Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why do I need a survey?
  2. What type survey do I need?
  3. Why does a survey cost so much?
  4. How do I select a surveyor?
  5. What is an easement?

Why do I need a survey?

It is advisable to have a survey done:

  • BEFORE title in land is transferred. A survey assures the location
    of property boundaries and the accuracy and wording of legal
  • BEFORE land is subdivided by deed, will, or by the Court.
  • BEFORE land is developed by the construction of buildings, roads,
    fences, etc.
  • BEFORE an easement or right-of-way is created across the land.
  • BEFORE a boundary dispute arises or when you believe someone is
    encroaching upon your land.
  • BEFORE timber is to be cut and removed.

What type survey do I need?


A survey for the expressed purpose of establishing or re-establishing
the corners and boundary lines of a given parcel of land. A boundary
survey man be an original survey or a retracement survey. An original
survey is a subdivision of land into smaller tracts, such as the
original warrant surveys for subdividing the lands of William Penn. Any
subdivision of an existing tract of land is also an original survey and
the performance of such a survey is dictated by the client’s needs,
site considerations, state laws and local ordinances governing
subdivisions. However, before a tract of land can be subdivided, its
corners and boundaries must be established by a retracement survey.



A retracement survey is a boundary survey which re-establishes the
corners and boundary lines of a parcel of land previously surveyed. This
involves a thorough research of both public and private records to
arrive at a proper description of the property. Often the surveyor must
include a historical analysis of property configurations in the general
area. Such research may involve public records in other county
courthouses or even research of the original warrant tracts maintained
by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Division of Land
Records, at Harrisburg. Angular and linear measurements locating
existing property corners and other evidence of ownership are then
correlated with this title research. Complex survey problems, often
solved using high-speed computers and plotters, are then resolved and
final monumention of property corners and boundary lines is established.
The details of the survey are shown on a survey map or on a series of
maps. Copies of maps stamped with the surveyor’s seal and usually
accompanied by a written legal description are then prepared for the
client’s needs. The Professional Land Surveyor maintains the
original map tracings and other record research as he may be required at
a later date to represent his findings in a Court of Law.



If you are purchasing title insurance, often a land title survey is
required. This is usually a boundary retracement survey with additional
surveying to meet the specific needs required by title insurance
companies. The map of such a survey must show particular information in
detail and exactness of matters discoverable from survey and inspection,
and not necessarily evidenced by public records. Unrecorded easements,
access roads to other properties, physical encroachments of buildings,
and other visible adverse uses of the property by other parties, are
examples of matters of particular concern for a land title survey.



A survey showing the elevations and contours of the land and locating
features natural and man-made, such as streams, buildings, quarries,
fences, roads, woodlands, etc.



Layout for control and alignment of construction for roads,
buildings, pipelines, powerlines and other improvements to the land.

Why does a survey cost so much?

The cost of a land survey depends on many things, including the type
of survey needed and the method used. Some variables which affect the
cost of a land survey are:

  • Required accuracy and purpose for the survey.
  • Complexity of legal records; the number of deeds that need to be
    researched are often complicated by vague, incomplete and contradictory
    legal descriptions. Deeds for abutting properties must be researched
    and unrecorded deeds and agreements must be resolved.
  • Size and shape; an irregular shape has more corners and a longer
    boundary than a square containing the same area.
  • Terrain and accessibility; a flat, open field is easier to survey
    than mountain woodland. Streams, cliffs and dense vegetation complicate
    the surveying process.
  • Field evidence; the existence of iron pins, corner stones,
    designated trees and other evidence of boundaries aid the surveyor and
    their absence compounds difficulties. Cooperative neighbors can be very
  • Time of the year; summer foliage restricts sighting distances
    whereas deep winter snow hinders travel and conceals property corners.
  • Title insurance requirements; title insurance companies need
    considerable documentation and verification of field evidence.
  • Monumentation; the objects utilized to mark the corners and
    boundaries. For example, concrete or cut stone monuments are more
    durable but require greater effort to set and are more costly to obtain
    than iron pins.
  • Plat requirements; the necessary details to be shown on the survey
    map including the requirements of Planning Commissions, Title Insurance
    Companies, Architects, Professional Engineers, etc., affect the time
    involved to produce the map.

Because of the many variables, it is best that you consult with the
Professional Land Surveyor at his office or at the job site to determine
an estimate or cost for the survey. A survey which meets your needs and
legal requirements, based on proper deed research, and complete and
accurate field and office work, will likely prove to be the least
expensive in the end.

How do I select a surveyor?

Only a licensed PROFESSIONAL LAND SURVEYOR may perform boundary or
land title surveys in Pennsylvania. A Professional Land Surveyor who
practices under the statutory Code of Ethics is a credit to his
community, his client or employer, and to himself.

During boundary litigation, the Professional Land Surveyor is often
called upon to appear in court as an expert witness, for his testimony
is accepted as professional evidence and only he can assume the
responsibility for the correctness and accuracy of his work.

The Professional Land Surveyor offers a highly technical and complex
service. It is important the surveyor be knowledgeable in whatever
capacity he serves his client.

You may consult the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Society of
Land Surveyors for a list of Professional Land Surveyors active in your

What is an easement?

An easement the right to make limited use of another’s real property.
It is recorded on the deed, and survives any sale of the property. It
may in the favor of the public, such as a utility easement, or may be in
favor of a neighboring property, in which case, it survives any sale of
the neighboring property.

Examples of types of easements:

  • Right of way: the right to cross a property to to another property.
  • Utility: the right of utility companies to enter upon or cross a
    property to install or maintial utility infrastructure, for the benefit
    of the public.
  • Recreational use: the right of the public or of owners of a
    particular property to enter upon a property and use it for
    recreational purposes.