What is the Residential Land Survey?

What is the Residential Land Survey?

What is the Residential Land Survey?

A residential land survey is a process that a real estate professional uses to determine if the land under a home or other structure is suitable for building and what type of construction, if any, will be needed.

A survey may also identify easements associated with neighboring properties and service lines. Real estate professionals perform these surveys in order to estimate the cost of construction and to enable banks to insure the mortgage on the proposed property.

A residential land survey helps determine who owns what property, where services are located and how much they are worth.

Types of Residential Survey

Let’s take a deeper look at the most prevalent forms of residential land surveys:

Boundary Survey

A land surveying business will define the boundaries of a specific property during a boundary survey.

They will also determine the property corners and construct a plan that describes the placement of permanent structures, any above-ground utilities, and any encroachments on a property.

Mortgage Survey

When applying for a mortgage on a house, a lender may frequently need you to undergo a mortgage survey. This sort of survey will record the location of structures on a property.

It will also take note of any fences, driveways, and utilities, as well as any encroachments that may make lending you a mortgage riskier than a lender, is willing to handle.

Topographical Survey

In rare circumstances, you may require a residential survey that includes information other than property borders and structures. You might also be interested in obtaining a survey that depicts the various elevation points on a property.

A topographical survey will measure elevation points and depict them on a drawing using contour lines. It might be useful when constructing a new construction on residential land.

ALTA Survey

An ALTA or ALTA/NSPS survey is typically contracted by the title company, lender, or attorneys representing involved parties for commercial property purchases, refinances, or improvements.

It is based on standards established jointly by the American Land Title Association and the National Society of Professional Surveyors. An ALTA survey gives assurance that results are assured since it employs a global standard.

Residential Land Survey Components

Main Schedule

This is the backbone of a residential land survey. A topographical survey and the other surveys that accompany it will be based on the main schedule.

It will outline the property boundary and indicate the location of all structures, utilities, underground pipelines and other encroachments on a lot.

In addition, it will show where streets are located, as well as ditch lines that delineate property lines.


The boundaries of the properties in a parcel are always shown on a residential land survey.

On this front, there are three types of surveying:

Contour – This type of survey will plot the height and depth at various points across an area. It works by noting the highest and lowest points that are within a certain range.

Plot – This type of surveying shows all property boundaries on a map using rectangular blocks that represent 1/10th of an acre each.

Surveying – This will measure the area of land by calculating its area in square feet.

Field Book

As soon as a surveyor gets started on their work, they will begin jotting down notes in their field book. They will record details about what they’re seeing while they are out in the field and data that they gather along the way.

After finishing a residential land survey, this field book will be filled with valuable information.

They will also take time to take photographs and make sketches of the area that they have just surveyed. In the end, this field book will be used to complete a final plan that shows all of the information needed for calculations related to fees and costs.

Final Report

After completing a residential land survey, the real estate professional will work with a licensed land surveyor to create a final report.

This report will show some information about what is happening in different areas of your property and where you may want things to go in the future.

It will also detail any easements on your property and it could even provide information regarding rights-of-way that you might not have known about before.

The final report will be sent to you and it should also be kept on file somewhere in case the need for a future survey arises.


In addition to creating a plan for your property, the real estate professional that you work with will complete a deed transfer. This document is proof of ownership of your property and it should include all of the relevant legal information.

This usually includes the legal description of your property and information about any easements that might be involved.

Purpose of Residential Land Survey

  1. Determine the location of structures, utilities, and all other encroachments.
  2. Establish property boundaries.
  3. Show the location of structures, utilities, underground pipelines and all other encroachments on a land lot.
  4. Describe the height and depth of land in various fields surrounding your lot.
  5. Identify any easements that are attached to your property or related to it in some way.
  6. Maintain accurate records of all property data.
  7. Provide legal documentation that demonstrates ownership of your land.
  8. Provide valuable data needed to calculate fees and costs.

Residential Land Survey instruments

  1. Measuring Wheel

It is a wheel mounted on a tripod. The wheel has numbered marks that are spaced 1 foot apart and also has smaller marks that are spaced 4 inches apart in between the numbers.

  1. Measuring Tape

This is the most basic instrument used by surveyors and it’s easy to use for the most part. Surveyors will manually measure things like parcel boundaries, easements, and property lines with it.

  1. Transit

This is actually a combination of a foot scale, an odometer, and a plumb bob. It measures the distance by means of the foot scale which has graduations that are spaced 1 inch apart, and then estimates distance by measuring the plumb bob which has a string tied to it.

  1. Measuring Cone

A surveying instrument that is used to measure the angle at which elevation points are located across an area.

  1. Tapered Transit

An elegant handheld instrument that is used to measure distances and angles. It is like a transit, except that the foot scale is replaced by a lens.

  1. Auxiliary Poles or Staffs

They are poles or staffs with graduated markings for measuring distances with a tapered transit. They are also used for measuring angles when determining the position of elevation points.

  1. Alidade

An instrument that has a base with a plumb line that is used to take elevations by positioning the base on a horizontal plane.

  1. Brunton Compass

Used to record magnetic north on maps, it will make it easy for you to find your property.

  1. Levels

A type of surveying instrument used for estimating heights and depths. It can also be used for checking for level surfaces and other types of angle measurements as well.

  1. Levels

A type of surveying instrument used for recording angles. It can also be used for checking for level surfaces and other types of angle measurements as well.

  1. Six-Inch Tape Measure

A tool that is used to measure lengths in feet and inches. It has a folding metal tape attached with a clip at the end which is released when the tape is fully extended.


