How to Save Money Surveying your Own Land

You've decided that you want to save money and survey your own land. Maybe you just bought a piece of land, or inherited your grandfathers farm, or maybe you've had a dispute with a neighbor and you want to survey your own land to know where the boundary line is located. The idea is a great one, you pick up a few pieces of surveying equipment, take some measurements and you just avoided all the expense of hiring a land surveyor. You have been told by your friends that land surveys are expensive and large surveys for farms can be thousands of dollars so you instantly start thinking of ways to avoid that expense. You've heard that even a simple mortgage survey of a small city lot can be hundreds of dollars. You ask yourself, why pay such a hefty expense to hire a land surveyor when all you get is one small drawing. The idea is to get it done and save money by avoiding an expensive land survey fee. Just think, you could possibly solve neighbor disputes, know exactly how far back to build or place that storage shed, or just figure out how much land you own by establishing the property boundary lines. Stop and think of all the money you would save from surveying your own land. 

I could go on and on about the possible (the key word is "possible") benefits of surveying your own land would bring, but I want to mention a few things that you may not have thought of yet. If financing of any kind is involved, most banks require a legal survey to be performed by a licensed surveyor and without it, the bank doesn’t truly know if your home or building is encroaching a boundary line. Wouldn't you rather show that the measurement is from a surveyor and not one you took yourself? Do you think that the bank or the neighbor that you had a dispute with would take your word over the survey you performed versus that of a professional land surveyor? Probably not since your measurements would be made by you and maybe considered bias or inaccurate. The trust gained from bringing in a third party for a land survey to establish a property line is huge. You, the land owner, most likely are not a licensed land surveyor that could not produce a legal document that would stand up in court with a land dispute, nor would any bank take your survey as a legal document if you were looking for financing either in a purchase or refinance. The legal side of taking this responsibility on I assure you is not something you would want. 

You may think that we as an equipment supplier is bias and would want you the land owner to buy surveying equipment from us but in reality we strongly suggest that you call your local surveyor and talk to them about what they do and what they can provide and how much it would cost. And, if there's more than one licensed surveyor in your area we recommend getting two or more quotes. Once you consider the cost of equipment such as a total station, computer software to bring your survey data in, analyze and draw a plat, the land surveyors malpractice insurance (yes, he or she carries the same insurance like a Doctor would), time spent doing the job, continuing education, and all other expenses like payroll and taxes, the land surveyors fees are relatively inexpensive and what we here at EngineerSupply consider a bargain. For a land surveyor to produce any profit, they have to survey many many jobs until they break even on the expenses I just outlined. A land surveyor has the education and experience to look for possible problems in your property boundary lines and legal description. A land surveyor usually starts the process with what is called Courthouse research which involves time spent looking up grantor and grantee with deed information as well as previous surveys recorded in map books. Now, when we come back full circle and think again, "How can I survey my own land and save money", we now know enough to make a better informed decision. The cost of surveying equipment, the cost of not having a legal survey, the representation we get from hiring a licensed land surveyor, and the cost of your land, it all boils down to contacting and hiring your local land surveyor. Now that you have a better understanding of the surveyors cost in what it takes him or her to provide all that he is providing the price of getting getting a legal survey is worth it. By hiring a surveyor, you don't have to buy the equipment, or spend the time doing the work, and you get so much more from a surveyor than doing it yourself, that this is what's called saving money. 

Republished with Permission. Copyright © 2015 — The EngineerSupply.com Product Team

This Content Originally Published by a land surveyor to Land Surveyors United Network

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Reply by Deward Karl Bowles on October 27, 2015 at 10:25pm
Nice piece.
Reply by DAVID C. GARCELON on October 15, 2015 at 9:21am

Rob,

No, I realized you were trying to encourage the hiring of licensed surveyors....I was just trying to add another reason why a property owner should hire a surveyor.

David

Reply by Rob Powell on October 15, 2015 at 8:15am

I forgot to mention, I own and operate EngineerSupply and have so for the past 16 years. We get several calls a month from random people asking what we would recommend equipment wise for them to survey their own land, which we tell them the same thing the article says, and thats "hire a surveyor". Surprising as it is, theres lots of people out there that think they can buy a theodolite (or some even think they can do it with a "transit" because thats what everyone calls the "thing" on top of the tripod), or total station and survey their own land, which would be a mistake.

Reply by Rob Powell on October 15, 2015 at 8:13am

I wonder if my article is causing confusion? I am advising that you don't personally survey your own property. I'm strongly suggesting that saving money actually means calling a land surveyor. If  you and a neighbor has a dispute , I would suggest having him find the surveyor and you offer to pay for it. Tell the neighbor "you pick the surveyor and I'll pay for it". That may be enough for him/her to back down or understand you are wanting to play fair and put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. 

Reply by DAVID C. GARCELON on October 15, 2015 at 8:01am

Rob,

Another perspective.

Assuming you have three different neighbors abutting your property, which one of them do you want to predict will  think your survey of your property is not biased?  How do you suppose you convince them that you considered their deeds and plans.  A great way to alienate all of your neighbors!!  Like it or not, any legal cases that arise out of your survey of your own property will first note that your survey had a built in personal bias!!!

Marking boundaries on the ground has not only a physical aspect to it, it has a legal aspect to it which could jeopardize ALL of your investment in the property....which would mean the money you saved will look minute compared to the legal fees.

David C. Garcelon

Reply by Rob Powell on October 14, 2015 at 4:05pm

We wrote the article based on people calling us asking what equipment can they buy to "survey their own land". They think they can buy a few hundred dollars worth of equipment and perform a survey themselves. We explain basically what the article explains, and that we recommend that you call a surveyor. We're attempting to educate the public that surveys are not expensive, they are actually a heck of a great deal once you know what the land surveyors expenses are and what he is providing to you. Most people think a surveyor looks through a scope, prepares a drawing and that's it so they base their assumption that they think a land survey is expensive. Analogy would be more like the guy that buys a $12,000 lawn mower and mows his customers yards for $30 a mow. The customer doesnt have to mow grass, buy an expensive mower, spend his/her time mowing nor risk getting hurt. To me, thats a heck of a benefit to have if you need your yard mowed. Not the greatest analogy in the world, since mowing grass takes very little qualification or education as that compared to a land surveyor, but you get the idea.

Reply by Kris Klima on October 14, 2015 at 3:52pm

If Surveyors are charging "hundreds" of dollars for a survey, then yes....it will take them MANY jobs to break even. Land Surveyors should be billed out at NO less than $150 an hour (and that's cheap). In my 20 years of surveying I have never researched, surveyed, and drafted a completed Boundary Survey for hundreds. Unless we're talking 15 hundred, then yes I did do that once or twice. Ok, it's analogy time: I assume the general public can go buy surgical tools and perform their own surgery to save money on doctor fees, right?

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