Q: Do I need a survey drawing?

Sometimes, all you need are monuments at the corners of your property that are easy to find and that you can count on being in the correct place. If you are building a fence and want to be sure that the fence is on your property, then knowing where your corners are and that they are correct will help you accomplish that goal. Also, you may just be curious as to where your property corners are, not needing anything else but to have the corners located.

Often though, a city will require a drawing to show existing conditions on a site and to show the details of what you are proposing to do such as adding a deck or putting in a new driveway. It is a good idea, if you are making improvements to a property or are trying to divide it, to check with the planner and/or building inspector in your city to see if they require a survey and talk with them about the details that must appear on such a survey. Sometimes, if there is a dispute with a neighbor over a fence or other improvement that one neighbor claims is encroaching, a drawing is a valuable communication tool. If you tell your neighbor that his fence encroaches onto your property, his first reaction may dispute your claim and if such a discussion becomes heated, an argument may start that only your attorney and your neighbor’s attorney win. If instead, you had gone to the neighbor and said something like “You are a good neighbor and I want to solve a problem with you. Here is what my surveyor tells me” and you furnish him with a copy of a drawing that shows that his fence is encroaching and the survey is signed and certified, he is less likely to begin to claim that his fence does not encroach.

Q: How fast can I get a survey done?

Sometimes our clients find themselves in a situation where a survey is holding up a project and the delay is very costly. In those situations, if you let us know about the nature of your problem, we will make every effort to meet your schedule, even if it means scrambling our schedule to do that. We can deliver surveys at a speed that may surprise you when we “pull out all the stops”.

Q: Do I have to be home when you perform the survey?

No. Home owners are not needed to be home to complete a survey, if there is something specific you need shown on your survey you can tell us at the time of your order.

Q: Why can’t you just come out and find my property corners?

When the owner of a large parcel wants to divide that parcel into smaller lots, he hires a surveyor to help accomplish that. The surveyor prepares a drawing called a plat that shows the dimensions of the lots being created and numbers the lots and blocks in the plat. The plat is given a name such as “Green Acres” and is filed in the County records. Usually, the surveyor then marks the corners of the lot with monuments (usually iron pipe). In some instances those pipe are still in place, but because of construction activity, and other causes, the pipe are no longer in place. In some very old plats, the lot corners were never staked. Even if someone finds a monument near one of your property corners, it is not certain that the corner is correct.

While the chances are good that a monument one finds is correct, some have been deliberately moved or replaced by a construction worker or previous home owner. If a claim is made by a neighbor, that you built your new improvements on their property, and they want you to remove the improvements, you don’t want to be in the position of wondering whether the monuments you used are correct. That is why we cross check measurements to other monuments in the neighborhood until we are confident that the corners are correct and that we can defend them if they should be challenged. That takes a lot time and effort, but that is the only way we know how to avoid costly mistakes that can result from using corners that are incorrect.

Q: How do you mark my property corners?

Typically, we mark property corners by setting a wood lathe with flagging next to the actual iron pipe that represents your property corner. If we have found and verified an existing monument, we will have exposed the iron pipe by digging, and will have set the wood lathe next to it. If we set a new monument, we will have set an iron pipe flush with the ground with a plastic cap with our license number stamped on top, and will have set the wood lathe next to that.

There are situations in which we cannot set an iron pipe, when that happens, we do our best at monumenting your property corners by setting concrete nails, drill holes, chiseled X’s, or various other methods.

Q: What is my legal description?

When property is bought and sold, the property being sold is specified in writing on a deed that is filed in the county records. That specific language is known a legal description. The system we use for defining the location and boundaries of real estate is a little complicated and here is a brief explanation of the various types of legal descriptions:

Metes and Bounds: A metes and bounds description may sound something like this: “The North 500 feet of the West 500 feet of the Northwest Quarter of the Northwest Quarter of Section 1, Township 117, Range 22, Hennepin County, Minnesota”. Because a metes and bounds description can be long and susceptible to mistakes, extra time and work is typically involved to perform a survey on this type of property.

Lot and Block: A lot and block description may sound something like this: “Lot 1, Block 3, Green Hills, Hennepin County, Minnesota”. A lot and block description is given to a specific lot located with a specific plat.

The legal description for lots and blocks are greatly simplified versus metes and bounds legal descriptions.

A legal description defines the boundary of what you want surveyed and if that legal description is wrong, the survey will also be wrong. If you give us a copy of a title insurance policy (not necessary for Torrens property) then a title insurance company guarantees the legal to be correct, and backs that guarantee with insurance funds. The title insurance company searches county records, analyzes what they find and send you a title insurance policy that specifies the legal description they guarantee and lists documents, such as easements, that affect your property. The reason title insurance companies are the right source for such information is that county records are not perfectly organized and it is easy to miss something that could cause a costly mistake that would be covered by their insurance. If you or your surveyor try to research county records, you don’t have that insurance, which is why we leave that search and the guarantees to your title insurance company.

Q: Why were you on my neighbor’s property?

To accurately perform your survey we need to check into property corners throughout a block. A lot of times when the original block was laid out, it was done during a point in time when measuring was not as accurate as it is now. The result is that some blocks are longer or shorter than they are supposed to be. So, depending on how your property and your neighbor’s property measure, it affects everyone else’s property. Think of it as a big puzzle, and your property is just a piece in that puzzle.