Area Surveying, Inc. - FAQ

Area Surveying, Inc.

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FAQ

For a list of old surveying units of measurement, click here.
Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions of surveyors.

How big is an acre?
What is a vara?
How much will it cost to get my land surveyed?
Who pays for a survey?
Where can I get a copy of the survey of my property?

Why do you charge for copies of surveys?
What marks my property corners?
Where can I get a copy of my deed?
How long is a survey good?
I've been told that I can save money by using the seller's old survey. Is this a good deal?

What is the 100-Year Flood Plain?
What is an easement?
What is an ALTA Survey?
What is a Category 1A Survey?
I want to build on my property and the city says that I have to have it "platted". What do I do?
Where can I find information on platting/developing my property?

I need some land surveyed outside the DFW Metroplex. How can I find a surveyor?
My fence has been up for more than seven years so according to state law it is the property line, right?

Got a question we haven't answered? Ask us here.


How big is an “Acre”?
1 Acre = 43,560 square feet. An acre of land in the shape of a square has dimensions of approximately 208.71 feet on all sides.
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What is a “Vara”?
1 Vara = 33-1/3 inches. A vara is an old Spanish measurement. When Mexico won its independence from Spain, the vara was continued as the official land measurement. Both the Republic of Texas and the State of Texas continued to use the vara for land measurement. However, it was not until 1914, that the state officially established the length of a vara as 33-1/3 inches.

In truth, no one really knows exactly how long a vara was and there is some evidence that its length was somewhat arbitrary. Spain used the vara as the official measurement in all of its colonies yet each former colony has a slightly different, "official" length of the vara. For a fairly complete listing of old surveying measurements, click here. If you have an old deed written in varas, rods, poles or chains and are trying to convert the distances to feet, try this measurement converter.
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How much will it cost to get my land surveyed?
Probably the most frequently asked question. The cost of a survey depends on several variables: the size of the property; the type of property; the type of survey being done; the purpose of the survey; the number and size of improvements on the property; and the terrain of the property.

The best way to get a cost estimate for your particular property is to determine the type of survey you need. Then contact us with as much information about the property as you have. We will be happy to provide you with a no-obligation quote.
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Who pays for a survey?
In residential transactions, the cost of a survey is usually included in the purchaser's closing costs since it is their mortgage company which requires it. Otherwise, like most everything else in real estate, payment for the survey can be negotiated between the buyer and the seller. Payment for other types of surveys is the responsibility of the person requesting the survey.
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Where can I get a copy of the survey of my property?
Unlike some states, land boundary surveys are not recorded in Texas. Use of a survey for a real estate transaction is through a license for the original transaction only. The only way to get a copy of an old survey is to contact the Surveyor who prepared it. Depending on what you intend to use it for, the Surveyor may be willing to provide you with additional copies for an appropriate fee.

Like any other intellectual property, a survey is a copyrightable work and belongs to the Surveyor who prepared it. A word of warning, copying a survey is a violation of federal law [17 U.S.C. § 504(a)(1)]. Making illegal copies of a survey could result in damages ranging up to $150,000.

If our firm surveyed your property, you may purchase copies from us. To purchase a copy of an old survey that we performed, download the Survey Copy Request Form, fill it out completely and mail it to us with your payment.
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Why do you charge for copies of surveys?
As an expert's opinion on land boundary location, a survey belongs to the one who prepared it (the Surveyor). We currently possess records on over 45,000 surveys going back to the 1940's. As you can imagine, the storage, cataloging, maintenance and retrieval of these files is a major expense for our firm. In order to help defray this expense, we charge an Archive Retrieval Fee whenever someone request a copy of an old survey.
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What marks my property corners?
Property corners can be marked with a variety of materials. In the 1800's, Surveyors typically did not carry monuments with them. The surveyors would create a property corner monument using whatever materials were available. This usually meant piling up some rocks or hacking a nearby tree. Within the City of Fort Worth, many of the lot corners of the older neighborhoods were marked with wooden stakes made from Bois D'arc trees. Other items used in times past were pieces of buggy springs and later, car axles.

The most common material used today is iron rebar. Currently, the rules of the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveying require that wherever practical, all new monuments have an identifying marker which ties the monument to the surveyor who placed it. The size and material of all property corners should be shown on the survey plat. Other items that might mark property corners include: iron pipes; wooden stakes; poured concrete monuments; crosses or other figures cut into concrete; and masonry nails driven into asphalt pavement.
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Where can I get a copy of my deed?
Deeds are recorded by the County Clerk of the county in which the property is located in. The County Clerk also records liens, covenants and restrictions placed upon property, as well as plats.

Copies of all real property documents are kept on file by the County Clerk of the county the property is located in. Both the Dallas County Clerk and the Tarrant County Clerk offer copies of more recent deeds for free online. If you can't find your deed online, you may have to personally visit the appropriate county clerk's office.

While copies are available for free online, an "official" paper copy from the county clerk's office will require you to pay a fee.
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How long is a survey good?
A survey is like a photograph of a piece of property. It is only accurate as long as the conditions upon, and surrounding the property remain unchanged. State law sets the statutory limit for liability for surveyors. Finally, if you are borrowing money to finance the purchase of property, your lender may require a survey to have been made within a certain length of time.
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I've been told that I can save money by using the seller's old survey. Is this a good deal?
No its not. There are at least three things you should consider before doing this.  

