Land Surveying

The purpose of an ALTA/ACSM* Land Title Survey (commonly referred to as simply ALTA) is for a survey of real property and the plat or map of the survey to be acceptable to a title insurance company for purposes of insuring title to said real property free and clear of survey matters (except those matters disclosed by the survey and indicated on the plat or map), certain specific and pertinent information shall be presented for the distinct and clear understanding between the client (insured), the title insurance company (insurer), and the surveyor (the person professionally responsible for the survey). The current specifications are the “2005 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys”.

*ALTA stands for American Land Title Association
*ACSM stands for American Congress on Surveying and Mapping

Boundary surveys are usually needed when someone wants to re-establish their physical property boundaries for which a legal description already exists.  In this case the client would provide the surveyor with the most current legal description of the property which can be found on the property deed.  The legal description would then be laid-out in the field following the written description as best possible. Any overlaps or gaps with adjoining parcels would be noted at this time as would any encroaching structures or roadways. If there are any discrepancies it would be up to the affected property owners to resolve the issue, the surveyor does not have the power to settle disputes, only to advise on a solution.  A boundary survey would also be required for the subdividing of land through land splits or a platted subdivision or condominium.

A lot survey is a type of boundary survey where the entire parcel of land is in a platted subdivision or condominium. In this case the parcel would be identified as lot number, or in the case of a condominium a unit number, in a particular subdivision (or condominium).  When dealing with lot surveys, the entire parcel can be usually surveyed with out having to go outside of the subdivision boundaries.  A parcel of land in a subdivision can also be a part of a lot, multiple lots, or any such combination.

We refer to a land split being when a land owner wants to subdivide their property without going through the platting process.  The rules governing the maximum number of splits and the minimum size of the new parcels can be found in sections 108 and 109 of Act 288 of 1967, known as the Land Division Act. These rules, however, are the minimum requirements and your local municipality may have additional ordinances that can further restrict the number and size of splits.

A plot plan (also referred to as a site plan) is generally needed when you want to build a new house.  In order to do a plot plan the information we must be provided with is the legal description for the building site and the foundation plan for the house that is going to be built.  We then do a boundary survey (although no certificate will be provided and no corners will be set) and a topographic survey.  Then our CAD department takes that information and draws out the building site and positions the foundation in the desired location maintaining the proper set-backs for your municipality.  We also show any new utility connections that will be made for public water, sanitary and storm sewer.  Once the plot plan is finished we give the copies to you (usually 6 copies are provided) and then you submit them to the municipality.

When someone (the proprietor) wants to subdivide their land and either the number of splits or size of the splits does not met the requirements in sections 108 and 109 of Act 288 of 1967, known as the Land Division Act, then the subdivision must go through the platting process.  The general requirements can be found in Act 288, however the actual rules governing the subdivision are found in R560.101 – R560.401 of the Michigan Administrative Code.

Assessor’s plats are typically requested by a municipality and may be ordered, according to section 201 of Act 288, if any one of the following conditions exist:

  1. When a parcel of tract of land is owned by 2 or more persons.
  2. When the description of 1 or more of the different parcels within the area cannot be made sufficiently certain and accurate, or are deemed excessively complicated by the governing body, for the purposes of assessment and taxation without a survey or resurvey.

A topographic survey (topo) is usually ordered by someone who is planning for a project on a parcel of land. Topos show the physical features of a parcel horizontally and also vertically (an objects elevation). Features typical shown on a topo include: the parcels contours, buildings, roads, above and underground utilities, wooded areas, bodies of water, paved areas, and fences.

If you are having something built, then it is typically required that your project conforms to the plans that have been approved by your municipality.  What the surveyor does is makes sure that the object that is being built is is in the correct location with respect to your property lines and setback lines, and at the correct elevation (grade).  This is accomplished by taking your approved plans and laying-out the critical points in the ground from which your contractor can then use to build the project.  The bulk of our construction staking is for commercial and residential sites, but it is not limited to those areas.  Some typical items we layout are: houses/buildings, public utilities and roads.  Before we are able to do any construction staking we must be provided with your approved site plan and/or full engineering plans.

The exact requirements for As-Builts vary from community to community.  Generally they are to show that when all the construction on a site is completed, it conforms to the approved site plan.  Typically this includes showing the location of the new utilities along with rim elevations and the slope of the pipes, the location and outer dimensions of any new buildings, and more communities are now requiring location and grades of any new curbing and parking areas.

An increasing amount of communities are requiring foundation certificates when a new house or building is be constructed so that any problems can be caught as early as possible.  The foundation certificate is done once the foundation (basement) is completely in, but before any framing is started, to show that the house/building is conforming to the approved site plan.  The certificate commonly shows the location of the foundation with respect to the set-back lines, the elevation (grade) of the top of the foundation or brick ledge, and the elevation of the top of the footer (there may be other items needed in your community).

A grade certificate is required by most municipalities to be done before a certificate of occupancy can be obtained.  The Grade certificate shows the location and exterior dimensions of the new house and the grading of the building site in comparison with the proposed information on the plot plan.  The grade certificate is usually done once all of the exterior construction of the house is complete, the site has been final graded (ready to be seeded or sodded), and all of the flat-work is in (ie. the driveway and sidewalks).

Flood Certificates, or Elevation Certificates, are generally required by banks or lending institutions for houses that are in flood zones as designated by FEMA.  The certificate is used to determine if there is a need for flood insurance, and what the premium will be.