SO YOU WANT TO HAVE YOUR PROPERTY SURVEYED? (Part 1)
By Jess Gwinn
Maybe you are planning a timber harvest? Maybe your neighbor has timber marked near where you think the boundary is located? Maybe you are just curious? There are myriad reasons for wanting to have a survey of your property. But what comes next?
Most real estate transfers occur without the benefit of a boundary survey. However, it is still possible that your property could have been previously surveyed. While unlikely, a call to the prior owner may yield a pleasant surprise. Even if there was no prior survey, talking to the prior owner(s) and neighbors could yield important information concerning the boundaries of your property.
Accessing this information is much more time consuming (and thus expensive) for a land surveyor than it is for you. For these reasons, investigating this history by the landowner is sometimes very valuable to the surveyor. Even if you don’t live on the property, getting to know your neighbors is generally a good idea anyway. Having someone local to keep an eye on your property can be invaluable.
How do you pick a land surveyor? The obvious answer would be the yellow pages as any firm listed would in theory have registered land surveyors on staff. As with many services, asking friends and neighbors for their recommendations is always a good start. Did the surveyor perform the services for the contracted price? If the experience with the surveyor was negative, ask why. Disagreement with the surveyor over the location of the boundary does not necessarily reflect poorly upon his ability. Sometimes the surveyor locates a boundary line that is contrary to the landowner’s preconceived notion of the boundary location, perturbing the landowner. Surveyors are advocates for the boundary and public at large. You may be the person paying them but they answer to the rules, regulations, and laws dictating the practice of surveying. Remember, we are surveying your neighbor’s boundary as well as yours.
One of the reasons to ask your neighbors is that if they have had their property surveyed recently, that surveyor may have a jump start on your survey. Some of the work they did for your neighbor could overlap with the work required for your property survey and reduce the cost. The older the survey though, the less it will help. At a certain age, a survey is hardly more valuable to the firm that originally performed the work than to any other surveyor.
I sometimes get asked to survey a single line of a property. This is often not feasible. All of the lines of a property are connected. Surveying one line usually means surveying all of the lines as they are interdependent. Occasionally it can be done but that is the exception.
Jess A. Gwinn is a Registered Land Surveyor in Indiana.