A land boundary survey plays an important role in real estate transactions, providing valuable information for the purchase of a property or before major home improvements. 

It is an essential component of any due diligence because it helps people avoid future disputes, the frustration (and costs) of defending a lawsuit, or any other boundary problems that may occur if the legal boundaries of a property are not clearly defined.

In this article, we will answer some of the most common questions regarding boundary surveys: What is a land boundary survey? What are the requirements of a land boundary survey? What is the difference between ALTA surveys vs boundary surveys? 

And, most importantly – how can you get one when you need it. 

So, without further ado, let’s jump right into it:

1. What is a land boundary survey?

A land boundary survey is a type of land survey that establishes the legal parameters and boundaries of a property, focusing primarily on the definition of the property’s corners. In other words, it measures the lines of a specific area to determine its final location.

This purpose makes boundary surveys different from other types of land surveys. For example, topographic surveys focus on locating natural and man-made topographic features on a property or a parcel of land, while subdivision surveys have the purpose of dividing them into smaller lots or estates.

A land boundary survey is conducted by a professional boundary surveyor, who typically does a physical inspection of the parcel to determine its physical boundaries.

What is a land boundary survey?

2. What is the standard procedure for a land boundary survey?

Each land boundary survey begins with the process of measuring and mapping the lines of land ownership by a professional land surveyor. The professional will examine the historical records of the property, as well as the territories surrounding it, to determine its legal lines.

The research collects information from multiple places, including:

  • The Registry Research of Deeds
  • The Registry of Probate
  • Town Offices
  • Historical associations
  • Offices of County Commissioners
  • The Department of Transportation

But additional information may be required in some cases, such as speaking with ad-joiners and previous owners of the property. This process is done to collect as much evidence as possible of its legal boundaries.

Once this data is collected, the land boundary surveyor is ready to begin the field work, establishing a control network of known points called a traverse. These points help to locate existing monuments and other types of boundaries’ evidence. 

As soon as the field work is completed, the land surveyor will compare the results with the initial collection of evidence, and then reconcile everything into a final conclusion regarding the property’s legal boundaries. Another field trip may be needed to set the new monuments. 

3. What is included in a boundary survey?

Once the land boundary surveyor has collected all the above-mentioned information, he will use it to draft a report with a legal description that will be provided to the client.

A boundary survey typically includes:

  • A plan and legal description of the property
  • A written description of all the boundary lines
  • Notes of monuments on property corners 
  • Registry research of deeds
  • A deed sketch to define boundary lines
  • Detailed analysis all collected data

In other words, the boundary survey usually takes into account two key components: the land records research and the field survey, detailing available records such as deeds, title certificates, subdivision maps and easements.

land boundary survey

4. When do you need a land boundary survey?

A land boundary survey is extremely important to prevent and resolve property line disputes and avoid possible lawsuits that may come as a result from these disputes. They are an essential part of the due diligence before a real estate transaction.

They are commonly ordered before the selling or purchasing of a property, as well as before major home improvements and additions. A boundary survey may also be required prior to subdivision or building on land.

5. What are the benefits of boundary surveys?

There are multiple benefits when it comes to land boundary surveys, including:

Peace of mind

As we mentioned previously, not having a clear understanding of your property’s legal boundaries may lead to disputes and expensive lawsuits. 

Getting a boundary survey, even if it’s not requested by the title company, can give you a peace of mind before the purchase or selling of your property.

Eliminate confusion

In a similar manner, not knowing the boundary lines of your property can cause confusion during the real estate transaction, which can be easily prevented with a land boundary survey. 

Identify easements

An easement is a situation in which you might have to share access to some part of your property with neighbors, which may come to you as a surprise when buying the property if you didn’t do your due diligence.

Requesting a survey, however, may show possible easements that you will need to take into account once you’ve acquired the property. For example, if you will have to share a private road with your neighbors, or if a utility company has the rights to install electrical wires within your property’s boundaries.

