Surveying is normally an intricate process that needs to be handled by a professional, but these days, you can conduct a survey yourself using a smartphone.
To survey land with a smartphone you must first download a credible surveying app on your phone. Using your phone’s built-in GPS, you can utilize the features of your surveying app to measure an area by walking in lines. The lines that you create can then be calculated to give you survey results.
If you are dealing with the purchase or sale of a property, then having it surveyed is going to be very important. A land survey will give you all of the accurate measurements of a piece of real estate so that you know exactly what its size and dimensions are. Traditionally, land surveying is something that required the assistance of a professional, which can be quite costly and time-consuming. However, in recent years, thanks to the technology behind modern-day smartphones, you can actually make your own survey with the help of apps. These surveying apps enable you to make basic measurements without the need for professionals, but it is important that you use them properly to get the best results possible. Keep reading to learn more about how to survey land with a smartphone.
My experience has taught me that using smartphones to conduct land surveys with apps is a great way of getting estimated figures, but ultimately, if you need precise measurements, a professional survey is still more accurate.
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Surveying Land With a Smartphone
Technology has come a long way. So much so, that our smartphones are now able to handle so many of the once complicated procedures and tasks that we always relied on professionals for. A great innovation in this regard has to do with surveying land. Many homeowners and real estate developers utilize their smartphones to conduct real estate surveys - with promising results.
In the past, we have always needed to hire a professional surveyor to come to our homes or businesses to take precise measurements. This is a very necessary aspect of dealing with real estate but it requires appointments, scheduling, and it can add up to a lot of money being spent - especially if you are dealing with complex properties. A typical land survey in the United States is currently averaging at right around $500. This number can be much higher for larger properties.
If you are in need of a professional survey to finalize the sale of a property or want to confirm the exact measurements of a parcel before a purchase, it may make sense to hire a professional to get the reassurance that all aspects of the land are in order. However, there are times where you want to conduct a land survey for more casual purposes or simply to confirm the results of a previous survey. In this case, it makes much more sense to utilize your smartphone to get the job done.
Completing a basic land survey with your phone is extremely easy and, in most cases, it can be handled in as little as 10 to 20 minutes. The best thing about it is that it is usually free, which means that you can save yourself $500 by taking care of your survey on your own. To help you understand exactly how to survey land with a smartphone, we are going to take you through the entire process.
Smartphone & GPS
The first thing that you are going to need to survey land with a smartphone, is a mobile device that has GPS.
Just about any phone that you buy these days is classified as a smartphone with a built-in GPS system. You are going to want to confirm that you have your GPS enabled and that it can accurately track your movements.
In order to properly survey land with a smartphone, your GPS signal needs to be strong enough to follow each of your steps as you walk in a line. To confirm this, you should test your GPS by making some walking movements with a navigation application enabled.
The best way to do this is to head outside of your home or to a public park so that you can get the best signal possible. Open up your preferred navigation app with walking mode on. Find your location on the app and zoom in on yourself. As you walk in a straight line you should be able to see your location on the app follow suit as it mimics your movements.
If you are working with a decent working smartphone, you should be able to get a confirmation that your device is able to use its GPS functionality with precision. However, if you found that your GPS signal was weak or that your device was not responding well to your movements, you should consider buying a more recent generation smartphone or borrowing one from a friend or family member to conduct your land survey.
Although surveying land with a smartphone is a great way to get a rough estimate for the measurements of a property, you still want to ensure that you are using a capable device to get your reading.
Land Survey App
Once you have a capable smartphone in front of you, you will need to download a credible surveying application on your device.
To do this, go to your device’s application store and type in ‘land survey app’. You will find that there are a lot of different land survey apps out there and the great news is that the majority of them are free.
What you are going to want to do is download a land survey app that has credibility. There are plenty of good ones on the app store, but you ideally want to be utilizing one that has built a reputation for itself with its users.
To start, filter your results to show land survey apps that have at least a 3.5 to a 4-star rating on the app store. This will help weed out apps that are not worthy of your time and may provide poor results during your survey. You should have a dozen or so apps available with credible ratings for you to choose from.
Most of these apps should get the job done just fine but just to be sure, I would recommend clicking on a few different options out of the top contenders to read their reviews. Always check the land survey app’s most recent and relevant reviews to get a realistic idea of how well the application functions. After you have read some of the reviews for the app, click the download button to install the application onto your smartphone.
Once you have successfully installed a land survey app on your phone, open it to get an overview of its functionality and components.
There are many different land survey applications out there but you will find that they all essentially serve the same purpose - to survey land. With that being said, most of the features of these land survey apps are synonymous with one another.
With your app open, read and review some of the buttons that are on the screen of your smartphone. One of the first things that should catch your eye is the GPS system that is available within the app. Double-check that the GPS system within the app is as accurate as your smartphone’s GPS navigation app.
