Robert Frost coined the phrase, “Good fences make good neighbors,” and Arthur Baer suggests, “A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence but doesn’t climb over it.”
A fence in the above quotes suggest a defined property line and agreed ownership. In real estate, we lay claim to our land and define its borders based on surveys, and in this article, we will look at some common types of surveys and the reasons for having one type of survey over another.
There are a number of different types of surveys that are utilized in real estate and reasons why one would be ordered versus others.
The first and most common is actually not a survey and should not be used for boundary lines. It is an Improvement Location Certificate, and a licensed surveyor is assuring all of the improvements – house and outbuildings – are on the property, but the surveyor is not surveying the property lines or doing a formal survey. These are inexpensive, often under $500, but they are a very limited tool.
A Boundary Survey is used to define all of the property lines. This sounds simple given the ability of a surveyor to use current technology to pinpoint corners, and to follow a legal description, but it is often more involved depending on the characteristics of the land and previous descriptions utilized.
These surveys are incredibly important as they must stand up to legal scrutiny for ownership, and they will normally cost thousands of dollars depending on the level of work required.
An Improvement Survey Plat is similar to the boundary survey, but it includes the placement of all of the improvements, building and other structures, onto the survey. Again, this type of survey will often cost more as there is more work to complete it.
The highest quality survey is an ALTA/ASCM survey, and it is primarily utilized for commercial property. It is utilized by the title company to insure over the standard exceptions to title, because this level of survey places responsibility on the surveyor for meeting the higher standards. It will describe all known or possible ownership conflicts that may arise from other boundary surveys and protects against adverse possession of the property from a neighbor who might have a claim of usage on the property over 18 years.
Don Ricedorff is a Realtor at The Wells Group in Durango, and a past president of the Durango Area Association of Realtors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.