I was reading an article about surveying written by a surveyor. The article was informative but I feel like it missed a lot of information that a client or landowner needs to know. I am not a surveyor, but have spent 30 years dealing with land and at one time, I had a survey crew that reported directly to me.

What is a survey? It is simply a map or drawing describing a parcel or tract of land. The lines are the property or boundary lines and there is other information related to the bearing and distance from one corner to another. The survey plat will contain the number of acres, information related to Section, Township and Range or Land Lot and Land District depending on which State you are in. The plat will contain the surveyors name, License Number and of course other pertinent information.

Why should you get a survey? There are many reasons but I will mention the most important:

  1. Physically locate and identify property corners
  2. Determine if there are boundary disputes or encroachments on your property i.e. is there a fence, garden, shed or any other improvements encroaching on the property.
  3. Determine the exact number of acres in a parcel or tract. Here is a real life story. I was selling a tract of land, the seller had no survey plat and was paying taxes on 60 acres. The buyer requested a survey and the tract of land turned out to be 72 acres, fortunate for the seller, the contract was based on a price per acre.


How are surveys made? With great leaps in technology and the large number of satellites in use for Global Positioning Systems, surveying techniques have changed as well and in my opinion not all for the best. A decade or so ago, surveyors used transits and other tools to measure angles and distances. This required having light of sight requiring the property line being cleared of brush and limbs. This resulted in easy identification of the property lines after the survey was completed.

Surveying today uses differential GPS requiring 2 receivers. One receiver at a know position provides positional error correction to the roving or working receiver. The corrections are transmitted in real-time by radio link or preformed by post survey processing. Of course this provides very accurate measurements but no line-of-sight. A survey can be completed now without the property lines being marked or flagged on the ground. The use of GPS technology allows the surveyor to move from corner to corner and usually it is by the easiest and most convenient method. Survey accuracy is measured by ‘survey closure’. This is the ratio by which the survey fails to close.

How much does a survey cost? This is a very difficult question to answer and may change depending where you are located and the amount of surveyors in your area.  If the surveyor has done work in the past and has some established control points in the area, it might save you a little money. When I was managing land for a timber company, I use to budget around $.50 per linear foot.

Here is the take away….If you want the property lines marked and flagged, ASK FOR IT BUT THERE WILL BE AN ADDITIONAL COST!!


Written By:

G. Kent Morris, RF, ALC

Registered Forester

Accredited Land Consultant

Associate Broker, Bickerstaff Parham Land LLC