Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Different Types of Land Surveys

A New York City Land Surveyor on a Construction Job
A New York City Land Surveyor on a New Construction Job

NYC Land Surveying is a crucial tool used to identify features and boundaries of land to determine ownership. Many people will require a land survey at some point and time; therefore, it is beneficial to have a general idea of the various types of land surveys. Some of the most common types of land surveys include:

Mortgage Surveys

Mortgage surveys are primary surveys that are most commonly used to determine building locations and land boundaries. They are usually required by lending and title companies when they provide financing to show the conditions of the property in question. They are also used to show that there are no structures infringing on the property and that any structures located on the property satisfy current building codes and zoning.

A mortgage survey differs from a mortgage inspection in that it is performed by a licensed land surveyor. Also, it is a standard survey that complies with set standards and is governed and accepted as an official land survey. On the other hand, a mortgage inspection is simply a substandard survey that does not adhere to any set standards and is not accepted or regulated as an official land survey.

Boundary Surveys

A boundary survey, another common type of survey, is typically used to establish the true boundaries of a specific property. To determine the true boundaries of a property, the surveyor will use previously recorded markers in addition to new landmarks. Using this data, the surveyor will then mark lines of the plot and the corners using markers, such as nails set in asphalt or concrete, concrete monuments, pipes, or iron rods.

Topographic Surveys

Topographic surveys are land surveys that are used to identify man-made and natural features on a piece of property, such as trees, improvements, streams, buildings, fences, land contours, and elevations, etc. These land features are measured for their altitude on a particular parcel of land and displayed as contour lines on a plot. Topographic surveys are most commonly used by architects and engineers to assist in the design of developments and improvements on a site; however, sometimes the government will require topography surveys.

Construction Surveys

Construction surveys are one of the fastest growing types of land surveys. The majority of construction surveys fall under civil engineering, which may require additional certifications and degrees to carry out. All construction projects begin with a plan of survey, or Site Plan, which sets out the plan for the complete project including all current and suggested conditions on a particular site. In fact, surveys are used throughout the construction process from the planning to the actual construction of the project to the maintenance afterward. There are three main types of construction surveys: as-built surveys, foundation surveys, and deformation surveys.

  • As-Built Surveys are conducted numerous times throughout a building project to confirm to state and local boards that the authorized work is being finished in compliance with their specifications set on the plot. 
  • Foundation Surveys, a type of as-built survey, gathers the positional data on a foundation that has been poured and is now set. Foundation Surveys are used to ensure that the completed foundation has been assembled in the proper manner and location as stated in the plan.
  • Deformation Survey is conducted on existing structures to determine if the object or structure is moving or deviating in shape.
By recording the three-dimensional positions of specific points on an object, then allowing a set period of time to pass before remeasuring these points, NYC Land Surveyors can determine whether a structure is moving or shifting, as well as by how much.

ALTA Surveys


An ALTA survey, also known as an ATLA/ACSM survey, combines all elements of a boundary survey, mortgage survey, and topographic survey with a set standard established by the American Congress on Survey Mapping and American Land Title Association.

ALTA surveys are mostly used for commercial properties. By having a universal standard, companies can rely on the level of accuracy because the results are guaranteed by American Congress on Survey Mapping and American Land Title Association standards.

Right Away Easement Surveys

A right away or easement is a legal right of one person to access property owned by another person, such as a narrow walkway to arrive at a community park or other area that hinders the deed owner from improving the property in any way.

An easement survey is a method of gathering, reporting, or displaying the necessary data to reestablish or establish the location of adequate property lines of the favored parcel or strip of land to assure the correct location of the area of land being described for the benefits and use of others. Easement surveys are required to comply with the same standards as boundary surveys; however, markers do not need to be set. 


Additional Resources

NYS Association of Professional Land Surveyors