A person generally has occasion to employ a land surveyor only once or twice in a lifetime. Since such employment is so infrequent, the average person is not aware of the logical steps to be followed in selecting a land surveyor. To help in making such a selection, the answers to a few common questions are noted herein.

A survey should be made before subdividing any parcel of land for sale and prior to the construction of any structures on property in which you have an interest. A survey is often desirable before purchasing real estate and frequently is recommended by legal counsel or by mortgage loan companies. Remember, the services of a land surveyor now will cost less in time, worry, and money than the cost of moving a building or defending a lawsuit later.

Land surveying is a learned profession. It requires precision, facility with applied mathematics, technical knowledge, ability for discriminating investigation, logical thinking, and judicious judgment. A land surveyor in the execution of his projects will work with lawyers, architects, engineers, urban planners, local government officials, and the public in general. He will be involved in both field and office work. In the design of urban subdivision, the land surveyor utilizes extensive surveying principals, applied mathematics, including computer techniques, basic civil engineering principles, photogrammetry, and electronic distance measuring equipment. He is involved in planning, office design and field layout of streets, storm and sanitary sewer extension, and property boundaries. The land surveyor works with the lawyer in writing land descriptions or in locating existing descriptions on the ground. He also makes maps for architects, landscape experts, and urban planners to utilize for the design of houses, shopping centers, or housing developments. He does layout work for engineering projects. Hence land surveying requires knowledge in applied science and mathematics and basic planning, surveying, engineering, and legal principles.

All 50 states have laws requiring practicing land surveyors to be registered. The state of Indiana requires the equivalent of a four-year university degree in land surveying and four years experience under the supervision of a registered land surveyor, plus the passing of a 16-hour written examination, to become registered as a land surveyor.

See Expanded FAQ's Version (printable)

What Can a Surveyor Do for Me?

No, but he will give you his professional opinion of what the records and facts indicate your ownership to be. This opinion is satisfactory in over 99% of the surveys. Only a court of law can determine ownership. Only a Licensed Land Surveyor can take the described lines and lay them on the ground.

A surveyor is the only one qualified under law to prepare a description for a newly created parcel of land. He may prepare an individual description or, if several lots are being created simultaneously, he may prepare a legal plat with lot or parcel numbers for recording. Platting rules differ with each county or local planning area. A qualified surveyor would be familiar with local rules and procedures.

A surveyor can design streets, sanitary sewers and storm sewers within a subdivision. He will recommend an engineer to design the water supply system and to perform other engineering services that might be required. A professional surveyor will not attempt any aspects of engineering design with which he is not familiar and qualified to perform.

Most engineering surveys are conducted by land surveyors. They are knowledgeable and equipped to prepare topographic surveys, to supply control for aerial photography, to layout construction projects, to survey right-of-way for power lines and roadways, and so forth.

How Do I Choose a Land Surveyor?

In the state of Indiana, only a Registered Land Surveyor can legally assume the responsibility for a land survey. The Registered Land Surveyor is a highly specialized individual whose education, experience, and competence have been rigorously examined; and who has then been licensed by the State of Indiana to practice land surveying. As a professional, his conduct and the quality of his work are subject to a stringent code of ethics.

Most survey work is acquired through the personal recommendation of satisfied clients or through attorneys who frequently handle real estate transactions. If it is difficult to obtain a recommendation, probably the most direct way would be to check the listings under "Surveyors-Land" in the classified section of the telephone directory. According to Indiana law, only licensed practitioners can advertise themselves as Land Surveyors. A third method would be to contact the Indiana Society of Professional Land Surveyors for a listing of its members practicing in your locality.

An engineer cannot perform boundary survey work unless he/she is also licensed as a land surveyor also.

A contractor cannot perform land survey work unless he is registered as a land surveyor. Also, beware of survey technicians who may be skilled in only some aspects of surveying – they are not licensed land surveyors.

If he has obtained his Indiana license, he may practice in Indiana. Each state has its own licensing authority and the surveyor must pass each state's individual requirement before practicing in that state.

How Much Will A Survey Cost?

Not usually. Final cost is dependent upon the kind of survey required and the difficulty encountered, which normally cannot be anticipated in advance. The cost is based on the time required to obtain the necessary information of record, to make the field survey of facts as they exist on the ground, to perform the required office computations leading to a plat or map of the findings, and to monument your lines on the ground.

Generally, it is an hourly rate times the number of hours the surveyor and his personnel have involved. Expect to pay more per hour for computer operators or electronic measuring technicians than you do for drafting and typing personnel's time. The registered surveyor's fees are on a level with other professions in your community.

No. Competency and responsibility are of first importance. Since low cost and high quality are frequently inconsistent, and because of the uncertainties involved in judging the amount of work necessary to produce a quality survey, it is unreasonable and against your interest to expect him to "bid" on a project. Surveyors are bound by a code of ethics.

Traditionally, contracts for surveys have been by oral agreement. Many surveys have been requested over the phone. However, in recent years it is becoming more common for the client to visit the surveyor's office, discuss requirements of the survey and enter into a written contract, which tends to assure a better understanding between the client and the surveyor.

Furnish the surveyor with an explanation of why the survey is desired. He will maintain confidence if requested by his client. With this purpose in mind a professional land surveyor can work most efficiently and reduce the client's cost. If you have a deed or mortgage description, aerial photographs of the land, or an abstract, relay them to the surveyor. If you have knowledge of a stone, iron pipe, fence line, etc. that was reported to you as a property corner, pass the information along to the surveyor. He will make the professional judgment as to what evidence should be used.

The surveyor's final product will vary with each survey, depending upon the reason for the survey, but generally you will be furnished with a certified plat or map showing what the surveyor has done, and the corners of your tract will be monumented or otherwise identified. For a Boundary Survey a legal description of the tract is prepared and shown on the plat. Current law In Indiana requires that a "surveyor's report", briefly outlining the procedures and finding of the survey, be included on a Plat of Survey.

The land surveyor renders a highly technical and complex service. He is a member of a professional team – land surveyor, title attorney, architect, and engineer. He prepares the foundation upon which your project is built or your problem is solved. In case of litigation he will appear in court as your expert witness. His testimony is accepted by the court as evidence to which the greatest weight can be attached. No one other than he can assume responsibility for the correctness and accuracy of his work. Members of the Indiana Society of Professional Land Surveyors, Inc. have subscribed to a CODE OF ETHICS, which helps to insure a high standard of work.

Copyright 2010 Plumb Tuckett & Associates. All Rights Reserved.