Surveying FAQs

Surveying

Improvement Location Certificates

LIDAR 3D High-Definition Surveying

Parcel & Easement Descriptions

 

Surveying

What kind of survey do I need?

The kind of survey you need depends on what you are doing on your property. See our residential, commercial or government services for ideas on how to use our surveys for your project.

The easiest answer to this question is to speak to a professional land surveyor by giving us a call at (303) 443-7001.

 

Why do I need a survey?

Here are a few reasons why you may need a survey:
  • If you are building a fence, building or other structure
  • When buying or selling land
  • When the description of your property is not clear
  • When the location of your property corners is unclear
  • To subdivide land
  • When purchasing title insurance
  • To settle a boundary dispute between neighbors
  • To determine if there are any encroachments
 

Who can perform a land survey?

Only a registered professional land surveyor can legally perform a land survey.

 

What is an ALTA survey?

An ALTA (American Land Title Association) survey is a boundary survey prepared to a set of minimum standards that have been jointly prepared and adopted by the ALTA/ACSM (American Congress of Surveying and Mapping). Additionally, an ALTA survey shows improvements, easements, rights-of-way, and other elements impacting the ownership of land. An ALTA Survey is often prepared for commercial properties, as it will provide the title company with the information required to insure the title to the land and improvements to the high degree that a commercial development may require. In addition to the minimum standards set forth, an table of optional elements is included in the ALTA/ACSM standards. A careful review of the elements from the optional "Table A" is helpful in delineating a clear scope of the land surveyor's services.

A current title commitment is required before an ALTA Survey can be completed. The surveyor will refer to the title commitment for the legal description of the property and for the legal description of any encumbrances (exceptions). Areas of ownership, improvements and encubrances will be shown graphically. If the survey discovers any encroachments, they should be shown graphically, and a note indicating the nature of the encroachment may also be added.

The certification language of the ALTA Survey should include the names of the affected parties, including as appropriate the buyer, seller, title company, and lender. The surveyor must work in close association with the title insurance company, as the surveyor and the title company are relying on each others work to show the matters affecting the ownership of the land and improvements in a comprehensive manner.

More about the ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey

 

Can I find my own property lines?

Legally, only a professional land survey can establish a property line. If you are doing any type of construction, it is safer for you to get a boundary survey than run the risk of encroaching onto your neighbor's property.

 

Has my property already been surveyed?

Not necessarily. Land may be mapped for tax purposes, but not all properties have been surveyed. You can give us a call to find out if your property has been surveyed.

 

How will my property corners be marked?

We will mark your property corners with either aluminum caps, aluminum disks or brass tags, depending on the type of ground in which the corner is to be placed. These monuments will be stamped with the licensing number of the surveyor certifying the survey. Depending on the type of monument they may also contain the stamping "Flatirons Surveying".

 

I found my corners. I don't need a survey, or do I?

All too frequently, multiple corners will found within feet of each other, all supposing to be the same corner. A land surveyor will need to weigh the evidence based on his education, experience and land laws to determine the correct corner of your property.

 

Why do I need a survey if I'm building a fence or addition on my property?

Since a fence is a relatively permanent structure, you will want to be sure of the location of your property lines before construction. Although some public agencies will issue a building permit (if required) upon presentation of an Improvement Location Certificate, it should not be relied upon for the establishment of any permanent structure. The prudent course of action is to locate existing property corners that delineate your property line and have the validity of the monuments verified by a surveyor. If you are not able to find your property corners, ask for the assistance of a surveyor. He may be able to find monuments using a magnetic locator and cloth tape. If the surveyor is not able to locate existing monuments, you may need to have a boundary survey performed.

Along with the information required to build a fence, the location of any existing structures may be helpful. This information would be provided on an Improvement Survey Plat (ISP). If new improvements are significant, the preparation of a topographic map may help to determine a finished floor elevation that will allow for both drainage and a pleasing appearance. After the preparation of construction plans, a surveyor can stake the proposed building corners to ensure that the information is transferred accurately to the ground and to ultimate construction.

 

Don't I own all the land to the back of the curb of the street?

Usually, no. A public road or street lies within what is known as a "right-of-way." This area is typically wider than the street itself.

 

What is an easement and what is it doing on my property?

An easement is an area of land owned by the property owner, but in which other parties, such as utility companies, may have limited rights granted for a specific purpose. If a utility company owns the rights, they may have a utility line running below the ground, across your property.

 

Aren't all surveys basically the same?

No. Every survey is unique. The land survey process begins with researching documents (i.e. deeds, plats, title commitment, previous surveys, etc.) as each property has its own history.

 

Why can't the county surveyor survey my property?

