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The Land Surveying Profession
In New York State

What is a Land Surveyor?

   A Land Surveyor is a design professional licensed and regulated by the State of New York, who, through a combination of education and experience, understands and is able to delineate the physical characteristics of land, and is also qualified to perform and depict a physical retracement of the legal history of that land.  A New York Licensed Land Surveyor uses applied mathematics and other technical and research skills to measure and plot: the dimensions of any portion of the Earth's surface, natural and Man-made structures, the lengths and directions of boundary lines, and the contour of the Earth's surface. ONLY LICENSED LAND SURVEYORS MAY MAKE BOUNDARY LINE DETERMINATIONS IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK.  Land Surveyors are also knowledgeable regarding zoning regulations, planning regulations, building codes, health codes, wetland regulations and general land use requirements.  Land Surveyors may offer a variety of services including:

  • Boundary Surveys
  • Proposed Plot Plans
  • Building Location and Foundation Location Surveys
  • Topographic Surveys
  • Subdivision Design and Platting
  • Global Positioning System Surveys
  • Geodetic Control Surveys
  • Environmental Impact Statements
  • Wetland Delineation and Location
  • Mining Plans
  • Mitigation Plans
  • Land Development Plans
  • Percolation Tests and Soil Descriptions
  • Construction and Transportation Staking
  • Monitoring of Structural Settling of Buildings and Other Structures
  • Utility and Pipeline Surveys

    According to New York State Law, only surveys made by licensed and registered New York State Land Surveyors are legal.  Only registered Land Surveyors have the combination of Land Surveying education and experience required for licensure in New York State, and only licensed and registered Land Surveyors have passed the three part examination required for licensure in New York State (said exam consisting of two national examinations totaling 14 hours, and a two-hour New York State specific examination).

    Professional Engineers, Architects, Landscape Architects, Lawyers, real estate agents, contractors, and title company agents are not allowed to make boundary line determinations.  Also, a visual inspection of a property by a landowner, real estate agent, contractor, or title company representative is not enough to determine the legal boundary of that property. ONLY LICENSED LAND SURVEYORS MAY MAKE BOUNDARY LINE DETERMINATIONS IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK.






Contacting a Land Surveyor:

   You can choose a Surveyor based on prior recommendations, or you can consult your local Yellow Pages under the heading Land Surveyors.

    You should make your needs known to the Surveyor as clearly as possible and as soon as possible.  Be sure the Surveyor knows why you want the survey made, and exactly which services you require.  This will ensure that the fee estimate the Surveyor gives you is accurate.  Don't be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure of any aspect of what is required, and feel free to ask the Surveyor for suggestions as to how best to proceed with your project.

    You should supply copies of any survey maps, deeds, records of title, or any other pertinent information about your property to the Surveyor at your first meeting (if possible).


The Survey:

   As soon as the you have agreed on the scope of work and services to be provided by the Surveyor (which often involves a written contract), the Surveyor will schedule your property or project for a survey.  The Land Surveyor will perform research through a variety of sources, including County Clerk's offices and other agencies, to gather information affecting the boundaries of the property, as well as reviewing the documents and maps you provide.

    After this information has been gathered, the Surveyor will send a field crew (usually consisting of two or more Surveying Technicians and/or Surveyors) to perform a field survey of the property.  These trained professionals will locate any physical evidence that may affect the property boundaries, as well as locate any physical improvements to the property.  If engaged for the project, the Surveyor, Survey Crew, or other professionals may visit the site to perform various other tasks like wetland delineation, percolation testing, and general site reconnaissance.

    After performing the field survey, the Surveyor will make a determination of the property lines based on research and field evidence.  Using this information a map, or plat, will be drafted for the parcel.


How Much Will a Survey Cost?

   The cost of a survey will depend on the size and location of the property, and the actual services to be provided by the Land Surveyor.  Such items as the complexity of the descriptions, terrain and the shape of the property are factors that must be considered.  As a result, only a Land Surveyor (not a bank, Lawyer, or contractor) can accurately estimate the cost of a survey.  Surveyors are willing to discuss their fees and offer an estimate before you authorize a survey.  The cost of a survey is only a small percentage of the cost of buying, refinancing, or subdividing property.  The protection and piece-of-mind a survey affords is well worth the cost.






