- What Is Land Surveying?
- Table Of Contents
- Land Survey Cost
- Land Survey Cost Per Acre
- Land Surveying Prices Per Hour
- Property Survey Cost
- Boundary Survey Cost
- Topographic Survey Costs
- Mortgage Survey Cost for Buying a House
- Cost of Land Survey for Fence
- Staked Site
- Plat Survey or Plot Plan Estimate
- As-Built Survey Cost
- ALTA House Survey Cost
- Cost of New Construction Land Survey
- Hydrographic Survey
- Land Subdivision or Lot Survey
- Property Survey Cost Factors
- Type of Land Survey
- Land Size
- Research & Travel Time
- Property Dimensions And Shape
- Sectionalized Survey Work
- Fees by Terrain
- Preexisting Survey Markers
- Neighbors & Assistance
- Required Documentation
- How To Find Property Lines
- How To Read A Property Survey And Map
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How much does a property line survey cost?
- How much does it cost to survey 10 acres?
- How much does it cost to survey 20 acres?
- How much does it cost to survey 40 acres?
- How much does it cost to survey 80 acres?
- What are the reasons for a land survey?
- Does The Buyer or Seller Pay For a Property Line Survey?
- How Long Is a Land Survey Good For?
- How Can I Get a Free or Cheap Land Survey?
- What are Metes and Bounds?
- How To Survey Land
- 1. Research
- 2. Field Work
- 3. Reconciliation
- How To Survey Your Own Land
- Hiring a Land Surveyor
- Preparing for Licensed Surveyor
What Is Land Surveying?
A land survey is a written legal document and graphical representation of the descriptions of a piece of land that clearly defines the property boundaries and topography. It includes GPS coordinates for all the corners, the measurements for all points in between, and the cumulative total for each “side.” Other elements include the location of and the identification of any roads that touch the property line.
Table Of Contents
- Land Survey Cost
- Cost Per Acre
- Prices Per Hour
Property Survey Cost by Type
- Boundary Survey
- Topographic Survey
- Mortgage Survey
- Land Survey for Fence
- Plat Survey or Plot Plan
- As-Built Survey
- ALTA House Survey
- New Construction Survey
- Land Subdivision Survey
Property Survey Cost Factors How To Find Property Lines How To Read A Property Survey And Map Frequently Asked Questions How To Survey Land Hiring a Land Surveyor Land Surveyors Near Me
Land Survey Cost
Nationally, the average cost to purchase a land survey is between $380 and $540 with most homeowners spending about $422. Cost factors include any terrain complexities or issues locating official documents about the land can affect the final price. There are different types of land surveys available which cover a variety of details.
Average Cost Of Land Survey National Average Cost $422 Minimum Cost $250 Maximum Cost $700 Average Range $380 to $540
Land Survey Cost Per Acre
Hiring a land surveyor costs between $20 to $40 per acre on large plots up to $1,600 per acre on a small quarter-acre residential lot. Cost factors highly depend on how much acreage you have and how many corners need to be marked. The more acres you have, the cost per acre decreases accordingly. Below are some rough estimates of the cost you might pay. Each survey depends on too many variables to give you an accurate estimate:
Average Land Survey Cost Per Acre Acres Average Cost 1/5 (average lot size) $350 – $600 1/5 to 2 $500 – $1,000 2 to 10 $500 – $1,500 10 to 20 $1,000 – $2,000 20 to 60 $2,000 – $5,000 60 to 100 $2,000 – $6,000 100 to 200 $3,000 – $8,000 200 to 400 $5,000 – $12,000
It’s unlikely a small residential survey will go higher than $600, unless you are looking for the best-known surveyors in a really hot market, and you need the survey really fast to satisfy obligations once the land is under contract. In addition, some land surveyors are known to charge by the square foot in the range of 50 cents to $1.
Land Surveying Prices Per Hour
The surveyor may also set an hourly rate of $30-$100/hour if:
- the land is being surveyed for the first time in 80 or more years
- the original documents are either in less than perfect condition or are not very accurate
- the surveyor knows the area and has some knowledge of the typical degree of difficulty obtaining materials to make his/her work easy
- conditions on the property present physical challenges to navigating the land and securing lot identifiers in the ground
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Property Survey Cost
The typical cost for a property survey ranges from $300 to $800 with most homeowners spending about $500. Many cost factors go into pricing such as the type of survey needed and the size of the plot.
