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A land survey is a document drawn up by a surveyor that ensures the marketability of a house.

First and foremost, a land survey is a map that describes the exact location on a street and the size of the property. The map will include precise measurements between the house the properties’ exterior structures such as porches, garages, and fences. The map will also show property lines measured from the house and neighboring properties, identifying potential encroachments. Finally, the land survey will indicate any easements that are described in a property’s title.


It is a good idea for anyone buying a house to have a land survey done before the settlement. This way a buyer knows exactly what they are paying for. A survey may reveal potential boundary issues such as fences encroaching on neighboring properties, shared driveways with “verbal agreements” about the size and use, or trees that need trimming on the property line. The settlement lawyer will be on hand to help identify problems and answer questions about resolving them before the purchase is final.

Most mortgage companies require a land survey to be done to insure their interests. Title insurance requires a comprehensive land survey as well. An affidavit of a land survey may be sufficient when refinancing a home, but the owner must certify that no changes to the property have been made.


There are two basic types of land surveys. The first is a “house location survey.” This basic survey is the minimum required by mortgage companies. It merely identifies the house described in the title and maps out its location, size, and general characteristics. It is not registered at the Registry of Deeds and is not valid in land court over boundary disputes. However, it is the least expensive survey available. A house location survey generally costs between $150 to $300 depending on the size and location of the property.

The second type of survey is called an “accurate survey” which is more detailed and also more expensive. A homeowner that purchases a property that has known easements, encroachment issues, odd shaped properties or very close neighbors might consider getting an “accurate survey”. It may be worth spending more money for the peace of mind of knowing the exact nature of their property lines.

It should be noted that most surveys do not include physically staking out the property lines, but this can be done at the same time as the survey for a nominal extra charge.