blocker


We get it, too much advertising can be annoying.

Our few advertisers help us continue bringing lots of great content to you for FREE.

Please add REtipster.com to your Ad Blocker white list, to receive full access to website functionality.

Thank you for supporting. We promise you will find ample value from our website.