Boundary Survey Cost
The average cost of a boundary survey is $200 to $710 for a platted lot less than 10,000 sq. ft with four sides, 1 house, garden, and a wood fence. A boundary survey plots the exact boundary lines of a property. If two landowners are arguing about land encroachment by a neighbor’s fence or some other structure, a boundary survey is the only independent method from a third party to present a clearly defined document to resolve the issue.
In addition to the construction of a fence, other exterior structures like a new deck or patio could also result in a dispute because of perceived setback violations, and so force the need for a survey to bring resolution. A boundary survey can also show any public right of way or permission to set foot on the property by a neighbor.
Topographic Survey Costs
A topographic or tree survey costs $815 for a platted lot less than 10,000 sq. ft with four sides, 1 house, garden, and a wood fence. Purchased together you can expect to spend $920 for both a boundary and topographic survey.
This details the elevation and contours of the land, buildings, rivers, streets, fences, trees, utility poles, etc. Unless satisfactory surveys already exist for a piece of land, a new one will determine if the buyer will have any issues arising from the proximity of desired improvements to any current setbacks on the land.
As the owner, if you want to add a driveway or bring new power lines onto the property, you need to check with your county office to see if the survey on record will show if your plans are likely to violate the setbacks. These setbacks which could be anywhere from 20 feet to 100 feet or more, depending on your county regulations and the total acreage of your land. These surveys are usually required by construction contractors, engineers, and architects before new development begins.
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Mortgage Survey Cost for Buying a House
A mortgage survey costs between $350 and $600 on average. This service establishes the property and land titles owners, property structures and their square footage, and verification that all zoning and building codes have been met for a real estate transaction.
- For Buyer – Having recent survey docs can speed up the process of the sale once it goes under contract, especially considering most surveyors are booked out for months.
- For Lender – Not only does the survey allow prospective buyers to have a full understanding of what they are buying, but the survey also informs the buyer’s lender what they are lending on—they can assess the property and make sure there aren’t any additional liens on it thanks to the survey’s detailed information.
Cost of Land Survey for Fence
A property survey to build a fence costs around $350 with most homeowners spending between $250 and $800 depending on the lot size. Even if there’s already a fence in place, a land study is critical to guarantee that you’re building on the correct property line. If you overstep your boundary line, you may have to remove the fence.
Surveyors will normally charge around $50 per stake, and they will use a thick marker to write the relevant lot numbers on the different sides of the stakes. A property boundary survey and “stake survey” are one and the same. The term “boundary” is the legal term to identify that the boundaries of a property will be marked by locating the property corners. The term “stake” is the layman’s term.
Typically, there are “stakes” put at the property corners, but they are the exact same thing as locators—iron pins are driven into the ground that has pink ribbon attached to identify the markers clearly. In the case of a large parcel of land being subdivided into smaller lots of raw land, for the purposes of aiding the realtor selling the lots, it is common to drive a 3’ wooden stake into the ground and tie the same pink surveyor’s ribbon at the top to mark out each lot.
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Plat Survey or Plot Plan Estimate
The average plat survey or plot plan estimate costs around $500 per lot. The two main types of plat are a subdivision plat and a consolidation plat.
- A subdivision plat is a scale map of a piece of land which includes the parcel boundaries and the layout and measurements for each lot resulting from the subdivision of the land.
- A consolidation plat is created when a landowner buys or takes over adjacent parcels of land to create one legal parcel with a single tax ID, and this first requires a separate survey to be completed on each parcel being consolidated. Sometimes the plat will also include tree locations along with topographical information and any creeks, rivers, ponds, etc.
The price for a plat survey will vary greatly, depending on a range of factors, but if your surveyor normally charges $500 for one survey, you might get a break on the per lot price for more than 10 lots of 5 acres or above when the land is going to be sold as flagged lots of raw land with shared access easement.
However, if the plat is for a more typical high-density subdivision with one-quarter-acre lots, the plat needs to include details like roads, utilities, and sewer lines, etc., so the costs will rise dramatically—in the region of between $10,000 to $40,000 or more, depending on the total size of the project.
Three other types of plat are:
- Short plat – This is for the division of land into no more than 4 lots or 9 within an ETJ.
- Correction plat/amending plat – Created for the correction of minor surveyor mistakes, or the inclusion of minor amendments to the approved plat.
- Vacating plat – This is created when platted lots remain unsold; the land has had neither construction nor any improvements; and the previous plat, or a portion of the previous plat, needs to be made legally void.
