If you’re planning any kind of extensive landscaping, home expansion to accommodate a home office or alterations to your business, you’re going to need to first understand the boundaries you’re working with. This includes your property lines, structures, easements and any other specifics built into your home survey or property survey.
In most cases, old surveys of your home or building will be recorded and filed with the county clerk.
A property survey is usually conducted before either a home purchase or a major renovation. The main purpose is to ensure that the property in question is worth the value being used, and to ensure there are no legal issues standing in the way. The final product of such a survey will be a detailed sketch of the property, its legal history and details such as how to handle shared yards or driveways between neighbors.
Want to check the history of a property and wondering, "Where can I get a copy of my property survey?" Many of the details regarding your property are public records and property survey maps are free; this includes previous surveys, which are recorded and filed with the county clerk. County records should also include the history of the deed to the property, including prior sales. If no previous surveys have been filed, it’s still likely that the county keeps a plat map, which is a map including the streets, buildings and lot lines within a subdivision or neighborhood. These can be used as a guide to determine where property lines are.
Note: even if there are no records that can help, a surveyor can still find the property lines by searching for survey pins in your yard using a metal detector. This method isn’t foolproof – sometimes extensive yardwork can accidentally move a pin – but it will often provide a guideline from which a surveyor can reconstruct the property’s lot lines.
To find a copy of your property’s survey online, start by searching public records for the county, then the town, the property falls within. Use the address, and specify land or property surveys in the search. Many counties have these records available online to free up their county clerks and provide better historical records. If the specific survey in question isn’t available online, search for a plat map; many of these have also been exported online, and show the lot lines and buildings in the development.
If the property has been developed over the course of its lifetime – for example, an extension added onto a house – these plans will have been reviewed and ultimately approved by the zoning board. Check the town’s city hall, building inspector’s offices or county engineering department to see whether a land survey was completed at the time of these modifications.
While these records may tell you when a survey was completed, they may not always lead to the survey details itself. To obtain a copy of an existing survey, your best bet is to find it online or in paper records to obtain a copy. However, if your personal searching doesn’t come up with anything, your title company can order a survey report for a small fee. This is often a much faster way to find the survey, especially if county records haven’t been digitized yet and you’re stuck looking through physical record books by date of transaction.
If you need to have a new land survey, or if the previous one is too old to be useful, prepare to spend some money on a professional survey rather than attempting to interpret the available information on your own. This is especially critical when involving the sale or purchase of a property, or if there’s some kind of dispute with a neighbor or utility company.
Thankfully, for most modern neighborhoods, property surveys have become a part of the sale, mortgage and purchase process, which means there’s most likely a copy of a previous survey somewhere in your county’s files.