Used in surveying and mapping by measuring the angles between two points. It is a type of telescope that is used to take vertical, horizontal and oblique images through a telescope or eyepiece.

  1. Digital Laser Levels (DLLs)

Much like the regular laser levels, they are used to help mark locations on your property as well as identify potential areas to level. You can also use them to determine whether your property might be slanted which will help you set the angle accurately on your surveyor’s level.

Residential Land Survey procedure

  1. Find the Property Line

The best way to find the property line is by using a handheld metal detector that is capable of tracking any type of metal objects. If there are any underground utility lines or cable on your property, you can use a metal detector to detect them.

  1. Acquire Property Information

The real estate professional will need to acquire as much information about the land that you want to survey as possible.

This includes the legal description of your land and any information about easements or other encumbrances that you might have. This includes any access points that might allow you to walk onto your neighbor’s property or even inform them of what you are doing.

  1. Set Boundaries

The real estate professional will perform a preliminary measurement of the area to see if it meets the necessary criteria for a survey. They will go over with you every detail regarding their location so they can be sure they are not measuring something else.

The real estate professional will also measure the boundaries of your property so they can make sure they are in the right location.

  1. Plot Boundary Points

The real estate professional will then plot out all of the boundaries and points that are necessary for their survey. This will include property lines, easements, and any other important features.

The real estate professional will explain to you why these features have been marked and where these features fall within your land lot.

  1. Survey Lot Lines

The real estate professional will then survey the lot lines of your property. They will use a transit and auxiliary poles to measure distances and angles between various points that are being used to create the lot lines.

  1. Determine Property Location & Boundary Elevations

The real estate professional will then determine where your property is located within its overall location on the ground.

They do this by using an alidade which allows them to take the measurements of two different sites and then determine which angle is the same angle.

  1. Plot Topography &Obtain Water Level Readings

The real estate professional will plot out the topography of your property and get your water level readings so they can make sure there are no changes in elevation or flooding evidence. They will then use a level to read all of these points that you have marked for them

  1. Prepare Written Report & Contract

The real estate professional will prepare a written report of their findings to present to you and they will also send you a contract outlining their services as well as how much it will cost you.

They may also walk you through each step of the process if you want them to.

  1. Review & Approve Report

Make sure to review their report and make sure that everything is up to your standards. If you have any questions, make sure to ask those as well. The real estate professional will then leave you the report so you can go over it at your convenience.

  1. Sign Contract & Make Payment

The real estate professional will ask you to sign their contract and make your payments by the due date. They may also give you materials that they have created as a result of their service there as well.

  1. Have Results Recorded

The real estate professional will then have their report recorded in the land records office and submit it to your county or local government so they can file it as a legal record.

They may also let you know when this process is complete so you can verify its recording in your file.


What is the most common type of residential land survey?

Boundary Survey includes a lot of information about what’s happening on a lot, where all the structures are located, and where services are located, such as utilities and roads.

 How many types of surveys are there?

There are three main types of residential land survey: boundary, parcel, and topographical.

 What do I need to have a boundary survey done?

You will need to have legal ownership of the property. You might also need to show that you have permission from any other owners that share in your property title.

 Where can I find information on some common surveying terms?

The U.S. Department of the Interior has published a glossary that includes several common surveying terms. It’s available to the public and can be used to look up specific terms.

How much will a residential land survey cost?

Typically, costs range from $300 to $600 for a boundary survey. This will depend on the size of your property, location and amount of detail needed. The average cost is around $450-$500.

How long does it take to complete a residential land survey?

It should take two to three days.

Can I have a boundary survey done if I’m not home during the survey?

Yes, you can have a boundary survey done while you are away from your property. You will receive an email update of the survey results once your property is surveyed.

What are some of the most common surveying terms that people should know?

Some of the top survey terms include:

  1. Alignment – The actual path that a surveyor is following on a lot. This will change depending on the current survey.
  2. Area Measurement – A method used to determine an area in square feet or other units of measurement.
  3. Cadastral Survey – A survey that details real estate properties and information about easements, rights-of-way, and other legal issues.
  4. Composite Instrument – The actual document that is used to record a lot’s data during the survey.
  5. Contour Method – A method for determining a lot’s elevation by plotting points that are on the same contour line and recording their relative height and depth.

This is generally done using an electronic theodolite that records data automatically.

What is the main disadvantage of Residential Land Survey?

A land surveyor is very helpful in the legal process of buying and selling real estate, but it isn’t free. Aside from the cost of a professional surveyor, there are other fees you need to consider when purchasing one.

Can I do my own land survey?

Yes, you can do your own land survey if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. This is not something that you can complete by simply looking at a property or by hiring an amateur.

What a property survey looks like?

A property survey resembles an aerial drawing and might be as simple as four boundary lines with their relative measurements. Surveys can also be more extensive, including previous modifications to the land, topography, utilities, and other information.

Why would someone survey my property without my permission?

That surveyor, it turns out, either has a clear legal right to your land or is trespassing. If the surveyor is trespassing, they are treated the same as any other invader.

In your local state, surveyors will most likely acquire access to your home only if a special interest group pushes the issue into legislation.

What is a residential site survey?

A property survey validates the legal description and boundary boundaries of a property. It also identifies any additional limitations or easements that may be associated with the property.

While your property may potentially be surveyed at any time, establishing the boundaries of your land is a vital component of the home purchase process.

Where Can I Find an Online Survey of My Property?

As a homeowner, you may check the property survey records by going to your county recorder’s or assessor’s office or website, which should include public maps for all of the real estate in the region.

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