So, you think you know everything there is to know about the legal description of your property. If you had to, you could dig up that old plat and calculate precisely where your property begins and ends. And you know exactly who has a right to come onto your property and why.
A property survey is a sketch or map of a piece of land showing the property boundaries and physical features, like rivers, creeks, and roadways. Some surveys also note topographical information, like elevation and soil density; residential documents typically show the location of houses and other structures, too. In most cases, these maps are treated like official records and can be used to settle property disputes, figure out land value, and determine ownership history, among other things. How surveys are prepared and what exactly they contain can vary from place to place, and much depends on the type of property at issue. The main goals — namely creating a permanent record of land placement and property lines — are more or less consistent across the board, though.
Who Does the Surveying: Landowners can often draw their own surveys fairly accurately by studying land records and looking at official municipal documents, but this sort of “homemade” survey is not likely to be definitive. Most people hire unbiased, third-party land surveyors to draw up more authoritative maps. These individuals sometimes work for independent surveying companies, although they also may be appointed by the courts or other government entities.
Role in Land Transactions: Property surveys are conducted most frequently when land is being sold. Buyers and sellers both usually want a clear picture of where borders and easements are, and setting precise boundaries can also help when it comes to establishing a fair price. Many local laws and ordinances actually require sellers to include official surveys in their sale documents, too. This creates a permanent, official record, and it can also help avoid mistakes or fraud.