How Do I Choose a Land Surveyor?

surveyor2Only a Professional Land Surveyor licensed by the State Board of Registration is legally permitted to perform land surveys in the State of Wisconsin.

Choose a reputable Land Surveyor in whose skill and judgment you can put your trust. A Land Surveyor should not be selected by price alone. Competency and skill should be considered first for your own protection.  In the end, you will save money and legal fees by hiring someone that will do the job correctly the first time. Make sure that the professional you have chosen has all of the facts, and is completely aware of your requirements and/or the requirements of the governmental agency having jurisdiction over the property.

What is a Property Survey or Plat of Survey?

A property survey is defined as “…describing, monumenting, locating the boundary lines of, or mapping one or more parcels of land.”

A Plat of Survey is a map showing the boundary, monuments and other items as located by a Professional Land Surveyor.

You may have some idea of the boundary that exists between you and your neighbors. However, a Professional Land Surveyor has the expertise to determine that boundary precisely. This is very important when you need to comply with local ordinances such as building setbacks and easements.

What is an ALTA Land Title Survey?

An ALTA survey is a boundary survey prepared to a set of minimum national standards that have been prepared and adopted by the American Land Title Association and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. In addition to the minimum standards, a table of optional elements is included in the ALTA standards.

An ALTA Survey is generally requested by a title insurance company and requires a current title commitment.  It provides them with information required to insure title to the land and improvements to the high degree that a commercial development may require.

The additional effort and detail required for an ALTA survey increases the cost compared to other surveys.

An Attorney or Title Insurance Company representative will be able to tell you whether or not you require an ALTA Land Title Survey.

Why Do I Need a Survey?

There many different reasons to get a survey. How many times has someone said that they “Own from the power pole to the phone ped” or “From the pine tree to the shrub”? Most often this is not the case. The only real way to know is to have your property surveyed by a qualified professional.

For most, land will be the biggest investment you will make in your life. It only makes sense to make every effort to be informed of where the legal document’s lines are and their relationship to what is really there.  To protect your investment, we highly recommend that a survey be performed before you purchase property, or prior to construction of any improvements on the property in which you have an interest; particularly if there is any uncertainty at all about the property boundaries.

Another major reason to have a survey performed is when you wish to sell off a piece of land. There are a lot of considerations such as rules, ordinances, and laws that can effect not only what you can sell, but where. It is highly recommended that you consult with a land surveying professional as they have the background, and knowledge to meet the various requirements.

The services of a Land Surveyor today will cost less in time, worry, and money than the cost of moving improvements or defending a lawsuit later!

What Should I Expect When I Hire a Professional Land Surveyor?

Chapter A-E 7 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code requires Land Surveyors to conform to minimum standards when doing a Property Survey.  These include but are not limited to:

RESEARCH “…acquire data necessary to retrace record title boundaries such as deeds, maps, certificates of title…”  A-E 7.03

FIND/REPLACE CORNERS “The surveyor shall set monuments marking the corners…unless monuments already exist…” A-E 7.03

PLAT OF SURVEY “A map shall be drawn for every property survey…” A-E 7.05 

These are some of the minimum requirements.  Your survey may include other information required for a permit such as:

  • Buildings and building dimensions
  • Distances of the buildings to the property line
  • Elevations and topography (trees, light poles, etc.)
  • Zoning information
  • Floodplain information

According to Chapter A-E 7, you may agree to waive some of the minimum requirements. It is strongly recommended that you do not treat them as “a la carte” items to lower the price of your survey. Choosing to not have property corners set defeats the purpose of having a survey. Property corners set in the ground by a      Professional Land Surveyor are the best way for you to identify your property boundary.

You will be informed of the discovery of any property description, boundary location, trespass, encroachment or other related problems.

I Have A Handheld GPS Unit. Can I Use It To Locate My Property Corners?

Simply stated, no you cannot.

Handheld GPS units are navigational grade only and are only accurate to within 10 feet plus or minus under good conditions. 100 feet on a regular basis!!

Due to atmospheric disturbance they cannot be more accurate than that. You may get a false sense of the accuracy if you use it to find your deer stand, favorite fishing hole, or GeoCACHE. If the GPS unit brings you within 10 feet of an object and you see it, you believe it has led you to the EXACT spot, when in fact it has not.