County surveyors in most cases do not survey private property. Land owners are referred to private land surveyors for their services.

 

Why is my new survey different from an older survey?

Discrepancies between surveys are usually attributable to two reasons. The first reason is that measurement, by its nature, is subject to error. A person can count one hundred beans and get the same number as someone else counting one hundred beans. However, if two people each measure a cup of beans, it is likely that they will have different numbers of beans. Two surveyors measuring the same line may obtain different values. Both of the values should be similar, but they will only approach the true theoretical value through repetition and statistical analysis. The second reason is that measurements are made from, and decisions are based on, found evidence. Surveys performed at different times may not have the same evidence available. The more recent survey may have the benefit of monuments set after the prior survey, and previously existing monuments used for the prior survey may have been obliterated. As the available evidence changes, the findings of the surveyor will also change.

 

What is an encroachment?

Encroachments are improvements, such as fences or buildings, which extend across the property line.

 

What is a plat?

A legal document intended to take a large parcel of land and divide it into smaller parcels of land. A subdivision plat may also create public rights-of-way or easements, and is usually filed with the county clerk & recorder's office.

 

What's the difference between a condo and a townhome?

In most cases, the owner of a condo only owns the interior of the unit itself. The exterior, the land below the property, the air space above the property, the front and back yards (if any), and other areas in the development, are all commonly owned by the other owners in the development. In contrast, the owner of a townhome, typically owns the interior and exterior of the home, the land above, below and in front and back of the home.

 

On an old survey, I have one elevation and my new survey has a different elevation at the same point. Why?

There are different coordinate systems. The surveyor will need to calculate the conversion factor to be able to adjust the elevations.

 

How much will a survey cost?

The surveyor's cost estimate will be based on the anticipated difficulty and estimated time needed to complete the project. Fees can be estimated, but the surveyor cannot predict the amount of work required to recover the necessary evidence. The amount of time required to obtain field measurements and make boundary determinations depends on the availability and proximity of the discovered evidence. The surveyor will be able to provide you with a cost estimate based upon an hourly rate, experience with similar jobs, and a general knowledge of the area, but actual costs may not be known until the project is completed.

 

What can I do to reduce the cost of my survey?

Any documents you may have regarding the ownership of your land can be very helpful in the preparation of your survey. This would include a title insurance policy or commitment, a previous survey of any type, or any other relevant documents you may have. If you are aware of any property corner monuments near the survey, let the surveyor know of their existence and, if possible, make the monuments apparent by placing something more visible around them, such as a piece of cloth or plastic flagging.

 

Is it against the law to remove a property corner?

Yes. Any person who knowingly removes, alters or defaces any public land survey monument and/or boundary monument or accessory, commits a class two misdemeanor pursuant to state statute 18-4-508, Colorado Revised Statutes.

 

What is the time frame for the land survey process?

Essentially the land survey process involves establishing the type of survey the customer needs, researching documents (i.e. deeds, plats, title commitment etc.), field collection for boundary, improvements, topography, and a variety of other features, data processing and drafting the final map, and distribution. The land survey process can be completed in one week or take years. Depending on the type of survey ordered, season ordered (summer is busiest), availability of past surveys and legal documentation, as well as the size and location of the site (e.g. new subdivision vs. mining claim) are just some of the variables affecting both the price and time frame in which a survey can be completed. Typically Flatirons Inc. has a 1-2 week turnaround for Improvement Location Certificates, Plot Plans, and Housestakes. Alta's, Improvement Survey Plat?s, Topographical Exhibits, Easement Exhibits can take anywhere from one week to several months to turnaround.

 

What will I get when I order a survey?

With most surveys, you will receive a graphic representation of your property. Depending on the type of survey you receive, will depend of what details are shown. Take a look at the different types of surveys here.

 
 

Improvement Location Certificates

Why do I need an ILC?

ILC's are used to locate the improvements on a parcel of property. Typically mortgage or title companies require them for the buying and selling of homes. They can also be used by municipalities for construction permitting.

 

What does a mortgage or title insurance company have to do with ILC's?

ILC's are certified by a licensed surveyor for the benefit of mortgage companies and title insurance companies, but are not surveys in the strict sense of the word. Before a mortgage or title insurance is issued, the interested parties want to have some assurance that the improvements on the subject property do not encroach onto adjoining properties, and that neighboring improvements do not encroach onto the subject property. In most cases an Improvement Location Certificate will be sufficient to show the relationship (location) of the structures (improvements) to the deed lines as described in the legal description. Distances from the major structures to the nearest deed lines will be shown. This information can show encroachments onto other properties or into areas reserved for easements.

 

What is the difference between an ILC and a full survey?

