Morse Engineering and Construction Industries

4 Types of Property Surveys

Joseph Coupal - Friday, October 04, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

There are several different types of surveys.

The type of survey that we order for closing is called a “Location Survey.” A Location Survey shows the location of the improvements on the property in relation to the apparent boundary lines of the property. It generally involves a physical inspection of the property and is accurate to plus or minus a few feet.

This type of survey will generally cost a few hundred dollars. It should not be used for the purpose of identifying the property’s boundary lines, such as for construction or permit purposes (you’ll need a Boundary Survey for that). When you go to closing, you should feel free to ask the settlement attorney any questions you might have about what is shown on the survey.

A “Boundary Survey” is used to identify a property’s boundary lines. In this type of survey, the surveyor will set (or recover) the property corners and produce a detailed plat or map. To accomplish this, the surveyor will research the public records and do research in the field, take measurements and perform calculations.

This type of survey is what is necessary for construction and permit purposes, and it can be expensive — possibly even several thousand dollars — depending on the size of the property and how complicated the records are.

For commercial closings, lenders will usually require a type of survey called an “ALTA/ASCM Survey.” ALTA stands for American Land Title Association, and ACSM stands for American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. An ALTA/ASCM survey is a Boundary Survey that must meet certain stringent standards established by these two organizations.

If you are buying a house and you plan on doing construction in the short term, such as putting on an addition or installing a fence, it might make sense to obtain a Boundary Survey as part of your purchase closing. That way, you would not be paying for a Location Survey for the closing and then having to pay for a Boundary Survey after closing.

You would just need to inform the title company so that they can arrange for the surveyor to perform a Boundary Survey instead of a Location Survey.

Property survey in practice

Where questions come up after closing regarding the property lines, but a full survey plat or map is not needed, another option is to have a surveyor “Mark the Property Corners.”

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


What is a Property Survey and Where Can You Get One?

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, September 26, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

Property surveys are done to determine or confirm land boundaries, such as the plot of land a home sits on, and identify other types of restrictions and conditions that apply to the legal description of a property.

Whether you’re buying a home or building an addition onto your property, you’re going to need a property survey. Let’s explore in more detail what it is and how to get one.

What is a property survey?

A property survey is all about defining what’s yours and what isn’t. They’re done for many different reasons.

Surveys are used to establish boundaries when new parcels of land are being developed, as well as to identify and confirm already established land boundaries.

For example, if you’re considering putting up a fence on your property, you’ll need to know where your property line ends — and where your neighbor’s begins. That’s what a property survey helps you determine.

If you’re looking to buy a home, you might be required to get a survey, depending on where you live. Many lenders and title companies require a copy of a survey to close on a home, but they’re not mandatory everywhere.

Where do I find my property’s survey?

If you’re buying a home, ask the seller to check with their lender and/or title company to see if there’s a property survey on file. The local tax assessor’s office may also have one.

If you’re already a homeowner and a survey was never provided to you, your local property records or engineering department may have one on file, but it’s probably older and could be outdated. While such dated surveys are typically accurate on standard city lots, they can be wrong if you live on a former country parcel that’s been altered for suburban development. You can also check with neighbors to see where they got theirs.

What are the different types of property surveys?

Because there are many reasons to have a survey done, there are a few different types of surveys.

For example, land surveys are done to show the boundaries of a parcel of land. There are also topographic surveys, which show the plane as well as the elevation of land. If road improvements are requested, for instance, a topographic survey would be needed.

Other types of surveys include:

  • Monumentation surveys: These are done if you want to add a fence to your property.
  • As-built surveys: Determine property lines but also where improvements can be made, like driveways and sidewalks.
  • Mortgage surveys: Like as-built surveys, these show property boundaries for an entire property that will be mortgaged.
  • Floodplain surveys: Show flood hazard areas.

If you’re requesting a property survey, be specific about why you need it. That way when you get an estimate for the work, it’s accurate in relation to what you need done.

Why are property surveys important?

While property surveys aren’t required everywhere, they are in many jurisdictions across the country. That’s because they detail how your property is defined in an official capacity. Rather than guessing where your property lines are, you have a document that makes it clear.

Property surveys are required for lender title insurance policies.

In order for a title insurance policy to be issued, it needs to be known if there are any encroachments on the property prior to closing. They’re usually done before a home purchase, or when someone is putting a pool in or a fence.

Cities or contractors will require a survey before permits can be pulled. So if you’re hoping to build a pool in your backyard, you’ll need a recent survey completed. While there’s a chance you could use an old survey to pull permits, it’s not always guaranteed. In that case, you may want to get a new survey completed.

How much a property survey costs

The cost of a property survey depends on what type of survey you need and the property’s size, location and history. A simple property boundary survey costs anywhere from $100 to $600, while a mortgage survey costs an average of $500, according to data from HomeAdvisor, which lists average costs for various types of property surveys. The more complex a property’s features and records history, the more you’ll likely pay for a surveyor’s time.

If you’re buying a home and need a survey to establish property lines, determine whether a property is in a floodplain or because your lender requires one, you will pay for the survey.

How do I hire a property surveyor?

Searching for property surveyors in your area is one of the best ways to find companies to get the job done.

There is a surveying society in each of the 50 states, all of which are affiliated with NSPS. Each of those societies has a website, which will typically include a ‘Find A Surveyor’ section.

