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Visit your jurisdiction’s building inspector or the land records office. Many jurisdictions keep surveys on file at the city building inspector’s office. You can also get surveys connected with tax maps or half-section maps from the county’s land records office — usually the county assessor. Copies of property plats, or surveys that show when a large piece of land has been divided into smaller parcels, are often available from the county recorder for free or a small fee.

When There Is No Property Survey

When there is no property survey, a county recorder may have a plat map. A plat map shows a tract of land subdivided into plots. A developer usually creates a plat map before building a subdivision or a neighborhood. A plat map can be used to determine property lines.

Read More:How to Read Land Survey Plats

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How to Legally Determine Property Lines

Hire a Licensed Land Surveyor

To get an accurate determination of property lines that will stand up to legal scrutiny, you’ll need to hire a professional surveyor. (Note that most states require licensure of land surveyors; check your state’s requirements.)

While a professional survey may cost a a few to several hundred dollars—or more, depending on property location, size, shape, and terrain—it’s money well spent since property disputes cost a lot more in time, potential hefty legal fees, and neighborly goodwill.

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Contact your loan officer to find out if he has access the property’s survey. The mortgage lender might have a copy of the property survey, because it also holds the title.

How to Get a Property Survey

You may not need a new property survey if the property has been surveyed in the past. Laws vary from state to state, but typically a survey done within the past 10 years will still be valid. Check with your local tax assessor’s office or courthouse to see if any prior property surveys are on file. If you’re buying a new property, your lender or title company may be able to help you find previous surveys.

When you buy or sell a home, lenders or title companies sometimes arrange for a property survey to be conducted and include the fee in closing costs, so all you need to do is pay. Depending on state laws, the homebuyer or seller might be responsible for paying, or the fee may be negotiable.

To arrange a property survey on your own, you’ll want to start by researching land surveyors. Each state has a professional society for land surveyors, and you can visit the National Society of Professional Surveyors website to find your local society and find a surveyor that way. You can also ask local real estate agents, your title company or your lender for recommendations. No matter how you find a surveyor, make sure they’re licensed, insured and able to perform the job on your property.

When getting estimates from surveyors, provide as much information as possible about the property and specify the kind of survey you need. Once you’ve selected your surveyor and schedule the survey, it typically takes a few weeks to complete the job. If you need one completed for a home purchase, schedule your survey as soon as possible.

Why are property surveys important?

While property surveys aren’t required everywhere, they are in many jurisdictions across the country. That’s because they detail how your property is defined in an official capacity. Rather than guessing where your property lines are, you have a document that makes it clear.

Emory Wooll, general manager of Title Partners of South Florida, says property surveys are required for lender title insurance policies.

“In order (for a title insurance policy to be issued), we need to know if there are any encroachments on the property prior to closing,” Wooll says. “They’re usually done before a home purchase, or, say, someone is putting a pool in or a fence.”

Wooll says cities or contractors will require a survey before permits can be pulled. So if you’re hoping to build a pool in your backyard, you’ll need a recent survey completed. While there’s a chance you could use an old survey to pull permits, it’s not always guaranteed. In that case, you may want to get a new survey completed.

What Information Do I Need?

A party should have the property address or parcel ID, the name of the document for which he is searching, the document number, the document type and the assessor’s parcel number (APN). The APN may be the assessor’s block and lot number.

Are surveyors allowed on private property?

YES, according to FLORIDA STATUTE 472.029 which states "Surveyors and mappers or their subordinates may go on, over, and upon the lands of others when necessary to make surveys and maps or locate or set monuments, and, in so doing, may carry with them their agents and employees necessary for that purpose. Entry under the right granted by this subsection does not constitute trespass, and surveyors and mappers and their duly authorized agents or employees so entering are not liable to arrest or to a civil action by reason of such entry; however, this subsection does not give authority to registrants, subordinates, agents, or employees to destroy, injure, damage, or move any physical improvements on lands of another without the written permission of the landowner."

Property Survey FAQs

Still unsure how property surveys work or if you need one? We’ve answered a few frequently asked question.

Is a property survey necessary?

Property surveys may not be legally required and may not be a requirement for all mortgage lenders. You can order a survey at any time, but it can be especially important to order one when buying or constructing a new home.

Can I buy a house without a survey?

Purchasing a house without conducting a property survey can be risky. Not considering the boundary lines of the property could lead to unforeseen problems down the road. It’s also worth considering a property survey when buying a home.

Do I need a survey if I am a cash buyer?

Because you are purchasing the home using cash, there are no lender requirements to have a boundary survey completed. However, a survey may be required should you decide to purchase title insurance.

Bottom line

You might not need a property survey done before buying a home. In some cases, your lender or title company might require one, so make sure you’re prepared for the additional legwork and cost. Whether you’re closing on a home or planning a major addition, knowing your property’s precise boundary lines can help avoid costly headaches and disputes with neighbors later on.

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