Do You Need a Land Survey (And How Much Does It Cost)?

It might be a good idea if you’re buying a home

Surveyors Measuring Land in Rural Scene
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 Getty Images/Casarsa Guru

Many home buyers—even first-time ones—are aware of the home inspection and appraisal that are usually required to purchase a house. But there may be another assessment you need before you can close the deal.

If you’re gearing up to buy a house, you may also have to get a land survey. Also called a property or location survey, land surveys are professional drawings that outline the exact boundaries of a property, as well as the dimensions and location of any home, structures, easements, or additions located on the premises. They may also include any fence locations, elevation or topographic details, and rights of way.

Is a Land Survey Required?

An up-to-date land survey is usually required by mortgage lenders to confirm the boundaries and contents of the land they’re financing and to ensure it’s worth the funds they’re lending you.

In general, your lender will expect you to pay for the surveyor’s fee as part of your closing costs.

If you’re not using a mortgage loan to finance your purchase (in other words, you’re buying the home with cash), you can avoid a land survey and the cost that comes with it. In some cases, a lender will accept a recent or recertified survey from a previous owner.

How Much Does a Land Survey Cost?

According to HomeAdvisor, a property survey can range between $346 and $676. The average cost is right around $500.

Prices vary greatly, however, and they depend on a number of factors, including:

  • Terrain: Surveyors typically charge a premium for land that is harder to access or navigate. Particularly steep properties or those with a lot of trees will usually be more expensive.
  • Plot size: Most surveyors charge per acre, so the larger the property, the more your survey will likely cost.
  • Research: Surveyors don’t just stake out your land and measure it. They also verify the historical and public information that’s available for your property. Depending on how much research is required to do this, it may mean an additional fee.
  • Location and travel time: It’s not uncommon for surveyors to charge for travel time—especially if the property is located far away or off the beaten path. 
  • Type of survey required: Basic boundary surveys cost less than full mortgage or topographic surveys do. You may also pay more for surveying elevation, an addition, or a fence.

The Benefits of a Land Survey

Even if you can avoid the costs of a land survey, you might not want to. Land surveys clearly define the boundaries of what you own and ensure your property is in compliance with local zoning regulations. This can help you steer clear of disputes with neighbors and nearby property owners, and can give you valuable information should you want to improve or add onto the property in the future.

Can You Negotiate Your Land Survey Cost?

Your property survey is one of the fees you can shop around for when buying a home. In fact, it’s listed as such on the loan estimate form you’ll get from your mortgage lender.

To do this, request a quote from several surveyors in your area. Make sure that you’re comparing the same fees and charges, and be careful to ask about any add-on fees you can expect for travel, research, unique terrain, and more. 

Consider asking your real estate agent, lender, builder, or mortgage broker for recommendations, as they may have preferred surveyors who will offer you a discount. 

The Bottom Line

Land surveys aren’t always required when buying a home, but they can be a good idea to protect yourself as a buyer and better understand the property and home you’re purchasing. Fortunately, the cost of a land survey isn’t set in stone, so there is room to save. Shop around, get several quotes, and don’t be afraid to negotiate if you think there’s a better deal out there.

Key Takeaways

Remember, a land survey can help you:

  • Better understand the boundaries and features of the property you’re buying
  • Avoid disputes with neighbors
  • Ensure compliance with zoning laws and regulations
  • Accurately gauge the value of your land
  • Guide you on future additions and improvements