You are Selling Property
  • You may have to provide your buyer with an up-to-date survey of

               your property in order to:

  • Give your buyer confidence in the purchase
  • Allow your buyer to register the transaction at the County Clerk's Office
  • Enable your buyer to make mortgage arrangements.  Verify to

              your buyer the size and extent of the property 

  • Avoid later legal disputes arising from inadequate or inaccurate

               property description


You are Buying Property

You need to know what you're getting. Only a map of the survey made by

 a licensed land surveyor can define what you've purchased. Your surveyor

will undertake the necessary research, survey the property and prepare a

survey map that will reveal:

  • Whether other people are entitled to partial use of your property

                through easements for utilities or rights-of-way.

  • Whether fences, trees, buildings, gardens, embankments, driveways,

                walkways, swimming pools, house additions and other property

  • Whether your deed describes your property accurately
  • Your survey thus gives you a form of protection in addition to

               clarifying what you've bought, since it will reveal any encroachments

               or other irregularities that might be the cause of later legal disputes.

               In addition, your surveyor can mark the exact corners of your site with

               survey monuments.


Building Fencing or Adding on

You need to protect your investment by making sure you are building on

you own property. A mislocated fence, driveway or carport can cause legal

problems and extra construction costs. Before you build, let a licensed land

surveyor determine your property boundaries, replacing missing stakes if

necessary. Allowing a surveyor to mark the location of your building on site

before construction begins will also ensure that you meet setback requirements

and other restrictions enforced by the municipality in their zoning laws. Failure

to comply with zoning By-Laws could result in the loss of a future sale if the

purchasers have an up-to-date survey done. Mortgage lenders generally

do not advance money until zoning law infringements are cleared up.

You are Subdividing

A licensed professional surveyor will:
  • Check and ensure extent of title, and note planning restrictions,

               easements and other legalities

  • Survey the site
  • Engage other consultants to carry out preliminary studies, Engineering,

               Planning & Environmental issues to submit with draft plan

  • Draft a proposed subdivision plan
  • Prepare final plans


Refinancing or Obtaining a Mortgage

A mortgage company, whether it be a bank, trust company or others, usually

requires a survey before they will lend money. Why is this a necessity and why

are you often asked for an up-to-date survey?

Do the lot size, building set backs, pool and fence locations meet with local

Zoning Laws?

The mortgage company will require the survey to protect their investment.

They want to be sure that the land and buildings on which they are lending

money are as described in the documents which accompany the transaction.

They also wish to know that if they have to foreclose there will be no problems

in re-selling the property.


According to New York State law, only surveys made by licensed and registered

New York Land Surveyors are legal. Only registered Land Surveyors have

completed the academic requirements and practical training before licensing.

Only registered Land Surveyors are required to maintain the necessary

theoretical, practical and ethical standards set by legislation.


Depending on the nature and extent of the work, anywhere from a few hundred

to several thousand dollars. Fees for surveys are determined on an individual

basis, depending mainly on the amount of time required for the research and the

survey. Prior to engaging your surveyor, you may wish to inquire of the likely

estimate of the fees that the survey will entail, along with the expected completion



In cases of dispute, your surveyor is an expert witness in court and assumes full

professional responsibility for the accuracy of your survey. The cost of the survey

as a percentage of your total investment is small and a reasonable price to pay for

peace of mind.


Typically your house and land represent your largest assets. If you are

contemplating purchasing property, you should know as much as possible

about the piece of land in which you are going to invest. Obtaining a survey

may be the most important thing you do before you close the deal on any

purchase. Without a survey, you do not know the extent of your property, as

only a licensed surveyor can provide you with this information. Without the

survey, there is too much you do not know and you are risking both friendly

neighbors and your investment.

It pays to know the boundaries of your land. A small distance can make a big

difference. The erection of a fence can be the source off expensive litigation

and ill will between neighbors. Your licensed land surveyor can help you avoid



Courtesy of the New York State Association of Professional Land Surveyors