As-Built Survey Cost
The average cost of an as-built survey is $700 to $1,300 depending on the square footage of the home. A three-dimensional rendering will be created by a professional surveyor by using lasers to generate a map of your home automatically. This method creates interior and exterior 3D blueprints which are highly accurate.
ALTA House Survey Cost
An ALTA or ACSM survey typically costs $1,030 to $2,000 for a platted lot less than 10,000 sq. ft with four sides, 1 house, garden, and a wood fence.
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Cost of New Construction Land Survey
A new construction survey costs around $1,000 to $1,500 depending on where you are located and which homebuilder you used. To accurately survey new construction you will need a boundary, property lines, topography, staking, and location services at minimum.
Hydrographic surveying or bathymetric surveying maps and measures all bodies of water on a property to include the waterbed, water depth, physical features present underwater, and surrounding landmarks. Unless you have a gigantic lake on your acreage or farmland, it is unlikely you will need this type of service.
Land Subdivision or Lot Survey
If a landowner is subdividing land from something like 300 acres down to ¼ acre lots for real estate, or even to a range of different sizes, then surveys will need to be done to establish the legal boundaries of each new lot. Even in the case of splitting a large parcel of land between two family members, getting a survey done when the land is being divided is the prudent path to best protect both parties in the case of a future sale of the land.
When subdividing to lots below 5 acres, check with your local city to see if the land is within the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) to see if you need a subdivision plat created. If you need to have 300 acres surveyed as one single parcel of land, or if you need it cut up into individual lots as part of the subdivision of the land, it is a lot cheaper per acre to have that work done at one time than it is to have it done over time as each lot sells.
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Property Survey Cost Factors
Elements that influence your actual cost include standard rates for your area, the size of the land that needs to be surveyed, the shape of the property, the terrain on the property, and the quality of and demand for your surveyor. The surveyor you go with will either offer a set price—which would be for a traditional size and shape suburban lot—or a per-hour cost or per-acre cost—for more extensive and more irregular shaped parcels.
Type of Land Survey
Depending on the purpose for the survey, the time required to give each particular level of detail will dictate the resulting costs. The most popular types of land surveys are a boundary survey, a mortgage survey, and a topographic survey. Additional survey services you may encounter are an as-built survey, a structural survey, and ATLA survey, a lot survey or lot lines, and an engineering or structural survey. 
Research & Travel Time
Depending on the length of time a piece of land has been with one family, and whether or not it has been subdivided before, affects the ease with which your surveyor can find the required documents like deeds, maps, previous surveys, etc., to complete the survey. The longer the time since the previous set of documents was created, or transfer of ownership was established between the previous seller and buyer, will typically increase the degree to which the documents are either hard to locate or less accurate, thereby adding additional time and effort to complete. Also, the distance from the survey office to the piece of land will affect the price.
Property Dimensions And Shape
Each additional side to the property, above four sides, will cost about $50 more. A traditional one-quarter- or one-third-acre residential lot on flat ground is generally pretty straightforward in terms of complexity, and the required paperwork will likely be on the record. Outside of a simple shape like a square or a rectangle, each level of complexity will add to the cost because of the additional survey markers or monuments that need to be placed in the ground. Two properties might have the same square footage but twice the perimeter because one goes back five acres while the other only goes back three.
Land Survey Example
Sectionalized Survey Work
In some locations like rural parts of West Texas, sectional survey work is required. For this, instead of just the parcel of land of interest, an entire section of 640 acres (one square mile) needs to be surveyed. In some cases, an additional section may need to be surveyed because of the land parcel’s location in relation to the sections shown on government plat documents.
Fees by Terrain
Flat versus uneven: In the same way that a rectangular or square lot is quicker and easier to survey, land that is flat is easier and, as a result, cheaper to survey than more rugged and mountainous terrain. Add an extra $100 for each 10,000 sq. ft. of sloped or hilly terrain.
If a surveyor can’t see from one corner or monument to another with vegetation in the way, it may be necessary to either remove brush, cut branches or cut down trees. In some cases, it might also be necessary to grind the stump of a tree for monument placement. Add $80 for each 10,000 sq. ft. or $160 if wooded.
At different times of the year there will either be sparse or abundant vegetation, and when surveys are done during summer months the increased ground cover could make the location of existing markers more challenging and time-consuming.
Preexisting Survey Markers
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If the land has been surveyed previously, there should be either survey markers, fence lines, stone monuments, tree lines, or some identifiers to indicate the perimeter of the property’s boundary lines; however, if they were never clearly marked or have been moved, it may take some time to reestablish the original survey.
