What is a survey and why should I advise my clients to pay for one?
When we leave the grocery store most of us check our receipt to make sure we got what we paid for. When we buy cars we make sure we get all the options we paid for. But, when many people purchase real estate, they feel comfortable knowing “about” where the property lines are and “about” how much land is involved. The purchase of real estate is perhaps the biggest investment most of us will make. Deciding to protect that investment with a boundary survey is one of the wisest decisions your client can make. The following paragraphs explain in detail the steps necessary for producing an accurate survey that conforms to state statutes.
A boundary survey determines the property lines of a parcel of land described in a deed. It will also indicate the extent of any easements or encroachments and may show the limitations imposed on the property by state or local regulations.
A survey is strongly recommended before buying, subdividing, improving or building on land. Surveying the parcel before these activities ensures that the expense and frustration of defending a lawsuit, moving a building, or resolving a boundary dispute can be avoided.
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The surveyor thoroughly examines the historical land records relating to the property in question as well as all the adjoiners properties surrounding it. In addition to records found in municipal offices, this research may include examination of court documents and the records of land surveyors, attorneys, historical associations, libraries, and the state Department of Transportation. The surveyor may also talk with prior owners and adjoining land owners.
The field work begins after the research and involves recovering boundary evidence and locating this evidence as well as improvements to the property that are to be depicted on the map. This location takes place from a control network of points established by a land surveyor called a traverse. Although the field portion of a survey is the most visible phase of surveying, it usually represents only a third of the entire project.
The results of the field work are compared with the research. The surveyor then reconciles all the information to arrive at a final conclusion about the boundaries. One or more additional field trips may be needed to gather more evidence or to set boundary markers. Finally, the surveyor will draft a map of the survey and prepare a legal description (if required.)
The cost of a boundary survey depends on many variables, some of which cannot be known until after the work has started. The size, terrain, vegetation, location and season affect the charges, but the cost can usually be estimated fairly accurately. However, the surveyor will not know if deeded monuments are missing or if they conflict with the description until well into the survey.
The complexity of the research is also usually not known until the surveyor begins the actual work. Some parcels have passed through many owners over the years. Some may have added adjacent parcels or sold off portions of the original lot. The more outparcels and consolidations there are, the more complex and costly the research becomes.
Many deeds are “abutter deeds,” which use the neighbors’ names to define boundaries. In some cases it may be necessary to research parcels far removed from the land being surveyed to assemble the jigsaw puzzle of old deeds and it is not unusual for the research to account for 50 percent or more of the total survey cost.
Godfrey-Hoffman & Hodge will provide you with a fixed price for its services as well as a detailed proposal that way you will know what you are paying for and how much. No surprises!
Depending on the services agreed on, a boundary survey may produce monuments or markers at all property corners; a written description of the property; or a survey map of the property
How will the boundaries be marked? This depends on what the client and the surveyor have agreed to. Monuments may include wooden stakes or hubs, iron pins or pipes, marked trees or concrete monuments. They may be placed on property corners and angles and sometimes at intervals along the property lines.
Is a map necessary? The map provides the client with a permanent record of the survey. If any of the monuments are lost or destroyed, they can be replaced with the information shown on the map. All maps must be embossed and signed by the surveyor indicating that the survey conforms to state standards (see Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 20-300b.).
If a map is prepared, you may choose to record it in the town clerk’s office. This not only preserves the work for future reference, but also puts the public on notice that the area shown has been thoroughly researched and documented. In a sense it provides insurance against most claims or disputes.
It is our hope that you will discuss the importance of a survey with your client. Please contact our office if you have further questions about surveys.
Adam Hoffman is principal of Godfrey-Hoffman & Hodge: a surveying, engineering and land planning company.