How a Surveyor Can Benefit You

A PERSON generally has few occasions to consult a Land Surveyor. Since such consultation is infrequent, the average person is not aware of the logical steps to be followed when selecting a Surveyor. To help make such a selection, the ASPLS has created a brochure on How To Consult A Land Surveyor. (Brochure to be added)

How The Surveying Profession Serves The Public


Since you may require the services of a Professional Land Surveyor only once during your lifetime, you may not be aware of the logical steps to be followed when selecting a Surveyor.

To help in making such a selection, the Professional Land Surveyors of Alaska have prepared this brochure with the answers to a few commonly asked questions.

In general, a survey should be made before purchasing real property, when dividing a parcel of land for sale, or when adjusting existing parcel boundaries (in conformance with state laws and local ordinances), and prior to the construction of any improvements on the property in which you have an interest.

Remember, the services of a Surveyor today will cost less in time, worry, and money than the cost of moving improvements or defending a lawsuit later!


  • Only a Professional Land Surveyor licensed by the State Board of Registration is legally permitted to perform land surveys in the State of Alaska.
  • Most active surveyors are listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book, website, or from the Alaska State Board of Registration for Professional Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors.
  • Choose a reputable Surveyor in whose skill and judgment you can put your trust. A Surveyor should not be selected by price alone. Competency is of first importance. Your selection should be made when you are sure that the professional you have chosen has all the facts, and is completely aware of your requirements and/or the requirements of the governmental agency having jurisdiction over the property.
  • Ask someone who has employed a competent Surveyor.
  • Surveyors, like other professionals, vary in knowledge and ability. The experiences expressed by clients have shown that the majority of Land Surveyors provide competent work for a reasonable fee.
  • Do not let anyone but a Professional Land Surveyor decide your survey requirements or prepare the legal property description of your land.


  • When buying land, to protect the investment you are about to make.
  • When selling land, to ensure that you are selling just that part intended.
  • When land is not clearly defined by a plat or legal description.
  • Before land is divided by deed, will, or by a court.
  • When a money-lending agency requires a survey, i.e. for mortgage purposes.
  • Before a building, house, or fence is built close to an indefinite property line.
  • Before a lot is conveyed from a larger tract and the lot has not been surveyed.
  • Before timber is to be cut near a property line.
  • When purchasing title insurance.
  • When a line or corner location is unknown or in dispute.
  • When you believe someone is encroaching on your land.
  • When clearing land or doing construction in “wetland” areas under the jurisdiction of the Corps of Engineers.


Surveyors’ fees, like those of other professionals, are dependent on the type of service required, which in turn determines the level of effort and the number of personnel and type of equipment necessary. The following factors help determine the final cost of a survey:

  • Information available
  • Research required
  • Clarity (or vagueness) of the legal description
  • Amount of land involved
  • Number of property corners
  • Improvements such as houses, outbuildings, fences, etc.
  • Terrain
  • Vegetation
  • Accessibility
  • Boundary disputes
  • Personnel & equipment required
  • Surveyor’s familiarity with the area

These variables make it difficult to determine exact fees, but based on general experience in the area and the type of work required, the Surveyor can usually furnish an estimate of the costs. Surveyors familiar with an area or locale are usually more efficient than those who are not.


Most Surveyors use electronic distance and angle measuring equipment, as well as the traditional transit and tape. Some surveyors may use satellite positioning equipment as a measuring tool. Modern computer systems aid in efficiently gathering measurements and in evaluating all collected evidence required to perform the survey. The Surveyor takes pride in being able to use these instruments and computers to perform land surveys efficiently, accurately and cost-effectively.


  • The Professional Surveyor renders a highly technical and complex service. The Surveyor is a member of a professional team–attorney, title company, architect, engineer, and others–and prepares the foundation upon which your project is built.
  • In case of controversy, a Professional Surveyor appears in court in your behalf as an expert witness. No one else can assume responsibility for the correctness and accuracy of the work performed by an individual Surveyor.
  • Many Surveyors also act as their clients’ representative at planning commission meetings and at other public hearings when city or borough approval is required for certain developments.
  • Members of the Alaska Society of Professional Land Surveyors have subscribed to a Code of Ethics and are committed to the highest possible standards in the public’s interest.