An ILC is a certificate, not a survey! The measurements shown on an ILC are to the approximate record position of the property line. This line is subject to change if a full survey is performed.

The dimensions shown usually have a tolerance indicating that the measurements are not exact. The field methods employed for an Improvement Location Certificate are often not sufficient to precisely locate the deed line. If it is concluded that encroachments may exist but cannot be ascertained by the preparation of an Improvement Location Certificate, a note suggesting the preparation of a monumented land survey or land survey plat, to determine property line location, may be included. Since the majority of properties clearly have no encroachments, the Improvement Location Certificate provides a way of meeting the needs of the mortgage company and title company without the expense of a monumented land survey.

More extensive surveying may be required to clarify or resolve potential problems uncovered while obtaining measurements for an ILC. A full survey, such as an Improvement Survey Plat, is based upon a more stringent procedures performed to locate the boundaries and will often locate or replace property corners. A full survey can be relied upon to locate future improvements.

 

Can I build a fence based on my ILC?

It is not recommended that any construction be based on an ILC. The property lines shown are a record position and are subject to change. For a more extensive survey, used for construction purposes, a land survey plat or an improvement survey plat are recommended.

 

How much does an ILC cost?

Three factors affect the cost of an ILC: timeframe, distance, and parcel size. Typical turnaround time is 6 business days. If an ILC is needed in less time there is an associated "rush fee." If the parcel is an exceptional distance from our Boulder office (i.e. Parker, Ft. Collins, Idaho Springs) there are associated travel costs. If the parcel is multiple acres, oddly shaped such as a mining claim, or a commercial property, the cost can increase. All prices are estimated on an individual basis and will appear on the work order.

 

Does it matter where I live?

No. The requirements for an ILC are based on state statutes. However, distance from our offices can affect price.

 

Who orders an ILC?

Anyone can order an ILC. Typically, homeowners, mortgage companies, title companies, buyers or sellers order an ILC.

 

How long does it take to do an ILC?

The standard turnaround time for an ILC is 6 days. They may be completed sooner and can be completed with "RUSH Delivery" if needed.

 

What will I get when I order an ILC?

You will receive a paper certificate that shows a graphic representation of the subject property. The standard format is one legal size sheet, but may vary depending on the size of the property.

 

How will I receive my ILC?

ILC's are usually mailed, but may be delivered or faxed as well. PDFs may also be available for quick turn-around. CAD copies are not available for legal reasons.

 
 

LIDAR 3D High-Definition Surveying

What is LIDAR?

LIDAR stands for "Light, Imaging, Detection and Ranging system". It is a three-dimensional laser scan that provides high definition surveying for architectural, as-built, and engineering surveys. Each pixel that is scanned is assigned an x,y,z coordinate that allows for accurate 3D mapping of the object being scanned. Recent technological advances make it the most cost-effective and time-sensitive solution for providing the highest level of detail available for interior and exterior building work. The level of detail captured by high definition survey technology is unparalleled and previously impossible. Infrastructure and complex production systems can also be mapped more easily and more accurately.

 

Who can use LIDAR?

The software used to interpret the scanned data are Leica Cyclone, Cloudworx, and Socetset. Once the points are processed, the data can be exported to engineering software (AutoCAD, LDD, Civil 3D) and GIS software (Arc View, Microstation). 3D scanning allows complete CAD drafting, orthorectified photos, and 3D virtual walkthroughs.

 

Why use LIDAR?

High definition surveying makes data available to a variety of disciplines, such as planning, engineering, construction, demolition, and environmental classification, faster and more detailed than conventional methods allow. In addition, it offers the advantages of improved worker safety, higher accuracy survey data, and rapid project turnaround.

 
 

Parcel & Easement Descriptions

Why do I need a parcel or easement description?

You would need a parcel description to describe the boundary of your property. It is necessary to know the limits of your property for buying and selling the property, tax purposes, subdiving, building, etc.

An easement description is necessary to describe the land that is to be subject to an easement. For example, if a utility line is to be installed underground, the easement description is to specify the area where it lies.

 

Are the boundaries of my property described somewhere?

You should have a description of your property included in your deed when you bought the property.

 

How are my property's boundary lines described?

Your property may be described in different ways. If you live in a subdivion, your description is probably a lot and block number followed by the name of the plat. You can get a copy of your plat from your county clerk & recorder's office. Your property may otherwise be described sectionally or as metes & bounds. Read more about descriptions...

 

Will I need fieldwork in order to do a parcel or easement description?

It depends on the project. In some cases, it is necessary to collect data "on the ground" in order to describe a parcel of land.

 

Where can I find more information about your company?

See the Frequently Asked Questions about our company.

 

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