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First step to making a plan - a land survey?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 185
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I have started searching and reading as many sites as I can about desert-like land development. It seems that one of the first/best ingredients into a development plan is a land survey that marks out not only the shape and boundaries of the land but also shows the contour (high points and low points) of the land as well. What is the cost of such a survey likely to be for 10 acres? How are surveys priced? by the size of the land? conditions? Am I off base?
 
Posts: 278
Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
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Tom, survey's can be in the thousands of dollars. But the time spent learning to do your best without one is a point to consider. You can always ask a surveyor to give an estimate. When he/she is at your place you can pick their brain for how to meet your goals.
 
master steward
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Tom, I looked into having my 10 acres in Wyoming surveyed . It would have cost me 3000 dollars just to have them show up. My land is covered in trees. They said the trees would have to be cut so they could shoot a line. So more time and money.
Not worth it for me.

By brother and I did a pretty good job just walking through the forest and eyeballing it. I know that wouldnt stand up in court!
 
pollinator
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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Most surveyors today use GPS equipment - so you shouldn't have to cut trees like Miles was told. And if you are in the desert there shouldn't be too many large trees to obscure line of sight surveying. A survey cost will depend on the size of the survey area, what contour interval you want (the smaller the contour interval the more points need to be surveyed), and how far the land is from the surveyor's office. A few to several thousand dollars is the approximate cost you are looking at.

If you have any friends who work for surveyors or engineering firms, maybe they could borrow a total station or GPS for a weekend and shoot the more important areas (near buildings, "zones 1 & 2", etc.). That is essentially what I did. My girlfriend and I did a topo survey of the acre surrounding where the house was going to go. This helped design the house (foundation cut and fill) and figure out the earthworks needed for water capture and such. We really didn't need accurate survey for outer areas since there wasn't much planned except the driveway and a couple check dams. These sorts of things you can design on the fly without survey info.

Otherwise, you can just use hand drawn maps with the aid of a USGS topographic map, satelite imagery (Google Earth or similar), the ILR survey done when the land was purchased and/or the plat map or Warranty Deed from your County or land purchase transaction. You could start with a blown-up copy of the plat, ILR, or Warranty Deed map, add in contours from the Topo map, and sketch in features from satelite imagery.

You probably want to check out the USDA NRCS website also. They have a mapping application that will show you information about the local soils. Of course your observations are also important. For example, the soil thickness on my property varies from a couple inches to several feet on top of bedrock and the soil ranges from clay to clay loam to sand. This type of information will steer your plans.
 
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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There's some really excellent advice and resources here.

All I have to add is that if the property line is not in dispute, you can often rent a laser level and DIY. There likely won't be many trees in your way.

Considering that you are looking at properties in dryland areas, rehydration will be critical to your success - therefore whatever method you choose (swales, keyline, gabion, one rock damns, etc) you will need to know where your contours are. If you don't feel comfortable marking contours yourself for swales, definitely pay to have it done. Most surveyers will know about local soils as well and the NRCS Web Soil Survey is very useful as well.
 
Tom Connolly
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Yes, good advice indeed, that will probably save me $thousands. When buying a piece of property and registering the title, what should be done to prove the boundaries? Sorry for the bonehead questions but I have never owned a piece of property in my life Is there a basic kind of survey just to check the boundaries, without looking into the rest of the property? Is this necessary or advisable?
 
Posts: 118
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,400' Zone 8a
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I had my 2 parcels surveyed. The cost all depends on what you want included. I got the basic with the property lines, but added all easments as well. It ran me about $550.00 for each property.
I bought the first property not knowing about the drainage/equestrian easement in the back. The surveyor found it and that alone was worth the money IMO. It gave me leverage when I went to buy the 2nd property next door.
 
Miles Flansburg
master steward
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Tom, what area of the world are you looking to buy land in?
 
Tom Connolly
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"Tom, what area of the world are you looking to buy land in?"

That is the big question. My sister lives in SW Washington, but I find, as I get older, and with my allergies, that my body prefers warm winters. For that reason, the southern half of Arizona keeps coming up. New Mexico might be a possibility - again in the southern part - because their winters are mild, but the altitude drops the temperature a little bit. Also, land in these places is reasonably priced, without having to buy a hundred or more acres to get a low per acre price. Right now I am looking for maps to help learn about the climate in areas, the amount of wind, precipitation, water levels etc. My heart is really in the mountains but I do enjoy any outdoor area, including the desert, especially if I have a head start to plant it. There is always camping I am hoping to buy something in the next few years so that I can begin sculpting the land to improve the ability to retain water, planting to improve the soil, possibly planting fruit trees if the soil and climate will bear. If I don't return to the U.S. Thailand would be high on the list of places to live. My goal for this year is to answer your question
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