Worker surveying land

Land Survey: What It Is, Types And Cost

5-minute read

March 29, 2023


A land survey is used to map out the shape and boundaries of a piece of land. It’s an exact drawing of the dimensions of the parcel, as well as any physical features, both natural and manufactured. This is considered topography, which is the representation of the physical features of a parcel.

You may have heard of a land survey, but do you know when you might need one? If you plan to purchase a new home on a large parcel of land, you may need to have a land survey conducted on the property to know what you’re really buying. Learn more about the different types of land surveys and what they can offer to the property owner.

Why You Need A Land Survey

To survey your land, you will need to hire a professional who can perform legal land surveys. Different land survey methods can be used, depending on the size and shape of the property. Updated records from a land survey are good to have on hand and may be needed for a variety of reasons. 

Here are some of the reasons why you may need a land survey:

  • Neighborly disputes: Land surveys can be used to resolve boundary issues with neighbors. This is a great way to practice good neighbor etiquette.
  • Real estate: You’ll want to know exactly what’s included if you plan to sell or buy a piece of land.
  • Install utilities: You will need to know boundary lines to put utilities within fencing. You will also need a land survey if you’re putting in a new septic system.
  • Divvy it up: A land survey is necessary if you plan to create smaller lots of land out of the larger parcel.
  • Updates: You have an outdated land survey and need a refreshed one.
  • Mortgage requirements: When applying for a mortgage, you may be required to hire a land surveyor to conduct a land survey on the property. This will depend on the type of mortgage you’re applying for and if your mortgage lender legally requires it.

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7 Types Of Land Surveys

Different types of land surveys are used for different purposes. Here are the most common types of land surveys and the average cost of each.

3 phases of land survey process: research, field work, and computing

1. Boundary Survey

This type of land survey is used to locate the corners and property boundary lines of a parcel of land. A boundary survey will use both recorded deeds and physical markers to define the boundary lines on a piece of land. A boundary survey does require both record and field research. It’s typically used for personal records and locating easement lines. 

Average cost: $450 – $6001

2. ALTA Survey

An American Land Title Association (ALTA) survey provides a lender and/or title company with required survey data to deliver an ALTA insurance policy. An ALTA survey is commonly done before purchasing a piece of property or investing in a new home.

Average cost: $1,500 – $4,5001  

3. Topographic Survey

A topographic survey is used to understand the locations of both human-made and natural features on a parcel of land. These features may include roads, buildings, ditches, trees, streams and utilities. This type of survey is most commonly used by architects and engineers working on property improvement plans.

Average cost: $400 – $9,5001

4. Location Survey

A location survey is similar to a boundary survey, however, a location survey details site improvements. This type of survey is mostly used to meet zoning permit and loan application requirements.

Average cost: $200 – $710 for less than 10,000 sq. ft.2

5. Mortgage Survey

Similar to an ALTA survey, a mortgage survey is used when purchasing a home or piece of property. It verifies structures on the property, land and property title owners, and that the property meets all building and zoning codes before the purchase is made.

Average cost: $350 – $6001 

6. Subdivision Survey

Just like the name implies, this survey is used to divide a piece of land into smaller pieces, also called lots. A subdivision survey must be recorded by a government agency, most likely both local and state.

Average cost: $300 – $400 per lot1 

7. New Construction Survey

A new construction survey is necessary before establishing structures on a parcel of land, including roads, utilities and buildings. This type of survey utilizes both vertical and horizontal grading.

Vertical positions are verified by differences in elevations in comparison to a specific location on the property, which is known as the benchmark. Horizontal positions are determined by distances between structures.

Average cost: $1,000 – $1,5002

How Much Does A Land Survey Cost?

The cost of a land survey typically ranges from $400 – $1,200, with an average price of $600.1 However, this price can vary significantly, depending on the type of survey, the dimensions of the property and the level of accessibility to the property.

The price of a land survey will increase with a property’s acreage and the uniqueness of the property shape. The location of the property can also be an important factor in the cost of conducting a land survey. If you live in South Carolina, for example, and are planning to hire a land surveyor to conduct a survey, you’ll see an average cost of $250 to $600. If you live in Oregon, you might see a significantly higher price range, from $375 to $1,500.3

factors that determine land survey costs: terrain, dimensions, survey type, and location

What’s Included In A Land Survey?

What’s included in a land survey will depend on the depth of the type of survey you plan to have conducted. At a minimum, a land survey includes measuring and recording the boundaries, elevation levels and angles of a parcel of land.

Essentially, a land survey provides you with a documented understanding of the boundaries of a property.

How To Survey Your Property

Hiring a professional land surveyor is the best option if you plan to submit the documentation as legal property records. However, you’re able to survey your own property for personal records by analyzing the plat of the property. If you recently purchased a new property, there may still be opportunities to establish physical markers on your lot to mark boundaries.

This can be found in paperwork like a property deed or online as a public record. You can find past land survey records on your local county assessor’s website or at the county recorder’s office.

Remember, surveying your own property cannot be used for legal purposes but may be used for personal records.

Bottom Line

Having a legal land survey conducted on your property is a smart homeowner move, especially if you’re dealing with property line disputes with neighbors or if you just recently purchased a new home.

With this list of different types of land surveys, determine which one is the best fit for what you need or what may be required from you. If you aren’t sure which one is the best pick, talk to a professional land surveyor in your area for their expertise regarding your situation.





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