Why does it cost so much to get a survey?

how much does a survey cost

This is the very question we ask when we take our car in for a repair—why is this so expensive?  And couldn’t I just do this myself?

In the case of surveying, the answer is, no, you cannot complete a survey by yourself, no matter how seemingly simple the task.  

The main reason for this is because a professional licensed surveyor has earned credentials in the state of Wisconsin that give him the authority to analyze and create boundary lines.  A professional licensed surveyor must stamp and sign his work, and with this “seal” he is liable for the accuracy of his calculations.  Essentially, a survey is a legally binding document that can be used by a number of parties, including home owners, builders, engineers, architects, and attorneys.

Although you yourself could pull out a tape measure and do some simple calculations on your property, this would hardly cover the breadth and depth of the calculations a surveyor completes.  For instance, you may be capable of locating the iron rods on your property corners; however, a surveyor can confirm whether these rods are actually in the correct locations.  It is not uncommon that property corners get moved during landscaping projects, utility work, or an adjacent homeowner that has decided they’d like just a bit more property.  If you choose to “find” your property corners yourself, you may be building a fence or upgrading your landscaping in a location that encroaches on your neighbor’s land or reduces the amount of property you actually own.

So how do surveyors confirm these precise locations?

You may have seen someone leaning over a tripod on the side of the road, taking nice pictures of the scenery.  Actually, this person is a surveyor and he is setting up an instrument called a total station.  The surveyor uses the total station, along with a handheld data collector, to collect measurements of physical objects as well as the terrain. Once the data is collected, he uses computer software to interpret and verify the results.

Surveyors also know where to search for documents that would aid in the retracement of existing parcels.  For instance, if a property corner has been moved, how do they know where it actually belongs?  A surveyor would retrace a description of the bearings and distances on a parcel while comparing it to what is actually being occupied by the homeowner, and then use these calculations and observations to correctly set the property corner.

Although it seems like anyone could step out their back door and measure their property, land surveyors are uniquely qualified to perform these tasks with the accuracy and expertise needed to produce a legal document.

Rochelle Ratkaj Moser