While easements aren’t always something negative, they can be a cause of surprises that can be avoided before the real estate transaction moves forward. 

It’s important to keep in mind that a boundary survey doesn’t always show easements. If you are looking to get a complete overview of all easements, you may want to get an ALTA boundary survey instead.

6. How long does a land boundary survey take to complete?

Depending on the complexity of the project, a land boundary survey may take anywhere from one day up to 2 weeks to complete. Some factors that influence the duration of the survey include the size of the property, the collected evidence, the quality of the deeds, as well as any existing disputes, among others.

However, it’s essential to keep in mind that commercial land boundary surveys may take even longer to complete – up to 60 days depending on how complex the project is.

The quality of the deeds is very important when it comes to the time to complete a boundary survey. If they have conflicting information that is difficult to reconcile, especially after the field work, this can extend the estimated time.

7. What is the difference between an ALTA survey and a boundary survey?

There are a few key differences between an ALTA survey vs a boundary survey:

Level of detail

This is probably the biggest component when it comes to differentiating an ALTA survey from a boundary survey. While an ALTA survey is still a type of boundary survey, it shows much more than the boundaries between two plots of land.

In addition, an ALTA survey shows other elements (and with more details) including improvements, means of access, zoning classification, encroachments and more.

Precision

On top of being more detailed than land boundary surveys, ALTA surveys are also significantly more precise. In fact, they represent the highest standard in the land surveying industry as defined by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS).

Use Cases

Use cases are another component in which ALTA surveys and boundary surveys differ. While boundary surveys are typically used for both residential and commercial properties, ALTA surveys are most commonly requested for large commercial transactions. 

In terms of similarities, both help parties in the real estate transactions ensure that the property is clear of any possible risks for disputes.

8. How much does a boundary survey cost?

In order to determine the cost of a boundary survey, a land surveyor will consider a variety of factors: how complex the project is, the size of the property, whether there is any vegetation on it (especially along boundary lines), the terrain, the type of legal description, the emergency for completion, and more.

In addition, some other factors that may impact the overall cost for the boundary survey can include the time of year, the weather conditions on the days of field work, and the temperature. 

The age and quality of deeds, as well as other evidence should also be taken into account – especially if there are any discrepancies between the research and the field work that need more time to be reconciled.

9. Who orders the survey?

In the course of a real estate transaction, the one who usually orders the land boundary survey is the title company for the insurance of the property. They do it on behalf of the buyer.

Insurance and title companies usually require a boundary survey to see if it will reveal issues that could negate the title. Exactly who is going to pay for the survey will highly depend on the situation. 

For example, if the homeowner has requested the survey because they want to make major home improvements or additions on their property, they will be the ones to pay for the survey. On another hand, if a seller is looking to put their house on the market, they will be the ones paying. 

In the cases in which the buyer’s title company has ordered the survey, the one who pays is the buyer.

10. How can I get a boundary survey?

To get a boundary survey, you will need to get in a touch with a professional land surveyor. Determining the legal boundaries of a property require special equipment and highly trained professionals who are licensed to perform this type of service. That’s why hiring a professional is a must in order to get a high quality land boundary survey.

The surveyor will be able to clearly define the lines of the property and create legally binding surveys. In addition, if you ever have a dispute, land boundary surveyors can also act as witnesses in court cases.

About Tucker Engineering

If you are looking for a professional land boundary survey in Alabama, contact Tucker Engineering if you want to get a precise, high-quality survey for your real estate transaction.

With over 25 years in the market, Tucker Engineering is a leading civil engineering and land surveying company with experience in elaborating all types of land surveys: boundary surveys, ALTA surveys, topographic surveys and more, that fit to the industry’s highest standards.

Our highly skilled and trained staff of engineers and land surveyors combines a personalized approach with state of the art technologies so you can have a peace of mind when hiring your land boundary survey across the state of Alabama.