Why you Absolutely Need a Land Surveyor to Avoid Risk to your Development Project

One male and one female land surveyor stand in a barren field facing into the distance. A surveying tool stands between them.

What is a land surveyor and what do they do?

A professional land surveyor is an accredited professional who conducts land surveys to measure and define real property and its boundaries to facilitate construction, engineering, land evaluation, and the sale of real estate. Using a transit instrument to measure distances between points on the earth’s surface, land surveyors create and map boundary lines for land, air, and water spaces such as the length of roads, rivers, streams, and other features. If it exists on the face of the earth, land surveyors can measure and map it!

A single orange stake with a red streamer on it stands in the ground. To the left of the stake is a chain link fence that runs into the distance. A paved road runs into the distance to the right of the stake.
A survey stake laid by a land surveyor delineates the real property line.

How are surveyors licensed and why is licensure important?

Land surveyor certification requires passing a test administered by the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). In addition, candidates must complete at least 1,000 hours of training and pass a written exam before being allowed to practice. Candidates typically must accomplish the following five steps to become a professional surveyor:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in land surveying, Geomatics, or a closely related field. Standard courses include business, mathematics, humanities, geography, and science. Mathematics can go through calculus and beyond; sciences will consist of advanced physics and chemistry.
  2. Take and pass the Fundamentals of Surveying Exam, a computer-based 110-question exam administered by National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.
  3. Obtain hands-on experience working for a licensed surveyor for four years.
  4. Pass the Principles and Practice of Surveying exam, which consists of 100 questions.
  5. Take the state-specific exam in their state of residence. The length of this exam varies state by state and is mandatory to practice land surveying in that state.

Land surveyors are licensed in the state or jurisdiction in which they are performing the work and, as such, must adhere to the strict educational, technical, and minimum training requirements of that jurisdiction. Adherence to these requirements ensures that their work meets the minimum standards for surveying in that state to protect the “health, safety, and welfare of the public.”

Professional land surveyors also have a professional obligation to “do no harm.” For example, just because a client hires a surveyor to survey their property, that surveyor cannot alter boundary lines to fit the client’s needs. Surveyors have an obligation to the public to ensure that all property rights are protected regardless of who is paying for the survey.

Why do you need a professional land surveyor?

If you are buying or selling real estate or developing land, you need a professional land surveyor to ensure accurate property boundaries–don’t just take anyone’s word for it! Only a professional land surveyor is qualified to survey the land and make an official determination. The neighbor or previous landowner may be mistaken about where a property’s boundaries lie, and natural features of the land may not necessarily delineate the land’s actual borders. Building major infrastructure on another person’s property can result in lengthy and expensive legal battles. Properly determining the location of buildings and other property before any construction can also ensure you adhere to local codes and ordinances, as well as setback or height restrictions.

Landscaping is another costly aspect often not considered when you overlook boundary lines. Assuming the property runs along an existing fence, tree line, or other feature can be an expensive misstep. Including a neighbor’s fence, bushes, trees, or other landscaping within the bounds of your property can be just as serious as placing a structure on someone else’s land. Once the neighbor realizes that you are encroaching on their land, any landscaping or structures you’ve built on (or removed from) their land can be very costly to remedy.  

This worst-case scenario could have been avoided if the homeowners hired a professional surveyor.

Land surveying is not easy but is vital in any land acquisition or construction project. Dudek provides comprehensive aerial and land surveyor services, and our licensed land surveyors have experience across North America and Hawai’i. Our land surveying team specializes in ALTA/NSPS surveys, lidar topographic surveys, design-level mapping, and web-based mapping solutions. The team has provided mapping services since 1980 and continues evolving to leverage new data collection methodologies and delivery systems.

For more information on how to conduct accurate land surveys using a professional land surveyor, watch our recent webinar on the topic or contact us