Residential Property Owners Help Guide
When Should a Property Owner Hire a Land Surveyor?
- To Verify Boundary/Property Line:
- One of the most common reasons a property owner contacts us is for the location of boundary/ property lines. These legal boundaries of occupancy or possession are critical pieces of information to have. A survey will eliminate any confusion or misunderstandings and eliminate possible encroachment on a neighbor.
- When Buying Property:
- Only a map of the survey made by a Licensed Land Surveyor can define what you've purchased.
- A surveyor will determine whether other people are entitled to partial use of your property through easements for utilities or rights-of-way.
- A surveyor will determine whether fences, trees, buildings, building overhangs, gardens, driveways, sidewalks, swimming pools, house additions, and other property improvements on your property.
- A surveyor will determine whether your deed accurately describes the property you occupy.
- A surveyor can provide an updated deed description for the property you are purchasing. This will allow you (or your Lawyer) to file your deed in the County Clerk's Office or Land Court, thereby registering the transaction and preserving your property rights in the future.
- Since a survey provided by the seller may be old, it may not reflect changes to the property or its boundaries. A survey protects you by bringing potential legal problems to your attention so you can address them before you make your purchase.
- A surveyor can mark the corners of your property with permanent monuments so you will always be aware of your legal property lines.
- When Refinancing Your Property or Applying for a Mortgage:
- A bank or trust company will usually require a survey before lending money.
- Zoning, Planning, or Building laws may have changed since you purchased your property.
- Before Building Additions to Your Property or Permanent Improvements to Your Property (like fences):
- You want to make sure you are building on your property. Mistakenly building on a neighbor's property can cause legal problems and extra construction costs.
- A surveyor can mark the location of proposed buildings so that you are sure they are on your property and meet all local setback requirements and zoning restrictions.
- In case of a dispute, your surveyor can act as an expert witness and will assume professional responsibility for your survey in court.
- When Subdividing Property or Selling Individual Lots Because:
- Your surveyor will survey the site and draft a proposed subdivision plan.
- Your surveyor will check and note planning restrictions, easements, and other legalities for your subdivision (for example wetland delineation and mapping issues, minimum lot sizes, and setbacks, etc.).
- Your surveyor can engage other consultants to carry out preliminary studies, engineering, planning, and environmental issues to submit with the draft subdivision plan, ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal laws.
- Your surveyor can represent you and your project at Planning, Building, Zoning, and Town & County Board meetings, if required.
- Your surveyor will prepare the final subdivision plans.
- Retaining a surveyor will give your buyers and clients confidence in the purchase of your property, or one of the lots in your subdivision.
What To Expect During the Survey Process?
As soon as you have agreed on the scope of work and services to be provided by the surveyor (which involves a written contract), the survey team will schedule your survey. The Land Surveyor will perform research through a variety of sources, including the County, Land Court, Municipal offices, and other agencies, to gather information affecting the boundaries of the property.
After this information has been collected, the survey team will send a field crew (usually consisting of two Survey Technicians and/or Surveyors) to perform a field survey of your property. These trained professionals will use specialized equipment to locate data points and any physical evidence that may affect the property boundaries, as well as locate any physical improvements to the property. They also may perform various other tasks like wetland delineation, percolation testing for septic system design, and general site reconnaissance, depending on your needs.
During the field survey, the survey team will mark any missing property corners with capped iron pins. The survey team will also drive wooden stakes along the property line so the property owner can visibly see exactly where their property line is.
Note: A property owner can remove the wooden stakes set at any time, but the capped metal pins can/should never be moved/removed by anyone! It is a criminal misdemeanor for any person to willfully move, damage or remove any marker or other landmark set in the property of another person.
After completing the field survey, the survey team will bring the field data collected to the Project Manager/Drafter. If the property owner wants a plot plan, the Project Manager/Drafter will use the information gathered to generate a plot plan of the parcel. The plan will be reviewed, verified, and stamped by a Professional Licensed Land Surveyor in your state and you will be sent copies. You can also request a mylar copy of your plan that you can legally record with your County Registry of Deed or the Land Court.
How Much Will a Survey Cost?
Warning: The cost of a land survey in the Northeast will never be as low as the online search prices say it will be!
These sites take the national average of only a small portion of reported costs. This is not an accurate representation of what a survey will cost in your area. The actual cost of a survey will depend on the size and location of the property, and the agreed services to be provided. Varying factors are the size, complexity of the descriptions, terrain, and the shape of the property. A reputable survey firm is willing to discuss their fees and offer a written estimate before you authorize a survey. The cost of a survey is often seen as expensive by property owners but it is, only a small percentage of the cost of buying, refinancing, or subdividing property. It is also much less than any legal fees required when a property dispute arises. The protection and piece-of-mind a survey will give you are well worth the cost.
Why Should a Property Owner Hire a Septic Designer/Inspector?
If properly designed, constructed, and maintained, a septic system (ISDS) can provide long-term, effective treatment of household wastewater. An old, undersized, or broken system can contaminate groundwater that might be a source of drinking water, and should you want to sell your property, your septic system could be a factor in not being able to get the property's full value.
You should contact a septic designer/inspector if:
- You want to increase the number of bedrooms.
- You have or suspect you may have a septic failure (Some signs of failure are liquid surfacing in the yard, strong or bad odors, slow flushing, or overflow at washing machine hookup, shower, or toilet.
- You require a permit through NHDES Subsurface Bureau for design or installation.
When Should a Property Owner Hire a Civil Engineer?
- Stormwater or Drainage Issues - Whether it is designing new or redesigning existing stormwater drainage or solving isolated drainage problems, a civil engineer can perform a comprehensive investigation to find out what options a property owner may have to diminish a problem or prevent one from happening.
- Building Code and Zoning Research – Since civil engineers are continually working on various projects in varying jurisdictions, they are knowledgeable of building codes and zoning ordinances. They can provide property owners with detailed information to keep the project in compliance and ensure the proper procedures are being followed.
- Permit Applications – When it comes to permitting, property owners are often overwhelmed with the forms and processes required. Civil engineers are familiar with permitting processes and can assist with such. They can also provide a property owner with representation at meetings and answer questions about the project helping the property owner and making sure everyone has a clear understanding of the project.
Note: Every jurisdiction is different so be sure to check with yours before starting an improvement project.
Typical residential projects which usually require plans or permits are:
- All new construction
- Additions, renovations, landscaping, or tree removal within 250 feet of a public water body
- Patios, patio enclosures, and decks
- Pools or spas
- Carports and storage sheds
- Room additions
- Accessory dwelling units
Any property owner planning an improvement project should consider hiring an engineer to assess their project before they start. An engineer's expertise and guidance can save a property owner time and money in the long run.
When Should a Property Owner Hire a Landscape Architect?
Landscape Architects are different from Landscape Designers. A Professional Landscape Architect must have completed the appropriate education and pass a professional licensing exam. They are licensed in the State in which they are approved to practice. A reputable Landscape Architect has the education, training, and experience to work with challenging issues in both commercial and residential sites including steep slopes/retaining walls, parking, access drives, drainage issues, landscape structures, and Shoreland permitting. Hire a Landscape Architect if you want to overhaul your entire property or change physical structures. You will receive expertise that goes beyond just plants and soil.
Information for this online document was adapted from the following sources: