Survey FAQs


What is a survey?

Technically, a survey has to do with the determination of the relative location of points on or near the surface of the earth. It is the art of measuring horizontal and vertical distances between objects, of measuring angles between lines, of determining the direction of lines, and of establishing point by predetermined angular and linear measurements. (Davis, Foote & Kelly).


Isn't my fence the property line?

Technically, NO. Your deed defines what you own. It’s the surveyor’s job to “find” your deed on the ground. Your fence can be a representation of your possession line. It is the area that you typically maintain, but doesn’t necessarily mean you own it. If your deed calls out that the existing fence is your boundary, then determining whether or not the specific fence that the surveyor encounters, is in fact that fence and in that location described.


When do I need a survey?
Essentially, every time you buy or sell property. Your deed is typically written by someone who has never set foot on the property and have no idea what the true shape of the land is. To know what you actually have, shape, size, location of house or building or other improvements, you need a survey to illustrate what your deed describes and what improvements you have and what could be encroaching upon your property.


Who can perform a land survey?

Only a Professional Land Surveyor can perform the survey. He must perform the survey personally or have direct supervision of the project. Only a licensed, Board approved, Professional Land Surveyor in good standings, licensed in the State of Missouri, can perform a survey dealing with boundary issues, in Missouri.


Who else can do a survey?

If it is a survey for design or construction of streets, sewers or utilities, an engineering company can perform those surveys. If it is a survey for landscape design, a landscape architect may prepare that survey. The only time that someone else other than a Land Surveyor can perform the survey, is when the survey, is Not Boundary Related. However, the land surveyor is the most qualified to perform all types of surveys due to the fact that it is our job to precisely measure objects.


Are all surveyors and surveying companies the same?

As the last question alludes to, NO they are not all the same. Some are more qualified at one type of survey over another. Some are more experienced than others. Some specialize on one type of survey rather than another. Then some have better standards of practice. I used to feel that you get what you pay for, but I’ve found too, that some companies will start you off with a low fee, then start tacking on more and more fees and still not have an end product that is really any good.


Are there different types of surveys?  

YES. They range from locating property corners, house, fences and improvements for a Lot Survey to American Land Title Association (ALTA) survey which is very complex and expensive and requires the clients interaction. There is a Table of options that the client is to check off what they want or need the surveyor to do. The client is required to provide a copy of his complete Title Commitment and related documents for the surveyor to illustrate on his survey. In any case, the clientis to provide a copy of his deed to the surveyor, for him to know what he is to survey. The more complex the technology required, the time frame or deadlines that needs to be met, and more man-hours required to prepare your survey, the more expensive it will be.

What does a survey cost?

There are so many factors involved. I set out to try to make a punch list to make it easy to compute an estimated cost of any survey. Well, that form became so long, it was impractical. Basically, the cost of a survey is directly related to the number of hours that it will take to complete the work. That all of the work, even the part you don’t see, the office work, the research work the meetings, etc. that most people never see. The more complex the survey is, the more costly it becomes. The surveyor is taking lots of risks when he signs his name to the survey he prepares for you.


Which type of survey do I need?

1. If you are buying or selling a house in a subdivision,a Lot Survey.

2. If you are building a fence or installing a pool,or if you are building or doing an addition to your house, you should consider a Boundary & 
Topographic Survey.
3. If you have commercial or industrial property, an ALTA survey is recommended.
4. If you are preparing a Subdivision, a complex Boundary& Topo or even ALTA is needed. There are many types of surveys and the more information you can provide to the surveyor, the better equipped he will be in determining what you need and how much it will cost. If there is an architect, engineer or other professional involved, efforts must be made to coordinate their needs with your needs to allow the surveyor to be most efficient.


Should I hire a surveyor based on price?

NO. It’s a good idea to get a range of costs with estimates, both of money and time, but Do Not hire anyone for any job, strictly on the basis of price. It’s best to have a Scope of Services spelling out what is included or expected to be done and an amount that it would cost to perform these services. If you have used a surveyor in the past and like the outcome, they appreciate repeat customers. It’s always a good idea to get opinions from others that have had work done by that surveyor or go with recommendation by other persons, banks, title companies, architects & engineers or other surveyors. Be cautious when going strictly by the appearances of their advertisements or prices.


What information should I be prepared to provide for the survey?

Everything you have. The more information you have and can provide to the surveyor, the more knowledgeable he can be from the onset of the project. For example: a copy of your deed is the first thing he will need. Then a copy of an old survey, copy of the entire plat that you lot is in, a copy of your Title commitment and documents, a copy of house plans or other improvements you may have, anything related to your property that can inform the surveyor of previous or current work, will help him in the process of performing your survey. It’s a factor of time and time is money.


Why don't dimensions match from one surveyor to another?

Technology and procedures. The means at which a survey was performed over the years has changed. When I started surveying 37 years ago, I used a plumb-bob, steel tape, transit and tripod, sighting poles and had a 3-man crew. Now days, I run with a Robotics Electric Distance Measuring instrument and a Remote Prism Pole. When necessary, I’ll use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to relate it to the world. Depending on equipment and methods, the same line will be measured differently and basis of bearing (direction of the lines) will differ. More often, modern surveys will be very close to the same distances and direction between objects measured on the ground. This is due in part to the Standardization of those procedures and requirements of the surveyor. 


Which way is North?

This goes back to procedure. If you assume North to be is a particular direction or a convenient direction, it will differ from North as determined by Compass, by Polaris or Solar Observation. It will differ too, from North as determined by Grid North in GPS locations. The important part is that the lines and distances will match relative to themselves, no matter which way North is. A square should remain a square and not become a trapezoid just in changing methods of determining North. Compass north and Grid north can vary 7 degrees in some areas. 


Still have a question that wasn't asked her?  Feel free to use our Contact Page and send us your questions. We'll do our best to answer them.
























Contact us for a free consultation +1.417.830.6091