How much does a boundary survey cost?

A Survey Costs How Much?

A boundary survey costs how much? I thought it would be $500?! Why is a land survey so expensive?

We get it. We’ve all been there. When building on to your home or even starting a new project from scratch there is a seemingly endless parade of architects, contractors, sub-contractors, engineers, inspectors, etc. all eating away at your budget. It’s easy to be tempted to just go with the lowest bid. But stop a moment and think about it. You know the old adage, “you get what you pay for.” That’s true in surveying as well. Some people put more consideration into the selection of the person laying the marble tile than the person responsible for outlining their property and making sure whatever they are building is put in the right place! That’s understandable. You can see and touch the tile and you know whether or not the job was done right by looking at it. A boundary survey, on the other hand, is intangible and hard to visualize, so it’s easy not to give it the consideration it deserves. In both cases, you want to make sure the person you hire is competent, licensed, professional and will stand by the quality of their work. In the case of a land surveyor, that could include being able to back up their work in court. The lowest bid might “get the job done,” but always be sure to ask the right questions to make sure you get the survey you need. (See 5 questions to ask a land surveyor before hiring them to survey your property.)

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.

Professional Land Surveyors have the education, experience and expertise to get the job done right and to be compliant with the law.

Land Surveying is a professional service much like engineering and architecture. In fact, many Professional Land Surveyors have undergraduate degrees in Civil Engineering or similar field. Surveyors doing boundary work should be licensed by the state in which they perform the work. All 50 states license land surveyors for the protection of the public. While requirements vary by state, six to eight years of experience in the profession is required to qualify for the 12-hour licensing exam. Many states also require an undergraduate degree in surveying (or engineering) to qualify. Professional Land Surveyors are experts in measurement and the legal aspects of boundary law. This is necessary to enable the surveyor to provide their professional opinion about your property boundary, record that opinion in a legal document and support that opinion in court.

A lot of work and expertise goes into determining your boundary.

Surveyors also sometimes suffer from mistaken identity. Because people see us out in the middle of the street in our orange vests they assume we are road workers or landscapers or are just out taking pictures. In truth, a survey crew is made up of professionals who are educated in measurement and advanced math and who need to make complex calculations using sophisticated equipment. And that’s just the field work. Before the crew steps foot on your property, someone has conducted extensive research to find existing legal documents affecting the title of your property, the recorded maps and documents that created your property, and survey markers in the vicinity of your property. Once the survey is complete, a complex analysis of the field work is performed to ensure the quality of the data. A licensed land surveyor needs to check (and double check) every point before the map can be stamped and submitted to be recorded as a legal document. The stamp of a licensed land surveyor imparts their professional opinion about the location of your property boundary lines. This deliverable is likely one of the most important documents you should own.

You want a survey that will help protect the value of your home.

At the end of the day, it’s all about quality, service and value. To put it another way, let’s say your property is valued at $700,000. A professional boundary survey that will result in a legal document describing (and protecting) the boundary of your property will generally cost less than 1% of the value of your asset. Your property, and peace of mind, is worth it.

Specializing in Orange County and Coastal Surveys

Borchard Surveying and Mapping is a professional land surveying and mapping company that provides high quality, professional services to Architects, Individual Land Owners, Title Companies, Builders, Civil Engineering Firms, Water Districts and Cellular Phone Companies in Orange County and surrounding areas. Our unique business structure allows us to employ inventive techniques using state of the art instrumentation to provide our customers with the highest quality product. Borchard Surveying and Mapping is located in San Clemente, California and serves Orange County and its surrounding areas. Services include:

  • Final Mapping services
  • Boundary Surveying & Analysis
  • Topographic Surveys
  • Legal Descriptions
  • ALTA/ACSM Surveys
  • Plan Certifications
  • Floodplain Certifications
  • Construction Survey Staking
  • Cell Site Surveys
  • GPS Horizontal Control Surveys
  • Vertical Control Surveys
  • Photogrametric Control Surveys
  • Condominium Plans
  • Expert Witness Testimony

How to get the right boundary survey to help you build the home of your dreams.

People often call me because they are building or remodeling their home and they have been told they need a Topographic or Boundary Survey. Depending upon the municipality, some cities require a full Boundary Survey to be completed in order for any permitted work to be done on a property. Other cities only require what’s called a Topographic and Record Boundary Survey. These two surveys are very different but homeowners are often confused between the two. Both surveys require the services of a Professional Land Surveyor (like me). Both require a team of trained professionals to go to the property and measure around the boundary using specialized equipment. Both require research of recorded documents and office time to process and analyze the data collected from the survey. And both require the stamp and signature of a licensed Professional Land Surveyor. This, by the way, is not something you can do with a tape measure or by hiring a few people off the corner. In the same way you would hire a lawyer if you need legal services, you will want to hire a Professional Land Surveyor if you need surveying services. Just like lawyers, Land Surveyors complete years of schooling (many have degrees in Civil Engineering), focusing on mathematics (geometry and trigonometry), physics, engineering and law, and have to pass rigorous exams to become licensed to practice in any given state. The deliverables from these surveys are important legal documents that reflect the boundaries of your property.  You will want to make sure they are created by someone who knows what they are doing.

So what’s the difference between a Topographic and Record Boundary Survey and a Boundary Survey and Record of Survey Map?

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.

The benefit of having a full Boundary Survey and Record of Survey Map recorded with the county is that this document provides a high level of certainty of your property boundary line location and is often used as evidence in boundary disputes. One way to look at it is to consider what your house is worth. The cost of a full Boundary Survey and Record of Survey Map is generally less than 1% of your home value.

Why else might I need a Boundary Survey and Record of Survey Map?

As I already mentioned, the Record of Survey Map is often required to prove property lines in the event of a boundary dispute with a neighbor. If the findings of a Record Boundary Survey show a “material discrepancy” between what the record shows and what was found during the course of the field survey, a full Boundary Survey should be completed and a Record of Survey Map should be recorded with the county surveyor’s office. If your property was created from a deed description but is not shown on any record map, then pursuant to California State Business and Professions Code the surveyor is obligated to file a Record of Survey with the county.

Building or adding on to your home requires a number of specialized services. It is easy to get overwhelmed by all of the contractors and professionals required to build your project. Generally speaking, it’s up to your local municipality to determine the extent of what is required from each professional segment. Taking the time to find the right professional  in each area–one who knows the industry and the law and will help guide you through the maze–will ensure your project is a success.