Why a boundary survey should NOT cost less than $500.

I’ve noticed recently when people call me to ask about a boundary survey that they are surprised when I tell them how much it costs. Often they say something like “I thought it would only cost $500.” It took me a while to figure out where they were getting this number. It turns out Google is giving quotes right on the search results page. If you search Google for “boundary survey cost” up pops a “featured snippet” that shows the national average cost of a survey is between $367 and $490. This result is pulled automatically from a website that Google guesses is an authority. Well, Google is wrong.

boundary survey cost should not be less than $500The website that posted this information is not from a land surveyor or land surveying firm. It’s a home improvement directory that connects homeowners with contractors in their area and offers free quotes for services. When you try to find a quote from a land surveyor, it comes back with “we are unable to find available Land Surveyors in your area.” So much for authority.

At least the site got this part right: “Several factors shape the final bill of a land survey. The cost of hiring a professional surveyor is not so straightforward as paying for routine repair work or other general home services. The price varies widely not only by locality and surveyor, but also by dozens of project-specific details. Even after analyzing over 2,000 land survey projects, the average price above may not be accurate for your parcel or area. That’s because there are plenty of factors that can increase or decrease your property survey cost”.

This is true, especially here in California. Here’s a general guideline I like to tell my clients:

If your property is valued at $700,000, a professional boundary survey that will result in a legal document describing the boundary of your property will generally cost less than 1% of the value of your asset.

Is that more than $500? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. A boundary survey protects the value of your home and property. (See: How much does a boundary survey cost?)

Google is a great tool and I love how it can empower consumers to do their own research to make better buying decisions. It’s unfortunate the information isn’t always accurate. Your best bet is to talk to a professional land surveyor in your area. They should ask questions about your property and your project before quoting you a price. Here are some resources that can help you:

What is a boundary survey and why do I need one?

A Boundary Survey is often needed in order to build an addition or develop a residential property. There are essentially two types of Boundary Surveys. The type you need for your project depends largely on the requirements set by the municipality in your area.

A Topographic and Record Boundary Survey is a survey showing the improvements on your property related to the record boundary. The record boundary is what is on record as described in the deed of your property. Essentially, a survey team goes out to your property and looks for sufficient survey monumentation that supports the record legal description in your deed. They also measure topographic features such as structures, utilities, curbs, sidewalks, driveways, adjacent streets, etc. A map is then compiled with this data and given to the homeowner (which is usually submitted with the house plans to the city by the architect). This generally satisfies the requirements of most, but not all municipalities to allow you to build or modify your home.

In some cases, the municipality requires a full Boundary Survey and Record of Survey Map to be filed and recorded with the county surveyor’s office. A Boundary Survey is a much more detailed, in depth survey. It requires surveying the whole block your lot is located in, finding any and all survey monuments in your block, locating & documenting occupation (ie fence lines, walls, improvements, etc.) and analyzing how it all fits together with the record information. A record of survey map is then prepared showing all the evidence found during the field boundary survey portion to justify the locations of your property lines. The County Surveyor’s office then reviews the map, comments on what they would like to see corrected and determines if any additional field work and analysis is necessary to complete the record of survey map for approval and recordation. The amount of field and office work required to produce the Record of Survey Map and the rigorous approval process make this type of survey more costly and usually takes several months to complete.

For more information about which type of survey is right for you, see How to get the right boundary survey to help you build the home of your dreams.