How To Read a Land Survey | askBAMLand

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Let’s unlock the secrets of land surveys as we learn how to read a land survey to help you master property boundaries and legal descriptions.

To read a land survey, ensure its validity and focus on key elements: the title block for the surveyor and date details, and the legal description for property boundaries. Also, understand the map's scale and locate boundary lines, identify any easements, and examine additional details.

With years of experience in real estate, I have a deep understanding of survey documents, legal descriptions, and property boundaries. My background in survey interpretation, combined with practical knowledge, equips me to guide you through the complexities of land surveys. So, let's dive in and turn those cryptic sketches and codes into clear, actionable insights.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding a land survey is crucial for property ownership and building.
  • A land survey contains detailed information on property boundaries and land features.
  • You can use online interactive tools to interpret your land survey.

Table of Contents

How to Read a Land Survey

Ever stared at a land survey document, feeling like you're decoding an ancient map? Reading a land survey can be like learning a new language, but once you've got the basics down, you'll be interpreting those squiggly lines and numbers like a pro.

Reading a land survey involves understanding the map scale, deciphering boundary lines, and recognizing legal descriptions.

It's essential for managing real estate transactions, resolving disputes, or planning construction projects. Let’s explore these steps in detail.

Obtain the Survey

Obtaining the most recent and accurate land survey document is the essential first step in understanding your property's boundaries and features. This document can typically be acquired from a licensed surveyor or your local government office.

In some cases, it may be included in the paperwork of a real estate transaction. It's imperative to ensure that you have the latest version of the survey, as property boundaries and features can change over time.

Verifying the authenticity of the survey and the qualifications of the surveyor who prepared it is essential, as it forms the foundation for all further assessments and actions related to your land.

Examine the Title Block

The title block of a land survey serves as the document's identification card, providing vital information about its origins and validity.

It includes details such as the name and contact information of the surveyor who created the survey, their license number, and the date when the survey was completed.

This section helps verify the legitimacy of the survey and establishes a point of contact should you have questions or need additional information.

Ensuring the credibility of the surveyor and the accuracy of this section is fundamental to the reliability of the entire survey.

Review the Legal Description

The legal description section of the survey is equivalent to your property's official address in legal terms. It provides a meticulously detailed and precise description of your property's boundaries, dimensions, and location of known landmarks or markers.

This information is not just for reference; it is often a legally binding description used in property deeds and legal documents.

Therefore, it’s essential for various purposes, including property ownership, land disputes, and compliance with local regulations.

Understanding this section is crucial to establishing your property's legal identity and ensuring that you have a clear understanding of its boundaries and features.

Understand the Scale

The scale on the survey map is critical for translating distances on the map to real-world measurements accurately. It specifies the relationship between a unit of length on the map and its equivalent in the actual landscape, such as feet or meters.

Understanding the scale is not only vital for measuring distances but also for making informed decisions about property development, such as determining setbacks, lot sizes, or the placement of structures.

Locate Boundary Lines

One of the primary objectives when interpreting a land survey is to locate and comprehend the boundary lines of the property. These boundary lines are the physical demarcations that define the edges and limits of your land.

In many cases, they are marked with specific information such as bearings (directions) and distances that correspond to the actual property boundaries in the real world.

Accurately identifying and confirming these boundary lines is of utmost importance. It not only defines the size and extent of your property but also ensures that you are aware of the land's precise boundaries.

This can be particularly crucial in scenarios where land disputes or legal matters arise, as having a clear understanding of the boundary lines is essential for resolving such issues.

In some cases, it may involve physical verification and marking of the boundary points on the ground to provide a tangible reference for property boundaries.

Identify Easements and Rights-of-Way

Easements and rights-of-way are critical elements to identify on a land survey. These are pathways or areas on your land that others may have a legal right to use for specific purposes, such as utility lines, road access, or neighbor access rights.

Recognizing these easements is crucial as they can impact how you can use and develop the property, and they may come with certain responsibilities or limitations.

Examine Additional Details

Beyond the primary boundaries and legal information, the land survey often includes additional details. These may encompass topographical features (such as hills, valleys, or water bodies), existing structures (buildings or fences), and natural landmarks (like trees or rock formations).

These additional details can be vital for making informed decisions about property development, landscaping, or land use planning.

For example, knowledge of topography can help plan drainage systems, while the location of existing structures can inform renovation or expansion plans. Check out this video for more tips on how to read a land survey.

Common Survey Symbols and Their Meanings

Have you ever unfolded a land survey and felt like you were trying to read an ancient map full of mysterious runes? Land surveys come with their own set of symbols and abbreviations that can seem like a secret code at first glance.

Below are the commonly used land survey symbols and their meanings.

Symbol Meaning
IRP Iron Rod or Pipe; a boundary marker
PL Property Line; defines the boundary
Perpendicular; the line is at a right angle
Easement; the right to cross/use the land for a specific purpose
⦿ Monument or Benchmark; a fixed physical marker on the land
--- Fence; an indication of a fence line
Δ Delta; change in elevation or a difference in height
// Contour line; represents elevation and terrain shape
W Water; usually identifying the presence of water features
( N ) North; the direction used as a reference point

These symbols are the alphabet of the land surveying world. Once you get the hang of them, reading a land survey will be as easy as reading your favorite book.

Interactive Online Tools for Land Survey Interpretation

Interpreting land surveys accurately is crucial for various purposes, from real estate transactions to land development and environmental assessments. In the digital age, there are several interactive online tools, and resources available to assist in land survey interpretation.

These tools leverage Geographic Information Systems (GIS), satellite imagery, and mapping technologies to provide users with valuable insights into survey data.

Here are some interactive online tools that can aid in land survey interpretation:

  • Google Earth: Google Earth is a widely used tool that provides access to high-resolution satellite imagery and 3D terrain models. Users can overlay land survey data onto Google Earth maps to visualize property boundaries, topography, and other relevant information. This tool is particularly useful for gaining a comprehensive view of the surveyed land and its surroundings.
  • GIS Software: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software like ArcGIS Online and QGIS allow users to import, analyze, and visualize land survey data. These platforms offer a range of tools for creating custom maps, performing spatial analysis, and generating reports based on survey information.
  • Zoning and Planning Portals: Many local government websites provide interactive zoning and planning portals that allow users to access land survey records, property information, and zoning regulations. These portals are valuable for individuals looking to understand land-use restrictions and zoning designations within a specific area.
  • Land Survey Apps: Various mobile apps are designed for land surveyors and property owners to collect, manage, and interpret survey data in the field. These apps often include features like GPS integration, parcel mapping, and the ability to annotate survey documents on-site. Examples include Trimble InSphere and LandGlide.
  • Online Plat Books: Plat books are comprehensive land ownership and boundary documents that are often available online for specific regions or counties. These digitized plat books allow users to search for property records, view land parcels, and access survey information without the need for physical copies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are FAQs on land surveys.

What should I do if I have questions or disputes related to a land survey?

The first step is to contact a professional land surveyor. These experts are the masters of land boundaries and can provide clarification, mediate between parties, or even perform a new survey if necessary.

Can I make changes or improvements to my property based on a land survey?

Yes, a land survey is your golden ticket to transforming your property. Ensure you follow local zoning laws and building codes. You wouldn't want your perfect patio to break any rules, would you?

How do I resolve disputes or discrepancies found in a land survey?

Begin by discussing the issue with your neighbor. If that doesn't bear fruit, a surveyor can be reengaged to review and confirm the findings. For unresolved disputes, legal advice may be necessary. Essentially, keep calm and survey on; you'll find a resolution.


Brittany Melling

Brittany Melling

Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.

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