Neighbors & Assistance
If the surveyor is not familiar with the land to be surveyed and it is older land that has not been surveyed in 40 years or more, having a family member of the selling party, or (with permission) neighbors who can guide the surveyor toward old markers, will speed up the process. In the case of land or other disputes with neighbors, it may be necessary to use a boundary line agreement to establish the location of the boundary line.
In the case of a sale, depending on the title company being used, there is a possibility the surveyor could be asked for more documentation than usual, which could take the surveyor longer than expected to source.
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How To Find Property Lines
If you want to find your property lines, the closest you can get is by finding the markers that were placed on your property from the last surveyor. These will come in the form of really old stone markers (either one rock or a pile of rocks, if your land was surveyed a really long time ago). If it was surveyed more recently, the surveyor would have driven iron rods into the ground and attached pink surveyors’ ribbon.
Another possibility is that wooden stakes were driven into the ground on all corners of the property along with the same ribbon. Using the map from your survey, navigate to what looks like the easiest corner and look for either the stone or iron or wood stakes. If the corner markers are iron, they will be somewhat difficult to find, since they were driven into the ground, and there has quite possibly been significant growth in the vegetation.
You could use a metal detector to find them if you have a pretty good idea where the corners are. Normally the boundary lines will have been established with a fence line, which should make it easier for you to find your boundary corner markers.
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How To Read A Property Survey And Map
Reading the written portion of your survey may prove to be more frustrating than it is educational, and most people will likely glean more from the visual portion, which is the map; although, if you find any real stumbling blocks on your survey, you can call the surveyor who created it. Every survey map will detail some common features like
- The address of the land surveyed
- The legal description of the land. This provides any surveyor enough information to locate the property, and cannot simply be the address.
- The total acreage surveyed
- Surveyor’s name, business name, and contact information
- Initialed Surveyors registered professional stamp known as the surveyor’s seal
- A mention of the recorded file name from the previous survey, possibly including details of when the land was part of a larger parcel.
- Visual indicator to show the scale of the map
- A GF number*
- Map legend to explain details
- Numbered lines between corner markers
- Itemized table of numbered lines, their bearings, and their distance
- Location of buildings, including residences and sheds
- Names on the title for neighboring properties and their total acreage
- Location of any water supply pipelines that touch or feed the property
- Location of water meters on the property
- Location of electric poles at the road that the property fronts, and any on the property
- Location of any electric meters on the property
- Name of the municipality owning noted water lines
- Utility easements
- Fence types and locations
- Roads or driveways
- Any right of way on the property
- Any shared access easement
- Field notes
*The GF number is the guaranty file number generated by the title company, which is used to communicate with the closer. The opening title is the most common name for the process to create a working file for the sale to go through, and it is unlikely that the survey will be distributed without the GF#.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a property line survey cost?
The average price for a residential property line survey of a quarter-acre lot is $500 with most homeowners spending between $380 and $540. Cost factors include any terrain complexities or issues locating official documents about the land can affect the final price.
How much does it cost to survey 10 acres?
The average cost to survey 10 acres of land is $1,000 with most homeowners spending between $500 and $1,500.
How much does it cost to survey 20 acres?
To survey 20 acres of land, expect to pay between $1,000 to $2,000 with the average cost being around $1,500.
How much does it cost to survey 40 acres?
On average, the cost to survey a 40-acre plot of land is $3,500 with many homeowners reporting prices between $2,500 and $5,000.
How much does it cost to survey 80 acres?
The average cost of a land survey for 80 acres is $4,000 with most homeowners spending about $3,000 and $6,000.
What are the reasons for a land survey?
A survey will be ordered for one or more of the following reasons:
- Land boundary dispute
- Intended or pending purchase or sale
- Development of land
- The addition of building structures
- Land subdivision
Does The Buyer or Seller Pay For a Property Line Survey?
While in most situations it is common practice for the seller to order and pay for the survey, that is not typically legally mandated. It can become something of a small bargaining chip when there are multiple parties interested in the property—the buyers can include covering the expense in their offer in an attempt to seal the deal quickly and get the property under contract.
How Long Is a Land Survey Good For?
Loosely speaking, a survey is technically a “valid” definition of the boundary lines of your property for the owner from the time the survey is created until such time as it needs to be surveyed again. Regarding the professional liability of the surveyor for the validity of the information presented in a land survey, the laws are not the same in every state, but around 10 years is a typical upper limit. Some states may allow for the use of an existing survey as long as the county commissioner accepts it and the title company is okay with it, and they get an affidavit from the county commissioner verifying the existing survey.
