How to Read a Property Survey
A property survey -- also known as a boundary survey, plat survey, or land survey -- is an essential document if you are purchasing a residential or commercial building or land parcel.With a property survey in hand, you can discover the boundary lines, zoning information, and underground utilities on and around your property. Learning to read a property survey will help you understand your rights as a landowner.
Getting Your Bearings
Identify the survey parts.The property survey consists of two parts: the illustration and the written report. The illustration is basically a map of the area surveyed. Place the survey illustration on a large flat surface, as property surveys can be quite large. Keep the written report on hand for easy reference.
Familiarize yourself with the legend.The legend is usually set in the corner of a survey illustration. It contains icons which indicate important property attributes such as wells, borders, structures, or utility lines.If any elements of the legend are unclear or need explanation, contact your surveyor.
Locate the surveyor's certificate.The surveyor's certificate should be signed and dated with an embossed seal. This certificate provides a legal foundation for the survey's validity. If absent, the survey will not provide you with legal protection in a court of law.
Digging Into the Details
Orient yourself in the survey illustration.The illustration should include a compass indicating which way is north. This is often located near the legend, or separately in a corner of the illustration. A good survey will distinguish between magnetic north and astronomical north. If the survey does not distinguish between the two, it's probably based on magnetic north, but you should check with your surveyor to be sure.
Understand the property boundaries.Property boundaries are denoted with both bearing and distance. The bearing is a series of degrees, minutes, and seconds with compass point letters before and after each element. The distance indicates how far from a given point a boundary line extends.
- The bearing represents the angle between north or south and east or west. You can measure this angle from a central point with a protractor. For instance, you might have a bearing of N 38° 03' 09" E. If you measured an angle of 38° 03' 09" from the north to the east on the survey illustration, you could then trace that northeasterly line to identify one of your property's boundaries.
- Degrees, minutes, and seconds are the units of measure for property survey bearings. For example, N 38° 03' 09" E would translate as 38 degrees, 3 minutes, 9 seconds from the north to the east.
- The boundary lines, or "legs," are often denoted in feet and listed directly below or after the bearing.
Find important features.The illustration and accompanying written report should include the following, where present:
Note the scale and scope of the survey illustration.There should be a scale near the legend which indicates how distances are represented on the survey illustration. The scale will help you gauge distances on the property in question, including distances between it and nearby landmarks. For instance, one inch might correspond to one mile on the land survey illustration.The illustration might also orient the reader by providing a vicinity map -- also called a location map -- to indicate where the property lies in relation to the larger locality. The vicinity map is a small square inset usually located in a corner of the survey illustration.
Putting the Survey In Context
Read the notes.Notes are found on the survey illustration and provide information pertaining to former ownership of the land being surveyed or nearby properties. A more thorough account of the property can be found in the written report.
Read the written survey report carefully.The report includes legal information and additional comments provided by the surveyor. This document may also contain:
- Official property measurements.
- Any easements that may exist on the property. An easement allows a third party legal access to a property. For example, when you give your neighbor permission to park in your driveway or allow a utility company to run electrical lines run through your property.
- Any other property improvements that may have occurred since the latest survey on file. The report will also indicate if these improvements meet the code standards set up by the local building department.
- An indication as to whether the property is zoned for residential or commercial use.
Write down any points of confusion or concern.It might be good to have a friend or family member read the property survey with you so that they can offer suggestions or identify potential issues you might have missed. After reading the survey, contact your surveyor to clear up any misunderstanding. Remember, understanding your survey is crucial for establishing full control over your property.
Put your survey to use.Whether you are buying a new property, looking to build on your land, or trying to sell some or all of your land, your property survey will help move the process along. If the boundaries of your property are ever in question, consult your property survey to settle the matter.
QuestionWhat does a figure like 1160:144 mean? Is that a measurement? I have a really old plan I'm trying to figure out.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThat Property Line is what is recorded in the book of records. Based on the numbers you have stated, that would be the page number and then book number.Thanks!
QuestionHow many links are equal to one foot?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA link is exactly 66⁄100 of a foot, or exactly 7.92 inches. The unit is based on Gunter's chain, a metal chain 66 feet long with 100 links, that was formerly used in land surveying.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I find square footage?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe way to calculate a rectangular area is by measuring the length and width of your area then multiplying those two numbers together to get the area in feet squared.Thanks!
QuestionWhat does 64.92 measured and 65.00 recorded mean?Top AnswererIt means that a measured length has been rounded up to the nearest integer.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I locate the marker at the front of my property?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMost of the points should have a piece of rebar stuck in the ground with a cap on it. The cap can be yellow, red, pink, or blue depending on which state you live in. Use a metal detector to help you find the posts in the ground. Also be aware that some posts do get moved by previous landowners and/or construction workers. Some people just don't care about the markers. You can also start by looking around the corners of your fence or yard.Thanks!
QuestionIn 142.62 c/l, what does c/l mean?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFor measuring purposes, c/l stands for centerline, that is, to the center of something.Thanks!
QuestionWhat does eaves correct meanTop AnswererIt may mean that a particular eave design meets local building codes. (Just a guess.)Thanks!
QuestionWhat is a "casement" on a property survey?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt's probably "easement", not "casement". Easements are defined areas where some special activity or utility has been granted by the landowner, such as ingress/egress, under ground or over head pipes or wires, etc.Thanks!
QuestionCan you tell me what 'BRL' means?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerBRL stands for the currency of Brazil, the Real; thus Brazilian Real = BRL.Thanks!
QuestionIs the measurement taken from the foundation or the furthest point?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe foundation should be used when determining property lines, and the furthest point on the structure should be used when speaking about matters related to encroachment of eaves, etc. to said property lines.Thanks!
My land survey reads 7'9 from house corner to survey line (between houses), but the fencing company measures this as 7' (1 inch = 20 feet) - how did they figure this out?
How do I read a property survey when it has a stonewall?
What is the difference between a property line running "along the land of" and "along the line of?"
What is an "AC" fence?
What does B.S.B.L.7.65' D.S. mean?
- Review the entire written report and discuss any questions, discrepancies, or concerns with the surveyor immediately.
- Establish the physical address on the your deed and compare it to the address on the survey illustration. The addresses must match exactly as written on the homeowner's deed. Report inaccuracies to the surveyor for immediate correction.
- Be sure to file your survey somewhere safe for future reference.
- Ensure that the survey description matches the actual property in question by walking the property with the survey in hand after reading through the written portion at least once.
- Contact the surveyor if he or she has identified any wetlands or conservation issues on your property.
- Be patient when reading your property survey. Don't feel bad if you are confused after your first reading. Understanding property surveys well takes time and practice.
- A background in cartography, geography, or surveying will help you get the most out of reading your property survey.
- Verify that the survey is signed, dated, and embossed with the surveyor's official seal. If any of these items are missing, the survey may be viewed as legally invalid.
- Note any unclaimed gaps of land between properties. This may affect future development of the property.
- Determine whether there are any buildings, additions, or improvements that encroach onto adjacent properties. An encroachment agreement may be required to avoid future litigation issues.
Video: Boundary Survey
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