Choosing The Right Land Surveyor

A new project can be exciting but it can also be incredibly daunting. There are so many things to consider, plan and prepare for before it can even begin to take shape.

Whether you are plotting your own ‘grand design’ new-build, undertaking a renovation job or even just a looking to complete a comprehensive assessment of your land, there are several important things to organise and coordinate well in advance.

One of the most important, if not the most important, is selecting the right land surveyor to measure and map your project. Make a wrong decision at this stage and you could run the risk of jeopardising the entire project. Choosing the best land surveyor – one who fits your requirements and the scope of the work – is critical to the success of your whole project.

The surveyor will use cutting edge technology to map the land – and in some cases, any adjacent water – in order to let the architects, builders or engineers know exactly what they are dealing with.

Land surveyors are highly trained professionals with a distinct and specialist skills set. The purpose of a surveyor is to use appropriate instrumentation and methods to map, measure and analyse important aspects of the terrain or a construction – everything from a basic topographical survey of a small area of land to an in-depth assessment of many square miles of land.

True, we can all take a simple measurement, frequently quite quickly, but on a large-scale, high-stakes development project it’s not something that should be left to anybody but an expert.

Land surveyors have undergone rigorous training to become qualified but those worth their salt are continually developing themselves too. When it comes to precision measurement jobs, they really are leaders in the field, making a surveyor the only professional you would want to establish the foundations upon which your project will take shape.

First questions

In the same way you would go about engaging the services of any professional, there are a few things you should get straight with your prospective land surveyor from the outset so that you are both clear on the basic expectations:

  • Time: How many hours of work will the surveyor deliver for the agreed price? When is the final deadline for delivery?
  • Contact: How can you contact the surveyor? Are you able to call at any time (within reason) with questions as they crop up?
  • Credentials: What are the land surveyor’s professional accreditations? What qualifications does the surveyor have? Does the surveyor have any professional memberships or registered/chartered status?

The right fit

You may also want to ask about experience and ethics; two very different but very important areas of any surveyor’s expertise. If the practicalities of the job are agreeable (see above) you also need to be happy that your chosen surveyor is someone capable of doing the job and, more importantly, is someone you get along with.

Experience builds on those professional accreditations and qualifications to provide ongoing career development and it can come as considerable peace of mind to know that your preferred surveyor has worked on similar projects, delivering everything that was expected to a good standard, on time and on budget. Surveyors can have very different specialisms (for example land, road, rail, building) so it’s important to be happy that your chosen surveyor has sufficient experience of your type of job. For this particular type of work you absolutely require a ‘land surveyor’. These are completely different to structural surveyors, building surveyors, mortgage surveyors and so on.

Ethics, meanwhile, allow you to choose someone who you feel comfortable working with on a personal level. While this might not be a main priority for many people, you might consider a more principled individual likely to be more reliable.

Scope it out

It’s crucial to know exactly what you are getting for your money and (particularly when comparing quotes from several surveying companies) you want to be certain that a more attractive price point (because, let’s face it, money is almost always a primary concern) won’t result in compromising on what you actually receive.

Although it can be tempting to take the cheapest option every time, it’s important to be realistic about what your project needs and who is best able to deliver that.

Larger sites will usually cost more and any complicated features of the terrain, such as known subsidence or water, may add further to this cost. To keep things under control, consider having a basic survey carried out of the entire project site, with more detailed or specialist measurements only where they are needed.

Whilst larger sites do usually cost more, this would obviously depend upon the level of detail that you require. A one square mile survey of a housing estate or other urban area would cost considerably more than a similarly-sized survey of a field. A field could, most likely, be surveyed quickly and easily using GPS technology and just one or two people. A housing estate would require at least two people, different technology and perhaps additional costs such as traffic management. The sheer amount of detail required on your average urban project can see them taking much, much longer to complete than their more rural equivalents.

Lastly, confirm the deliverables. What level of accuracy is the surveyor willing to guarantee? Does it meet your requirements and/or those of your architects or builders? Will they provide a simple paper plan or will you receive them in a variety of digital formats by a specific date and time? Do they intend to give you an approximation of the lie of the land and the site’s boundaries or will they go into detail about minor variations? How will you receive the data (see below)?

Final thoughts

When you think you’ve located the best surveyor for your job ask for references or try to obtain an honest testimonial. The company’s own website or social media are good places to view honest feedback from clients – both positive and less so. This should give you peace of mind that you have chosen wisely.

When checking out references, look for evidence of the surveyor’s reliability, proof they have delivered on past projects all within the agreed timeframes, too.

Last of all, you should not sign anything binding without a clear agreement of what you will receive once the survey is complete – the ‘deliverables’.

With a mixture of different media types often used in modern surveying, from paper charts to digital images and 3D CAD visualisations, don’t be afraid to ask for confirmation upfront of exactly what your money is buying before you sign anything agreeing to a specific price. If you’re an amateur, it’s always worth asking any prospective surveyor whether they will be willing to talk you through the deliverables, explaining the various features/codes etc. once complete.

Choosing the right surveyor for your job is a very personal journey incorporating a wide range of variables in the decision-making process. However, if you acquaint yourself with the prospects, their credentials and the finer details of each proposal you will be well-equipped to make an informed decision.

5 Responses

  1. A friend of mine is thinking about hiring a land surveyor for one of his projects, and wasn’t sure how to find a good one. It’s interesting that you shouldn’t go with the cheapest option, and be realistic with your project needs. He has always been something that prefers quality over the price.

  2. John

    I like the article’s suggestion to check out references when determining whether or not you should hire a land surveyor. It seems like doing so could give you an idea of the quality of land surveying services they provide. My wife and I would like to sell our home at some point this year, so I’ll be sure to check references when choosing a surveyor.

  3. In your article, you stated that the surveyor will use cutting edge technology to map the land – and in some cases, any adjacent water – in order to let the architects, builders or engineers know exactly what they are dealing with. My brother has been wanting to build a new home on a lakefront property for his family and someone suggested that he hire a construction surveyor. I wonder if most construction companies have a specific person who does all of their land surveying for them.

  4. Thank you for all this great information about choosing a land surveyor. One thing that really stood out to me is that you say to find how many hours of work they will be able to give you for their price. It would be nice to know that you will be able to get the most work for your money.

  5. Allen Stillinger

    I agree with you that it’s good to know that credentials of the surveyor before I hire them. It’s better to work with a professional who is certified to do the job. My friend is asking me about what to consider when hiring a land surveyor, and I think I can answer him now. Thanks a lot. I’ll be sure to pass the information along to him.

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