The Horrors of Surveying the Land
Our piece of paradise has been found! We are in love with 7-1/2 acres deep in the Pisgah National Forest. The offer was put in, negotiated, and accepted. Now it was time for the land to be surveyed. Seems simple enough and sometimes it can be but in our case it was more of a nightmare from homesteading Hell.
When purchasing raw land, like we ventured into, it is a good idea to get a land survey. Typically a boundary survey is the most basic form of a survey. This is where all the corners are found, laid out, and staked for visual representation. The price and length of time for a survey to be finished all depends on your area, the amount of land, and topography.
As we did, you will learn all the terminology and procedures when ordering a survey for yourself. And if the company doesn’t tell you, then i suggest you ask all the questions you can and make them explain it. It will benefit you greatly, believe me.
The good, the bad, and the very bad!
But like i said early, this is our story on our raw land survey. The good, the bad, and the very bad! At the beginning, we intended to purchase a survey and told our bank as much. Of course everyone said that a survey is a good idea. When it was time to order and hire a surveying company though, we were extremely surprised. Our initial quotes from two different companies ended in exceptionally high prices, around $5-6,000 for 7-8 acres. Those prices were not expected. We expected around $1500 total but not $5000. As we could not afford that high price, we ended up fore going the survey until after the purchase.
It was a gamble but we couldn’t afford it nor was the seller willing to help pay some of the price. We did ask! And if you are starting to read between the lines on this then you will have figured out that this survey is a gamble on a future purchase of land to the buyer. The buyer (us) has to fully pay for a survey on a property that isn’t fully our own. This is the same if you are purchasing a house. It is extremely nerve racking to think of spending a fortune on a survey for someone else’s land especially if the contract falls through. And then again it is also risky to not have a survey on land that the boundaries are hazy and questionable.
Well, the attorneys thought so as well and ended up requiring us to do a survey on the land anyways. They refused to pull any titles before one was completed. Apparently the property was part of a larger tract which was broken up decades ago. It was also surveyed then too and not completely precise.
So back to the drawing board we went in finding a survey company that hopefully didn’t cost us our first born child. Our loan officer from the bank tried to help us find out why it was so much money. The next survey company came back with $4000 price tag which was better but it had a major problem. He said that the title shows the land was only an 1/8th of an acre not 7-8. WHAT!?! This guy put me in a tailspin. His cost was basically a lot of work to completely reform all the boundary lines that show up on the tax map (his words). This made absolutely no sense but I was thankful for his stupidity because it made me put matters into my own hands.
Survey the land yourself
I ended up pulling up the property deed myself. This deed has the old survey description written on it. In looking at it, I was very confused. I have written it out to show you and explain it all .
BEGINNING ON BLACK WALNUT AND RUNS N 86 WEST 57 POLES TO A LARGE HICKORY; THENCE S 20 WEST 14 POLES TO 3 DOGWOODS AT THE LOWER SIDE OF THE ROAD; THENCE SOUTH 6-1/2 WEST 6 POLES TO A BLACK GUM BELOW THE ROAD; THENCE SOUTH 40 WEST 8 POLES TO A STAKE ABOVE THE ROAD; THENCE 54 WEST 10 POLES TO A DOGWOOD BELWO THE ROAD; THENCE SOUTH 10 WEST 10 POLES TO A ROCK ABOVE THE ROAD; THENCE NORTH 67 EAS 72 POLES TO A SARVIS AT THE UPPPER END OF THE GRAVE YARD; THENCE EAST 8 POLES TO A STAKE AT THE LOWER END OF THE GRAVE YARD; THENCE NORTH 38 WEST 26 POLES TO THE BEGINNING.
Now reading this description you might be saying, huh?…what?…this makes no sense. And you would be right where I was when I first read it too. My first question was, what is a pole? One pole is a unit of measurement that equals 16.5 or 5.5 yards. It also equals the same as one rod or one perch. So the math in the first line, 57 poles equals 57 multiplied by 16.5 to equal 940.5 feet. The remaining coordinates were converted from poles to feet so I could properly read them.
NORTH 86 WEST 940.5 FT, SOUTH 20 WEST 231 FEET, SOUTH 6-1/2 WEST 99 FEET, and so on.
I realized real fast that the rest of the survey description was complete hogwash. The “black walnut”, “large hickory”, “3 dogwoods”, these are all descriptions of trees. Trees that existed 30 years ago when this survey was made. I have no idea if those trees are still on the property or cut down or died. The only thing that is useful is the graveyard and the road description. The road is a county road and there is a small county graveyard very close to the property and that has been there about 60 years, at least as far as I can tell.
Now was time to figure out how to quantify the direction and degrees. I had found a free survey calculator online one morning and it worked out well. It is called Tract Plotter. It wasn’t perfect but it definitely did the job I needed it to do. I first entered in my directions and coordinates as they asked for them and it plotted out a general shape of the land and the approximate amount of acreage. The software also gave me an amount of precision; how many acres my measurements were off by. In my case, it was saying I was off by nearly 3/4 of an acre. That is a lot of land to be off by. I can understand why the attorneys wanted to have a survey done on the land. And after all this the moral of my research was that this last surveyor was completely wrong and I was not going to use him.
Well, we did end up finding someone. They luckily charged a much reasonable price at $2600. The owners came up with the more proper amount of acreage at 7-1/2 acres and their time frame was doable. They were fantastic to work with and I ended up giving them a wonderful review on Yelp and on their website.
My advice to you when it comes to surveyors, do your homework on the land and get lots of bids to compare off of. It can save you money, time, and lots of agony.