These FAQs were provided by the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors – Chapter 5.
When do I need a land surveyor?
When preparing to:
- Buy or sell land.
- Erect fencing near property lines.
- Harvest timber.
- Establish hunting rights.
- Clear land.
- Develop Property.
- Divide an Estate.
My land is cleared and has no brush on it. Shouldn’t this drastically lower the cost of my survey?
Some of these are:
Legal issues: Poor descriptions, lack of recent surveys, disputed bounds, research hours, etc…. What appears simple is often very complex.
Lack of monumentation: If your bounds are not described properly and little/no physical evidence is available the surveyor may have a very complex job ahead.
Liability: A surveyor has limited liability in his or her actions. Therefore, the more valuable the property, the more liability extended to the client and his or her assigns.
I hired my surveyor to survey my property. Why is he working down the road on my neighbor’s land?
I only wanted one corner marked. Why did it cost so much to have this performed?
If my deed states acreage or distance in more or less terms this is limited to only a small fraction in difference of the total value given doesn’t it?
No, absolutely not.
Acreage is determined by the bounds only. Acreage holds the absolute lowest value in order of importance when determining bounds. Fifty acres “more or less” can theoretically be one acre or one thousand acres. “More or Less” is a red flag term used in deed descriptions. One thought comes to mind in its use: “Buyer Beware”
If your deed calls for distances to a physical monument, that monument is the corner regardless of how far or short the called for course. This may be a few feet or even a few hundred feet depending on the situation.
If your deed calls for more or less and does not affix the boundaries by further descriptive terms your deed may be held invalid. More or less is the red flag of descriptive terms and should be used carefully and rarely.
Can I survey my own property?
A forester flagged my property lines to harvest timber by. Is this a survey?
To settle a boundary dispute can my neighbor and I agree on the location legally?
Once a surveyor marks my boundaries no one can dispute those locations right?
The person who sold me my property signed a survey affidavit declaring the property void of encroachments. Is this legal?
This action is currently held to be legal from an Attorney General’s opinion. Some States have declared this as surveying without a license and illegal. The question then becomes as to whether or not it is advisable to accept this affidavit. The answer is a clear no. Think about it. Did you accept a termite inspection performed by the owner or a certified pest control agent, did you accept a letter of clear title from the owner or from a qualified attorney, did you accept a home inspection from the owner or from a bonded home inspector. If you have closed on your investment without a current survey you truly have no idea as to where your bounds lie nor if there are looming legal problems accepted without your knowledge.
Before I bought my property my realtor pointed out my boundaries. Now I have hired a surveyor and he disagrees with those locations. Why?
The time to have your property surveyed is before you buy not after.
A realtor, banker, attorney, or any professional other than a land surveyor should not point out where boundaries lie. They have neither training nor expertise in determining the physical locations of your boundaries. Assumptions are one of the main causes of boundary disputes and can cost thousands of dollars in litigation fees. Any professional that the public relies upon should be very careful when making statements regarding boundaries or when pointing out boundaries. This action can be construed, as unlicensed practice of surveying which is both unethical and illegal.
My attorney provided me with a certificate of clear title and title insurance. These certificates ensure me that my property is free and clear of any encumbrances and guarantees my boundaries don’t they?
No, absolutely not.
Certificates of clear title do ensure you that there are no written encumbrances such as owed taxes, bank notes, written easements, or liens affecting the property.
Read your title insurance policy very carefully. If statements such as “warranted to matters excluding those that may be discovered through a survey of the property” or other statements that exclude discoveries made by a survey exist in the policy you may be in trouble.
Without a current survey of the property you are purchasing there is no guarantee to matters of unwritten rights such as, possession or prescriptive rights. Overlapping fences, drives, walkways, and utility lines can present rights of possession and prescription.
Other matters that cannot be derived from the attorney’s office are physical encroachments, overlapping deed descriptions, overlapping monumentation, and illegal zoning uses.
And last but not least, a deed description or older plat becomes a mere piece of paper that only lend clues as to where your boundaries lie if they are not clearly identified on the ground by physical monuments.
My realtor and attorney have advised me not forgo the expense of a current survey by closing the transaction using an older survey of the property. Is this truly advisable?
Read the date of the original survey you are using. If the survey is older than 10 years there is no liability extended. Under current statutes a surveyor’s liability only extends for a period of six years from the date of the survey. If there are errors and omissions in this survey then you have absolutely no recourse against the surveyor.
Read over the plat of survey carefully. Many surveyors are now using copyrights that only extend to fair use doctrine for boundary determination. If the original surveyor has issued and filed a copyright of this plat its use and mere copying of this plat for financial transactions may land you, your attorney, and your realtor in a very dangerous legal situation.
Do you know in fact that there have been no changes to the property in the last several years? Have structures or fences been built near or across the property lines? Have adjoining owners bought or sold their lands recently? Do their deed descriptions and plats overlap into your bounds?
Having your property surveyed and certified to you in name is the only way to be assured that the above problems do not exist and to know where your bounds physically lie.
How much will my survey cost?
The better question is, how much will not having my property surveyed cost?
