What Exactly is Land Surveying?

When buying, selling, or developing land or property, it is important to work with professional land surveyors to review the land first.


Land surveying is essentially a detailed review performed to map out the features and boundaries of your land or property. It is a complex process requiring technical expertise and specialized equipment like GPS and associated software to get accurate measurements.


To better understand what land surveying entails, check out this guide on different types of land surveys, the techniques used to conduct them, and the main benefits of getting these surveys done.

Types of Land Surveys

There are many types of land surveys that can be conducted, each one differing in technique and purpose. These are the six main types to get you acquainted:

Boundary Survey

As its name suggests, boundary surveys formally define a specific property’s boundary. They are done through public records research and fieldwork, where the surveyor takes measurements and performs necessary computations to identify boundary lines.

This survey is critical for construction due diligence to get proper permits and avoid boundary disputes.  Especially important when constructing fences.

Location Survey

Location surveys are similar to boundary surveys but contain additional information on interior improvements and their corresponding locations. Title insurers and mortgage lenders usually contract these to get legal proof that the improvements are located on the property.  A Real Property Report or Building Location Certificate is a good example of this survey type.

Thus, you may encounter this survey when applying for zoning permits or loans.

Topographic Survey

Topographic surveys allow you to identify and locate natural and man-made features on a piece of land. These include buildings, fences, trees, and utilities, as well as contours and spot elevations to determine terrain.

In most cases, this survey is shown as a three-dimensional map made with GPS, Drones or LiDAR (3D Scanning) and is used to plan out property improvements like landscapes and drainage design.

Site Plan Survey

You can think of this survey as a combination of a boundary and topographic survey. It is useful for site planning, specifically for construction developments or designing improvements to properties, so you may need this to get a permit.

Generally, it includes data like topographic elevations, trees and fences, coverage, and proposed improvements.

Construction Survey

Construction surveys stake out planned activities to direct construction companies when building structures like roads, buildings, and utilities. They involve taking and documenting measurements to prepare as-built plans and volume calculations.

Subdivision Survey

Subdivision surveys are used to split a piece of land into smaller lots, including roads and easements. They often come into the picture in housing development projects, such as when you want to sell part of your land to a developer/builder.

Benefits of Land Surveying

As seen in the many types of surveys, land surveying can benefit homeowners, buyers, builders, new construction, land developers, realtors, and mortgage professionals for many reasons. Here are just a few to name:

  • Avoid boundary disputes. Land surveys play a crucial role in the pre-construction phase to ensure that your design or development is within your land’s perimeter. This way, you can avoid boundary disputes that can be tricky to resolve later.
  • Assess property or land purchases. Land surveys allow you to assess a land or property more thoroughly to make more informed purchase decisions.  Many times, you only get surface-level information when scanning listings. But with a land survey, you can verify things like encroachment, which could lead to legal issues if you end up buying the property.
  • Subdivide land. If you want to divide your land into smaller parcels to sell off or use for commercial purposes, you can get a subdivision survey prepared. This will help you split and price your land accurately to avoid inaccuracies in the construction or sale process.
  • Understand Topography. Topographic details can inform you of things like how prone an area is to flooding or whether drainage issues exist. Having this information can then help you decide whether to push through with your construction or purchase plans.


As you can see, land surveying is a critical part of any development project or real estate transaction. Working with a professional surveyor gives you accurate details and measurements of land or property, thereby avoiding potential legal conflicts and allowing you to make more strategic decisions.