How Can I Get a Free or Cheap Land Survey?
The worst option a landowner could consider is to go with the lowest price bid for a surveyor unless he/she has many stellar online reviews. On top of any issues from getting the survey wrong from inaccurate research, fieldwork, or reconciliation, an inexperienced or inefficient surveyor could cost you a lot of money due to an inaccurate report.
What are Metes and Bounds?
This older system of describing a piece of land is still used in Texas. The Metes and Bounds description includes its boundaries and physical features. It includes a starting point—which is usually some marker or monument—and a direction, with a distance to a corner or change in direction. The new direction and the distance marks the next change until you arrive back at the start. Landmarks, which often make up the description for a lot, include iron stakes, roads, rivers, or other permanent natural or manmade elements.
An example of metes and bounds is ‘COM AT E 1/4 POST OF SEC, TH S 1 DEG 05′ E 112.42 FT IN E LINE OF SEC, TH S 66 DEG 08′ W 702.70 FT IN CENT OF HWY FOR PL OF BEG…’. 4 More modern systems used in the rest of the country are known as Rectangular (government survey) or Lot and Block (recorded plat) and Torrens.
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How To Survey Land
There are three phases of the work that a surveyor will perform in order to be able to deliver a survey for a piece of land. These phases include the following:
The surveyor will research all the prior documents that are on record for this piece of land before visiting it. The documents will be found in the records office at a city or county, and the list includes any previous surveys, maps, wills, and deeds. In the case of subdividing a larger piece of land that has been in a family for generations, the potential for somewhat inaccurate or incomplete records could prove challenging, since the surveyor may need to create the first official documented boundary.
2. Field Work
Includes all travel time to and from the location, the time it takes to conduct the survey and lay out whatever lot identifiers are needed (to clearly indicate whatever is needed for the perimeter boundary, as well as any interior lots if the land is being subdivided, including any driveways on flag lots at the rear of the property).
This covers the conversion of whatever data was collected in the field and the creation of whatever documents are needed by the client. This could include
- a boundary survey for the entire piece of property,
- a copy that marks out any subdivided lots, and
- if it’s being subdivided, an individual survey of each lot for future buyers.
This could be delivered as an Adobe PDF file with individual layers, allowing the new owner of the entire parcel to create individual lot surveys as each lot sells. The survey could also detail land features such as ponds, retaining tanks, creeks, rivers, power lines, sewer lines, fences, easements, underground water lines, water meters, water valves, light poles, fire hydrants, manholes, true north. It can also detail trees by type, number of, and heights documented.
Other elements are included like the location of and the identification of any roads that touch the property line, topographical information detailing elevation, flood zones, and distances to buildings on neighboring land. Once the surveyor has completed the survey, it will have to be recorded at the County Recorder’s office, so the record exists in a central location in the case of future sales or land disputes.
How To Survey Your Own Land
You cannot create a legally binding survey yourself. Because of the critical nature of a survey and all the negative ramifications from getting it wrong, surveyors are typically holders of some related degree as well as licensed by the state.
Only conduct your own land survey if you want a rough estimate of your land size or want to determine your land price per square foot. Here are the tools you need to start:
- Stakes and ribbons
- Measuring tape
- Plumb bob
A good first step is to check your property sale documents to find one boundary of your property. You may need to check with your local County Assessors Office.
- Start from a known point and measure the distance along the lines.
- Depending on your property size, it helps to drive stakes and mark off with ribbon using your plumb bob every 30 feet or so to keep track.
- Measure to the corner of your property matched up with your deed, stake it and turn.
- Keep going until you complete your entire property line and don’t forget to measure hills as well.
- Now, you can calculate the square footage of your plat of land.
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Hiring a Land Surveyor
Because there could be severe legal ramifications from an incorrect survey, not to mention creating a feud with one or more neighbors, hire a highly rated surveyor—preferably one with knowledge of the area to make the process a lot smoother and quicker.
Make sure the surveyor you hire is licensed. All US states require land surveyors to be licensed according to their state’s requirements before they can practice or solicit business.
Preparing for Licensed Surveyor
Anything that can be done to clear land of trees or shrubs, or even mowing grass in a location where you think there might be corner markers, as well as clearing any obstructions that might be blocking the line of sight between two markers, will go a long way toward saving unnecessary expense and time for the surveyors.
Additionally, whatever you can do to gather documents related to the property should help save time in the research phase of the survey. You can ask surveyors if they would prefer you to meet them at the property.
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