Q: Will a Surveyor tell me what I own?

A: No. It is your responsibility to furnish the Surveyor with a legal description, current title report, or policy concerning the parcel that you want surveyed. The Surveyor will then locate the property on the ground, marking the corners with physical monuments, and provide you with a record of the survey map showing the results of the survey. The Surveyor will also disclose the areas that are in conflict so that the title company and/or attorney can resolve any problems.

Q: Will I be shown if there are any encroachments on the property?

A: Yes, if you request the Surveyor to show encroachments in the area of concern to you.

Q: Will I be shown if there are any easements on my property?

A: Yes, if you request the Surveyor to do so, and provide a current title report or title policy to use for this purpose. The Surveyor can supply a map, plat, or exhibit showing this information if you want or need it.

Q: How will I be shown what has been surveyed?

A: Corner markers should be agreed to with your surveyor prior to the survey being performed. The corners on the parcel can be pointed out to you if requested.

Q: Should I explain why I want a survey made?

A: Yes. If the Surveyor knows why you want a survey, the Surveyor can recommend the type of survey you need, and how much detail should be shown on the map, plat, or exhibit, thus saving costs.

Q: Why are there conflicting boundary and easement lines?

A: It is often true that boundary/easement line disputes, gaps, and overlaps are a result of property descriptions which were originally written and recorded without the benefit of the services of a competent Surveyor. It is important to have these lines properly described and surveyed, if necessary when property or easement lines are created or changed. Any newly created or adjusted boundary line requires processing through the local governmental agency as required by Alaska state law and local ordinance.


  • Advise you on whether or not you actually need a survey, and what costs are associated with the type of survey you need.
  • Find your existing property corners and mark them so that they can easily be identified.
  • Establish new markers and monuments for missing property corners.
  • Locate buildings, fences, encroachments and other improvements in relation to the property lines and prepare “As-Built” survey drawings, sometimes referred to as a Mortgage Survey when used for real estate financing.
  • Perform boundary surveys and prepare boundary maps or “Plot Plan” survey drawings showing the boundary information and proposed building construction for government Building Permit applications.
  • Collect topographic and As-Built field data and create topographic and planimetric maps showing contours, elevations, and other existing site information.
    Prepare route surveys for roads and engineering design surveys; set construction stakes from engineering or architectural design plans.
  • Provide positioning surveys to determine exact Latitude and Longitude of features or control points.
  • Advise and cooperate with your attorney, title insurance company, realtor, broker, engineer or architect.
  • Appear in court as an expert witness in a lawsuit.


  • The legal description of the property, (Lot, Block and Subdivision name, aliquot part description, or deed recording information)
  • The exact purpose of the survey
  • A copy of title search or title insurance
  • A copy of plats or plans showing boundaries
  • All available information regarding disputes over corners or boundaries
  • All information you may have about the location of your lines or corners

Provide the Surveyor with as much information as you can about your corners, boundaries, or past surveys, even though you may believe that the information might adversely affect your holdings. It is important to understand that although you may really only want your own boundaries surveyed, the surveyor is also determining the boundary of the adjoining land, and must be impartial in the location of those boundaries. Frequently more time is spent verifying the point of beginning than is spent in laying out the property corners.


  • A written agreement or contract which states what will be surveyed and the type of survey, when it will be done, who will pay for the survey and when.
  • A drawing of the property surveyed, certified by the surveyor responsible for the work, showing what was surveyed, and, depending on the type of survey, such things as what corners were found or set, improvements, and encroachments across the boundaries.
  • For boundary surveys, steel pins or posts at the property corners, with brass or aluminum caps attached, and guard stakes or lath.
  • Any information discovered in the course of the survey which indicates a conflict in lines.

Occasionally boundary or easement line disputes arise. Often they are the result of property descriptions which were written by other than professionally qualified persons and were recorded without the benefit of the services of a competent Land Surveyor.