After you have confirmed this, you will notice that your land survey app has several buttons which are the main features that you will be working with to conduct your survey. These will be the point buttons that allow you to create measurements of the land parcel.
Once you have familiarized yourself with the interface of your land survey application, you can begin the process of surveying your land parcel.
In order to do this, you need to physically be present at the location that you plan on surveying. Although your smartphone and built-in GPS will be handling all of the measurements and calculations, the surveying process will still require your foot movement to assist the process.
To keep your land survey organized, you are going to name your survey with a project name. If you are simply dealing with a one-time survey of your home, simply naming the project ‘Home Survey’ is good enough. However, if you are in the real estate industry and plan on handling numerous different properties, then it makes sense to be as precise as possible with your project name to ensure that you do not end up confusing land surveys with one another, as this can result in serious complications later on. To avoid issues with this, name the exact location of the property such as its address, and then add a date and any other notation or specification to the project name.
Before you begin to survey your land, find an ideal location on the property that seems logical for a starting point. This is usually best done in one of the corners of the land parcel. Once you have decided on a good starting point, you are going to want to ensure that your land surveying app’s location is exactly on top of yours. To do this, zoom in on yourself on the app and see that you have an accurate reading of where you are standing. If the pointer of the land survey app is in alignment with your location, drop a ‘starting point’ on top of yourself to begin the surveying process.
Next, you must head to your 2nd point to create your first measurement. You can begin walking in a straight line to the next corner of your property. As you walk, you will see that your land survey app is following your movements and creating a lined measurement of each step that you take.
As soon as you reach the end of your first line, you must place another point at your location to end your first measurement. To continue surveying your land using the app, you must repeat this process for the entire area of your property. Drop a point on where you want to start and stop each measurement and then walk to the next point.
This process is very intuitive and straightforward - especially if your property does not have a complex or dynamic layout. However, if your land parcel has a lot of different turns curves, and awkward angles, you are going to want to take your time and be more precise with your movements. In this case, you will want to utilize some of your land survey apps additional buttons to match the movement and layout of your property.
You will find that there are additional buttons such as ‘arch’ and ‘curve’ on just about every app that you work with. These buttons will help you make movements for your land survey that are not simple lines - utilize them as needed to get the most accurate reading possible.
Once you have gone around your entire property’s perimeter and marked all of the points on your land survey app, you will have completed a land survey using your smartphone. To get the results of your survey, you must click the calculate button on the app to get the total area of your land parcel. You will get an estimated figure of the area of the property in square feet.
Most people that want to conduct a land survey using their smartphone generally just want to get a rough estimate of the area of their land parcel. This can be achieved quite simply using the above-mentioned procedure - regardless of the size of your property.
However, some landowners want to conduct a land survey with their phone for a more advanced type of reading so that they have a more detailed analysis of their land that is catered to some specific property features.
The process for doing this is not overly complicated but it will involve additional foot movement from your end and it will require you to create individual readings for each feature that you want to survey with the application.
Much like with the area of your land parcel, you are going to want to create a project that is specific to what you want to survey. Since you are going to be surveying more than one feature for the same property, you want to be specific with your project title so that you can stay organized when assessing all of your results later on.
For example, you may want to measure your backyard next, the area of your front lawn, or even your house. Your land survey app will not have an issue with this procedure but you will want to name your projects accordingly.
A great way to stay organized during this process is to utilize some of the app’s additional features. You will see that you have various options for color coding available to you within the land survey app. These are fantastic tools to give your projects their individual color so that you can visualize them more clearly on the interface of the land survey app. The logical way to go about this is to match the color of the object that you are surveying to its actual color such as green for grass and so on.
Taking more advanced measurements such as these to survey your land will help you get estimated figures for each individual feature that you have on your property. This can be incredibly useful for a DIY property listing if you plan on putting your property on the real estate market.
With that being said, land survey apps do have their limitations when it comes to giving accurate and precise readings. If you wanted to survey very finite details of your property, you are going to find that your land survey app is going to likely come up with faulty results, as your GPS signal is not nearly as accurate for these kinds of measurements. If you want to get measurements of very small property features, you are going to be better off having a tape measure handy for these aspects of your land survey.
All in all, conducting a land survey with your smartphone is a fantastic way of getting some quick and rough estimates of your property - with no costs involved. However, you will find that the results that you get from using a land survey app on your phone are not going to be as accurate as hiring a professional surveyor to conduct a thorough analysis of your property. If you plan on listing your property or need to deliver concrete results to a client, it would make sense to be as thorough as possible and only utilize your smartphone for a land survey to get rough estimates of the parcel.
About THE AUTHOR
Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down because of COVID-19. 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.Read More About Brittany Melling