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When Should I Hire A Surveyor?


By Roger Joiner, from Sain Associates

You go to a doctor when you get sick or hurt, a lawyer when you’re in trouble, a dentist if you have a toothache. A surveyor is like any other professional. You hire one when you need one. Well, when will I need a surveyor? The most common reason you will need to hire a surveyor is when you are buying or selling real estate.

A survey is usually required by the lender as they want as much information on the property as they can get before loaning money against it. A survey will show the house, pool, deck, driveway, and fences that are located on the property. It will also show any encroachments onto your property, or from your property, onto the adjacent property. Some common encroachments are driveways, fences, and out buildings being over the property lines. Ok, I buy a new house, what then? Well, mixed in with all that paperwork you get at closing is a copy of the survey. I suggest you take the copy of the survey and walk around the perimeter of your new property. The survey will show the location of the property corners and give a description on the corners. The most common type of property corner is ½” or 5/8” rebar, but it can be any magnetite pipe or rod.  In Alabama and most other states the surveyor is required to put a plastic cap with his registration number and company name on any newly established property corners. The surveyor you just hired should have a piece of ribbon tied on the property corner and a stake beside it with the Lot number written on the side. If you can easily identify your corners it may avoid conflicts with your neighbor in the future. It’s important for you to maintain your property corners. Do not cover them up with leaves or hedge trimmings; do not pull them up, and always be able to walk up and put your toe on them.

Other professionals, such as Engineers, will hire a surveyor to survey property that is going to be developed. When property is being developed, the surveyor will provide the engineer with a boundary and topographic survey which has to be very detailed. The topographic survey will show the contour of the land along with drainage features, utility locations, sewer lines or anything that could affect the new development. This type of survey is used by engineers in designing residential subdivisions, apartments, shopping malls, office buildings, industrial plants, bridges, and roadway projects.

Attorneys who handle the sale of commercial properties often need an “ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey”. This survey will show all the improvements located on the property and any encroachments. These surveys can be very detailed with information such as the building heights and the number of parking spaces. Usually a title policy and a zoning report are provided to the surveyor to assist him in performing this type of survey. An ALTA/NSPS is often performed soon after construction of a project is completed.

Construction companies often hire a surveyor to perform the construction stakeout. On all construction sites no matter how big or how small stakeout is required. Regardless of what is being built they need to know where to build it, and this is when they call the surveyor. The surveyor is usually hired to stake things such as buildings, parking lots, storm and sanitary sewer and other utilities. This type of surveying is pretty demanding on large projects, and there is very little room for error. Roadway or pipeline projects can be several miles long, and the entire project has to be surveyed. Large industrial projects can cover several hundred acres and can require weeks or months of surveying. So, when my phone rings it means someone needs one of these types of surveys, or it may be my wife, surveyors are normal people too.

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