It is important to have lines properly surveyed and described. A well prepared land survey will likely be the least expensive part of your real estate investment cost, and a boundary dispute or flawed legal description can quickly become the most expensive.


  • Ask the Surveyor to show you proof that he or she is a Registered Professional Land Surveyor licensed in the State of Alaska.
  • Ask the Surveyor what experience they have in performing the type of survey which you are requesting.
  • Surveyors who are members of the Alaska Society of Professional Land Surveyors have taken an oath of commitment to professional conduct and ethics and to uphold a minimum Standards of Practice.
  • Allow adequate time to research and plan the project by contacting your surveyor well before the survey is needed.
  • Don’t mistake preliminary traverse lines for your property lines. If in doubt as to what survey points constitute your property corners, ask the surveyor for help and advice.
  • Have your boundary survey plat and the description recorded as a record of survey, even if the land is not subdivided or conveyed.

Inspect your property lines occasionally, and protect your property corners from destruction by others.


Land or Boundary Survey: A survey for the express purpose of locating the corners and boundary lines of a given parcel of land. This involves record and field research, measurements, and computations to establish boundary lines in conformance with Alaska state law. Easement lines may also be located, if requested, with this type of survey.

Construction Layout Survey: Survey measurements made prior to or while construction is in progress to control elevation, horizontal position, dimensions, and configuration, i.e. stakeout of line and grade for buildings, fences, roads, etc.

Record or As-Built Survey: A survey performed to obtain horizontal and or vertical dimensional data so that a constructed facility may be delineated, i.e. foundation survey, or as-built of improvements. Specifically, an As-Built Survey is a survey to physically locate structures and improvements on a parcel of land, generally for mortgage purposes. This does not always include boundary monumentation.

Geodetic Survey: A survey of areas and points affected by and taking into account the curvature of the earth and astronomic observations.

Control Survey: A survey which provides horizontal or vertical positional data for the support or control of subordinate surveys or maps.

Topographic Survey: A survey locating topographic features–natural and man-made–such as buildings, improvements, fences, elevations, trees, streams, contours of the land, etc. This type of survey may be required by a governmental agency or may be used by engineers and/or architects for the design of improvements or developments on a site.

Hydrographic Survey: A survey for the purpose of the determination of data relating to bodies of water, and may consist of the depth of water, bottom configuration, directions and force of current, heights and water stages, and the location of fixed objects for navigation purposes.

Quantity Surveys: A survey performed for the purpose of obtaining measurements of quantities, usually in conjunction with a construction process, earthwork, etc.

Remote/Homestead Survey: Surveys required for transfer of title from the State of Alaska to lessees of the State of Alaska land disposal programs.

ALTA / ACSM Survey or Extended Title Insurance Coverage Survey: A survey made for the purpose of supplying a title company and lender with survey and location data necessary for issuing American land Title Association or Extended Coverage Title Insurance.

Site Plan or Plot Plan Survey: A combination of boundary and topographic surveys for preparation of a site plan to be used for designing improvements or developments, and obtaining government building permits.

Subdivision Survey: The subdivision of a tract of land into smaller parcels, showing monumentation and survey data on a map, in conformance with local ordinances and Alaska state law.



That to correctly survey a 40-acre tract such as the NW 1/4 of the SE1/4 (see Figure 1) requires a survey of almost the entire section?

Consider the minimum steps that are necessary:

(a) Recover original government corners 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8 (these are corners set by the BLM or General Land Office, usually in the 1900’s).

(b) Establish the center of the section (point A) which is the intersection of a straight line between points 4 and 8, and 6 and 2.

(c) Establish 1/16 corners B, C, D, and E; for example: B being exactly midway between A and 2, etc.

(d) Establish SE 1/16 corner (F) which is the intersection of straight lines between point B and D, and C and E.

The above steps are necessary to locate the four corners of the NW 1/4 of the SE 1/4. Since most sections have dimensions such as in Figure 2 (exaggerated to show that the lines are not straight nor parallel, due to difficulties encountered in the original surveys), it follows that the distances around a “40” will not always be 1320′, nor will the sides be at right angles to each other.

© 1995 ASPLS