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Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT IS A BOUNDARY SURVEY?
A boundary survey determines the property lines of a parcel of land described in the owner's deed. It also indicates the extent of any easements (rights of others to use the land), or encroachments (unjustified use of the property by others), and may show the limitations imposed on the property by state or local regulations such as setbacks from roads, abutters, waterfront.

WHEN IS A SURVEY NEEDED?
A survey is strongly recommended before buying, subdividing, improving, or building on your land. Surveying the parcel before these activities ensures that the expense and frustration of defending a lawsuit, moving a building or resolving a boundary dispute can be avoided.

MY BANK REQUIRED A MORTGAGE INSPECTION WHEN I BOUGHT THE PROPERTY. ISN'T THAT A SURVEY?
A mortgage inspection is not a survey. It is a surveyor's opinion that the buildings and major improvements appear to be located on the property described in the deed. Many lenders require this inspection to check for obvious problems such as encroachments, zoning violations, and the need for flood insurance. In preparing a mortgage inspection, the surveyor will use all available information to have the property lines shown as accurately as possible, but it is not a boundary survey and makes no statement regarding boundaries. [top]

AN ATTORNEY HAS CERTIFIED THAT THE TITLE IS CLEAR, IS A BOUNDARY SURVEY STILL NEEDED?
Clear title means that the owner has a lawful right to sell the property. It does not locate or identify the property on the face of the earth, and does not guarantee that the acreage is correct. In addition, title insurance policies do not insure the buyer against defects that would have been discovered if a full boundary survey had been performed. [top]

WHAT DOES A BOUNDARY SURVEY ENTAIL?
The surveyor thoroughly examines the historical records and deed relating to the parcel, and often all the land surrounding it. In addition to the Registry of Deeds, this research may also include the Registry of Probate, county commissioners' records and town offices, historical associations, or the Department of Transportation.

The field work begins after completion of the research and involves establishing a control network of known points called a traverse. The points are used to search for and locate existing monuments and other evidence of the boundaries. Although the field portion of a survey is the most visible phase of the survey; it usually represents only a third of the entire project.

The results of the field work are compared with the research and the surveyor then reconciles all the information to arrive at a final conclusion about the boundaries. A preliminary plan will be produced for the owners inspection and comments before the final plan and deed description are prepared. Finally, another trip is made to the property to set any needed monuments. [top]

HOW MUCH DOES A SURVEY COST?
The cost of a boundary survey depends on many variables, some of which cannot be known until after the work has started. Through a preliminary site inspection and checking existing surveys in the area, an estimated cost can be provided. Factors such as the size and location of the land, the terrain and vegetation and the season usually can be estimated fairly accurately. However, the surveyor will not know if deeded monuments are missing or moved until well into the survey.

The complexity of the research usually is not known until the surveyor begins the actual work. Some parcels have passed through many owners over the years. Some may have added adjacent parcels or sold off portions of the original lot. The more outparcels and consolidations there have been, the more complex and costly the research becomes. Many deeds are 'abutter deeds' which use the neighbors' names to define the boundaries. In some cases it may be necessary to research parcels far removed from the land being surveyed to assemble the jigsaw puzzle of old deeds.

In short, the cost of a survey can vary greatly from one parcel to another and doesn't necessarily relate to the size of the property.  [top]

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF A BOUNDARY SURVEY?
Depending on the services agreed upon, a boundary survey will produce monuments on all property corners, a plan of the property, and a written description of the property. The written description is used by your attorney to draft a new deed. If you are selling the property a deed is needed for the buyer, or if your present deed is vague or inaccurate an updated deed including the precise, mathematical description should be recorded.  [top]

HOW WILL THE BOUNDARIES BE MARKED?
Most commonly, iron reinforcing rod is used (also called rerod or rebar). It is driven into the earth or drilled into ledge. The rod is marked with a plastic cap showing the surveyor's name and license number as required by Maine survey standards. Other types of markers used are pipes, trees, fence bolts, stone cairns, masonry nails, or drill holes. Usually a rod shows about a foot above the ground, but when it has to be set in a roadway or lawn it will be driven flush into the ground. Flagging or wooden stakes are also used for temporary marking along a boundary or setback line.  [top]

WHAT DO I DO WITH THE PLAN?
Record it! Recording your plan at the Registry of Deeds preserves the work for future reference and puts the public on notice that the area shown has been thoroughly researched and documented. In a sense, it provides insurance against most claims or disputes. Normally, besides the copy for the Registry, five copies of the plan are provided. File one away with your records; the others can be used by realtors, contractors, lawyers, or others working with you.  [top]