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When Do I Need a Surveyor?


You’ve likely seen surveyors around before, working on street corners or at a new development with their camera-like apparatuses. Perhaps you get the gist of what they do or find their line of work completely mystifying.

Eventually, there may come a time when you need to hire a surveyor. Here’s how to recognize that time when it comes and what that process will look like for you.

What Does a Surveyor Do?

Surveyors are responsible for accurately capturing the borderlines and measurements of a piece of property. The way they measure a piece of property takes into account the peaks and valleys of the land to ensure that the measurements are precise. This sometimes incorporates measuring points above, along, and below the ground’s surface.

The primary function of a surveyor is to update any data regarding the size and shape of a piece of land to prevent any legal challenges in the future. It’s essential to have up-to-date surveying as the shape of the earth changes over time. Erosion and washouts may change how the borders of your property line up.

Surveyors use a tool called a theodolite to measure angles between visible points. They will also use GPS, measuring tape, levels, 3D scanners, and other agencies as needed to get an accurate reading.

When Do You Need a Surveyor?

If you’re doing a land development project or a major construction job, you’ll need a surveyor to make sure everything is as it should be. But what about if you’re selling or purchasing a house?

Ideally, it would be best to have a survey completed when you decide to put your house on the market. This way, you know exactly what you’re selling and can advertise accordingly. If your property hasn’t been surveyed in a long time, the buyer may ask for you to complete one before the sale goes through. This can be frustrating and time-consuming; it’s best to have it done beforehand.

As a buyer, you have every right to request a survey. Sometimes you’ll move to a house with conflicting blueprints and property borders. This can lead to unpleasant surprises when you discover that you don’t own the piece of land upon which you built your inground pool, and the new neighbors decide to demolish it.

Ideally, it would be best to have a land survey done every time a piece of property is being transferred from one owner to another. The cost of the service is an investment in insurance.

Costs and Considerations

The cost of having a survey completed can vary significantly depending on the type of project and where the land is located.

What can push up surveying costs is the volume and complexity of the survey. For example, a land or property developer keen to subdivide lots or sections will pay a lot more than someone selling their home and updating their deed.

Another consideration is if you need a floodplain assessment completed, that will also raise the cost of the survey.


Get referrals from local real estate agents and compare surveying fees before committing to the service.

When You Get Bad News

Many home sellers try to avoid having surveys done based on the fear of receiving bad news. Perhaps they’ll discover an easement on their property or that their lot isn’t as big as the previous seller indicated. The ugly truth will always be better than a pretty lie when it comes to surveying. Knowing what you’re dealing with can help you plan accordingly.

If you’re planning a major construction project, subdividing lots, buying or building a new home, invest in a land survey to avoid complications down the road.

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