Yes, money will exchange hands this amount may be several hundred dollars or several thousand dollars depending on the scope of services and time involved. The purchase of a home, a farm, or development property is often the largest investment one will make in a lifetime. The only way to be assured that what you have been presented with actually exists is to have the property surveyed. A land surveyor must accept limited liability for his or her actions thereby creating a pseudo-insurance policy guaranteeing your boundaries and the peace of mind that there are no problems affecting the boundaries.
If you must question cost think of it this way: Will you spend less now by having your property surveyed thereby fully exposing potential legal issues or will it cost more later to resolve these issues in court after you have already purchased the problem?
I hired an unlicensed individual who advertises to provide surveying. He works in his own office but has a licensed surveyor in another town stamp and certify his work without actually supervising the services. Is this legal?
No, absolutely not.
Report this situation immediately to the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveying through the Secretary of State’s office. If you do not want to report this offense directly you should contact a reputable surveyor or surveying society to assist you in filing the complaint. In the State of Texas each office that offers surveying must have a resident land surveyor. This land surveyor must not only be present during normal operating hours but must be personally involved in the process of performing the surveying services.
Individuals involved in practices such as above are bottom feeders and frauds who are interesting in only making money at your expense. When obtaining the services of a land surveyor always ask to meet the licensed individual and ask for his/her registration number.
Even offering surveying services verbally is considered to be practicing surveying. Practicing surveying without a license is not and should not be taken lightly.
A land surveyor is surveying my neighbor’s property. He has asked permission to traverse across my land to access monuments on my property. Why does he need to survey on my property?
Above you will see a question related to this action. Further explained many deed descriptions and recorded surveys are referenced to monuments found in remote locations and on adjoining lands. The surveyor must often access adjoining lands to verify monuments to be assured of his or her findings. Many States have recognized this action as a necessity in maintaining legal boundaries and to have provision of evidence to the courts. The States, which have recognized the need for surveyors to gain access to adjoining lands during the course of a survey, have written laws allowing surveyors rights to access. The State of Texas does not currently have a right of access for land surveyors. Please remember to keep an open mind when asked for permission from a surveyor to traverse across your land. This is a very important action and may actually benefit you in years to come. Be polite, ask the surveyor for a clear reason for permission, ask for his or her business contacts if you have questions, and always remember the surveyor is just doing his or her duty as a professional.
When should you have a survey completed?
There are several instances in which a survey of commercial or private land is necessary and/or desirable. A survey should be ordered whenever there is a conveyance of any parcel of land in order to ensure the location of the boundaries of the land. Surveys can also be completed to show the location or ownership of land-based features, whether man-made or natural, and to obtain Title Insurance Coverage over matters of survey. In the case of a property transfer survey, the survey should always be completed and available as part of your closing if the property is being mortgaged. Mortgage companies most generally require a survey to locate the improvements. If the property is to be developed, a topographic survey will be required to locate existing improvements, utilities and drainage features in order to provide an adequate engineering base for design.
What things can you do to reduce the cost of your survey?
First and foremost, you should make the surveyor aware of any previous surveys that have been completed on or surrounding the property if you aware of any. Also, present any documents you have regarding the ownership of the land to the surveyor. Another action you could take would be to let the surveyor be aware of any property monuments near the survey and, if possible, mark the monument to make it easier to locate. Make a title commitment available to the surveyor or have your title agent fax the title commitment to the surveyor. Removing and obstacles on the property that may slow the surveyor should be considered.
What are the benefits of having a land survey completed?
If the property corners had not previously been marked, a land survey will mark and monument them. A Plat of Survey can also then be prepared and signed by the surveyor which shows the nature of the monuments found or set, measurements of all property lines, and any encroachments, building lines, and easements. If requested, the surveyor can also show the location of all buildings or specially noted markers on the parcel.
What qualities should you look for in a Texas surveying company?
Inquire as to the primary line of business the surveyor provides services (Residential, Commercial, Industrial, etc.). Inquire as to the years the firm has been in business. Successful firms have usually been in business a number of years. Is the principle of the firm a Registered Professional Land Surveyor ? Does the firm have “Errors and Omissions Insurance” ? Inquire as to what standards the survey will be performed (TSPS Category 1AII, ALTA/ACSM). Always ask for a written proposal that details exactly what the scope of service is, the fee to be charged (including payment terms), and the projected date of completion. The company that performs your survey should be familiar with the area in which the survey will be performed. Additionally, the surveyor should have a good idea of what the client requires after a short conversation. If concerned ask the surveyor to meet you at the site. Is this legal?
What are the different types of surveys?
There are three general groupings of surveys which includes several specific survey types. The three types are: boundary surveys, engineering surveys, and environmental surveys. Boundary surveys include: monumented land survey, land survey plat, improvement survey plat, American Land Title Association (ALTA) survey or land title survey, and others. Boundary surveys in Texas are regulated by the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveyors and must meet the “Minimum Standards of Practice”. The Texas Society of Professional Surveyors publishes the “Manual of Practice” which established requirements for nine (9) categories of surveys. For additional information on the requirements you may visit their web page at http://www.tsps.org . Engineering surveys include: topographic surveys, right-of-way acquisition surveys and construction surveys. Engineering surveys can be used to generate plan and profile sheets, digital terrain models, aerial maps, and subdivision plats. Environmental surveys include surveys for monitoring well locations, wetlands delineation, landfill surveying and remedial operations.