The practice of surveying land dates back to ancient history. Surveying is used for a number of interrelated purposes, such as to establish a precise location on the earth of a parcel of land along with its exact acreage, to ascertain boundaries for defining an area of ownership and tax liability, and to identify a property by a written legal description or to provide a review of the accuracy of an existing description. This data is of the utmost importance with regard to buying and selling land, and is also used to insure a clean, marketable title.
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There are many different kinds of surveys that can be performed. For undeveloped land a boundary survey is typically employed. This type of survey measures the actual physical extent of the property in question. Most surveys – regardless of type – progress through the following general procedures: first, any pertinent deeds, contracts, maps or other documents that contain a description of the property’s boundaries are located, studied and interpreted. A determination is made of what the actual property description is deemed to be, along with the locations of any physical evidence of the boundaries (in the form of both natural and man-made monuments or markers) that exist in the field. The property is then measured to establish the boundaries, not only using the appropriate existing monuments but with the creation and referencing of new markers where necessary. Measurements are accomplished using a theodolite and other surveying tools. The theodolite measures both vertical and horizontal angles, as used in triangulation networks. After these steps are accomplished, the property description and plat are prepared.
Interpreting the results of a land survey is not as difficult as it may first seem. For instance, a property plat will usually always contain the following information: a directional orientation, typically indicated with an arrow pointing north; the bearing and distance of each boundary line; the property lines of other properties shown on the plat (also known as departing property lines); the names of adjacent property owners listed in the areas of their property that are shown on the plat; any corner monuments, along with the names of any natural monuments (such as “Smith’s Creek”, for example) or a brief description of any unnamed natural monuments (such as “the 30-foot pine tree”); and a title block containing the property’s location and name of owner, the surveyor’s name, the date the survey was performed, the scale of the plat and any other relevant data.
If you need the services of a land surveyor, be sure that you’re hiring an experienced, certified and highly competent professional. Surveyors can certainly be found in the Yellow Pages, but word of mouth is often invaluable. Ask a relative, friend or co-worker who’s recently made use of a land surveyor’s expertise, or inquire with the local tax assessor for recommendations. Professional organizations can also be instrumental in identifying their members in your local area.
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