A boundary survey determines the property lines of a parcel of land described in a deed. It will also indicate the extent of any easements or encroachments and may show the limitations imposed on the property by state or local regulations.
A boundary survey is strongly recommended before buying, subdividing, improving or building on land. Surveying the parcel before these activities ensures that the expense and frustration of defending a lawsuit, moving a building, or resolving a boundary dispute can be avoided.
The surveyor thoroughly examines the historical records relating to the land in question and often all lands surrounding it. In addition to the Registry of Deeds this research may include: the Registry of Probate, county commissioners’ offices, town offices, historical associations and the Department of Transportation. The surveyor may also talk with prior owners and ad joiners.
The field work begins after the research and involves establishing a control network of known points called a traverse. The points are used to search for and locate existing monuments and other evidence of the boundaries. Although the field portion of a survey is the most visible phase of surveying, it usually represents only a third of the entire project.
The results of the field work are compared with the research and the surveyor then reconciles all the information to arrive at a final conclusion about the boundaries. A second field trip is then needed to set the new monuments. Finally, the surveyor will draft a plan, prepare a legal description and write a report.
The cost of a boundary survey depends on many variables, some of which can not be known until after the work has started. The size, terrain, vegetation, location and season affect the charges and can usually be estimated fairly accurately. However, the surveyor will not know if deeded monuments are missing or if they conflict with the description until well into the survey.
The complexity of the research is also usually not known until the surveyor begins the actual work. Some parcels have passed through many owners over the years. Some may have added adjacent parcels or sold off portions of the orginal lot. The more outparcels and consolidations there have been, the more complex and costly the research becomes. Many deeds are “abutter deeds” which use the neighbors’ names to define boundaries. In some cases it may be necessary to research parcels far removed from the land being surveyed to assemble the jigsaw puzzle of old deeds and it is not unusual for the research to account for 50% or more of the total survey cost.
Depending on the services agreed on, a boundary survey may produce:
- Monuments at all property corners
- A written description of the property
- A plan of the property
- A report explaining the basis of decisions and judgements made to determine the boundaries.
This also depends on what the client and the surveyor have agreed to. Monuments may include wooden posts, iron pins or pipes, marked trees or concrete monuments. Maine survey standards require that each monument set by a surveyor must clearly show his or her license number. Additionally, you may want to have the surveyor blaze and/or paint trees along the boundary line.