The use of old surveys has grown exponentially in the last few years. This usually involves the seller providing a copy of an old survey and signing an affidavit stating that there have been no changes to the boundaries of the property. Ask yourself, how can the average person know this? Furthermore, doesn't the seller have every motivation to "forget" issues that could possibly delay the closing? We recently learned of a situation where a couple spent over a quarter of a million dollars on a piece of property. The seller told them that there was no need for a new survey, they could use his five year old one. They closed on the deal, accepting his old survey. Shortly after taking possession of the property, the neighbor informed the couple that their fence was over on his property and demanded that they remove it, threatening legal action if they did not. The fence had been built after the seller's survey was done, so the couple had no way of knowing where the fence was is in fact located. Now they are looking at not only paying for an up to date survey, but possibly retaining legal counsel as well. Real estate transactions can involve substantial sums of money. Would you invest $100,000 in a business and let the seller audit his own books? If not, then why would you invest that much, if not more, in a real estate deal where the seller is in effect doing his own survey? Lenders see the use of old surveys as a way to make the transaction faster and cheaper. While we are not opposed to streamlining the closing process, it's your money. Whether you want to make sure you know what you are getting for it is up to you.

Secondly, using an old survey provides no protection to you if a question or problem arises. A survey is done for specific parties, for a specific transaction. If you are not a party to that transaction, the surveyor has no duty or obligation to assist you in any way. The only way to have a complete and honest evaluation of the property you are purchasing is to have a survey done for you.  

Lastly, don't you want to actually see what you are buying? A current survey will result in the property corners being prominently marked so that the layman can physically see what he is purchasing. If you want to spend tons of money based on the sellers guess of where the boundaries of the property are, go ahead. However, you should know that under English common law, it is assumed that the buyer and seller actually saw the boundaries of the property being conveyed. If you chose not to, and a problem or question arises, well that's too bad, as a matter of law, the courts will assume that you knew what you were buying.  

Having said all this, we will offer some advice on saving money on a survey. If the seller gives you a copy of his survey and it is fairly recent, we suggest you contact the surveyor who prepared it and ask about "updating" it. The surveyor will come out to the property, remark the property corners and note the changes on the survey plat. Then you will have an up-to-date survey you can rely on.
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What is the 100-Year Flood Plain?
Areas shown as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a particular community. These areas are darkly shaded on the FIRM. Property which lies in a SFHA has a 1 percent chance of being flooded in any given year.

Answers to more questions about flood plains and flood insurance can be found here.
If you need an Elevation Certificate to obtain flood insurance, please click here
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What is an easement?
An easement is the right to use the land of another. Title to the land remains in the owner. However, use of the land is subject to the easement. The most common type of easement is a Utility Easement. A Utility Easement grants to all public utility companies the right to use that strip of land for their systems. Easements can also be for other uses such as access and drainage.

Easement can be dedicated by the property owner by adopting a plat. Or, an easement can be granted though the execution of a written document, which is similar to a deed. Rather than granting the right of a third party to use a piece of land for say, the installation of a sewer line, easements can also be granted to prohibited certain activities. For example, and easement might granted on land near an airport that prohibits building above a certain height. Easements almost always continue in force upon future landowners so your property can be impacted by easements granted by property owners many years ago.

For this reason, if you are considering purchasing property, it is important to obtain a Title Commitment from a title company and retain the services of a surveyor to advise you on whether any easements affect your property.
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What is an ALTA Survey?
The correct name is, ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey. An "ALTA Survey" is a survey done in accordance with the standards jointly established by the American Land Title Association and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. Surveying practices vary across the country. These two groups came together to publish a nationwide standard for surveys. By requesting an "ALTA Survey", a lender, buyer or other interested party can be assured of acquiring surveys from across the country that consistently meet the same standards.

If your lender or attorney has advised you to obtain an, "ALTA Survey", you should download the 2005 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys, complete Table A, and submit it to your surveyor with your survey request.
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What is a Category 1A Survey?
A Category 1A Land Title Survey is a survey prepared in accordance with the standards and specifications published by the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors. This type of survey is most often performed on non-residential property and is specifically designed to meet the needs of title insurance companies.

More information on this type of property survey is available here.
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I want to build on my property and the city says that I have to have it "platted". What do I do?
First let us welcome you to the world of real estate development. Next, if you haven't already, carefully look over all of the information in our Development Surveys section. If you are ready to proceed, contact us and we will be happy to assist you. One word of warning though. City officials often make the platting process seem like nothing more than a little paperwork. The reality is that the process is often a time consuming, expensive process.
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Where can I find information on platting/developing my property?
You can start with our list of Local Planning Departments. If your city isn't listed then look up your city up in the blue pages of the phone book. You will need to find the Planning Department. 
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I need some land surveyed outside the DFW Metroplex. How can I find a surveyor?
The best method is through a referral. If you know people in the area, ask them for a recommendation. If local people can't recommend any surveyors in the area, ask them if they know any real estate lawyers, brokers, builders or title company people who may have need of surveying services on a regular basis.

If you can not find someone to recommend a surveyor or two to you, we suggest you visit the web site of the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors (TSPS). On the left side, click on the link marked "Find a Surveyor." Use the scroll down box to select the county the property is located in and press "Submit." You will be presented with a list of T.S.P.S. members in the county the land is located in along with their phone numbers. To prevent spam, the site does not provide email addresses. 
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My fence has been up for more than seven years so according to state law it is the property line, right?
Wrong. We've heard this one so many times we'd love to know where it started. The idea of a fence becoming the property line has its origins in the legal principle of Adverse Possession.

Adverse Possession is the process by which a person acquires title to land by occupying it in defiance of another. However, occupying the land is just one of five conditions that must be met in order to claim land by adverse possession. Since we don't claim to be lawyers we won't offer a legal treatise on the subject here. However we can confidently state that there is no such law in Texas.
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