Don’t be afraid to ask your title company or lender for recommendations. This can help you find a trustworthy and reliable surveyor near you.

You should also take the time to question your potential surveyor. Talk about your needs beforehand to make sure they can fulfill the requirements. Check that the surveyor is licensed to practice in the state where the property is located.

Be mindful of how much time it takes to complete a survey. Wooll says property surveys can usually be completed within a week, but it could take up to three, depending on the company.

There’s no way to determine exactly how long it’ll take to complete a survey since there are so many variables to consider, including the quality and availability of property records, such as deeds.

Bottom line

You might not need a property survey done before buying a home. In some cases, your lender or title company might require one, so make sure you’re prepared for the additional legwork and cost. Whether you’re closing on a home or planning a major addition, knowing your property’s precise boundary lines can help avoid costly headaches and disputes with neighbors later on.

If you have questions about getting your property surveyed, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


10 Reasons to Have Your Property Surveyed

Joseph Coupal - Friday, September 13, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

Most people seek out the expertise of a professional surveyor to settle common property description issues before they become problems. The following are some common reasons property owners hire a surveyor.

1. Boundary Lines

One of the most common reasons a landowner seeks the assistance of a surveyor, the location of boundary lines and other lines of occupancy or possession is a critical piece of information to have before you build a fence, add a sun-room or pave your driveway. All too often the survey shows that you and your neighbors were operating under the wrong assumption about the placement of the boundary line between your properties. Before you have that fence erected, you want to make sure it will be built on your property, not your neighbor's. The boundary line certification will also tell you whether the legal description of your property is accurate.

2. Gores, Overlaps, and Gaps

Part of the boundary line certification, most surveys include a statement that unless the surveys shows otherwise, there are no discrepancies between the boundary lines of your property and the adjoining property. This is especially pertinent if your property is continuous with alleys, roads, highways, or streets.

3. Rights-of-Way, Easements, And Abandoned Roads

A survey will show all the conditions imposed by law that are reflected in your property's title report and other agreements. If your property blocks your neighbor's access to the road, for example, there may be an old agreement (called an "easement") that gives your neighbor the right to walk across your yard to the street.

4. Ponds, Rivers, Creeks, Streams, Wells, and Lakes

The typical survey reports visible or surface waters only. Underground waters and wetlands are topics that are better covered by other professional inspections.

5. Joint Driveways, Party Walls, Rights-of-Support, Encroachments, Overhangs, or Projections

Unbeknownst to you or your next-door neighbor, you may have an obligation by law to support your neighbor's driveway by maintaining your own.

6. Existing Improvements

The surveyor will usually certify that the buildings and other improvements, alterations, and repairs to your property that exist at the time of the survey are not in violation of laws or other restrictions such as those regarding height, bulk, dimension, frontage, building lines, set-backs, and parking. Of course, the surveyor will also tell you if your latest improvement is in violation of a local ordinance or other law, which will put you on notice that a change is in order.

7. Water, Electric, Gas, Telephone and Telegraph Pipes, Drains, Wires, Cables, Vaults, Manhole Covers, Catchbasins, Lines, and Poles

Poles and above-ground wires are obvious, but the surveyor can usually report on the existence of underground cables and drains, as well, if the information is provided to him or her by your utility companies and municipality. Such information is important for two reasons. A utility company may have the right to use a portion of your property for upkeep of utility lines, and may have a say in how tall you let your trees grow, for instance. Also, knowing the exact location of underground utilities is critical before any excavation or construction begins.

8. Cemeteries

It is unlikely that unbeknownst to you there is an old family burial ground in your back yard. The survey will show the exact location of any old cemeteries on your plat.

9. Access, Ingress and Egress

Your survey should state, at a minimum, whether there is physical vehicular ingress and egress to an open public street. It may also specify the adequacy of access for a particular purpose, such as delivery trucks, emergency vehicles such as fire trucks, and driveways for tenants.

10. Zoning Classification

You probably know whether your property is zoned for residential or light industrial use. But you may be surprised to discover that your zoning classification puts specific restrictions on how you use your property. This part of the survey simply reports your zoning jurisdiction and classification. Once you have your completed and certified survey, you may want to consult an attorney about whether you are using your property in conformance with zoning ordinances or for other advice about the legal ramifications of your property survey.

Curious About Why You Should Have Your Property Surveyed?

Sometimes a dispute between neighbors is just the result of misunderstanding, such as confusion over where one property ends and the other begins, which is why having your property surveyed is a good idea. If you have questions about getting your property surveyed, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

What is a Property Survey?

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, September 05, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

There's a lot of research you have to do when you're thinking of purchasing an investment as big as a home. This research is also called completing due diligence, which is a real estate term. Essentially it means that you know exactly what state the house you want to buy is in, and that you'll be prepared for whatever happens.

One of the things that you should complete (but sometimes don't have to, depending on your mortgage company) is a property survey. It may not seem like a big deal, but not having a property survey completed, and not following up with the surveyor can create some disastrous results. But first, let's look at what a property survey actually entails:

What is a Property Survey?

You can have your property surveyed at any time, but you will most likely hire a surveyor when you're buying a home or constructing something. Most mortgage companies require a property survey to make sure the property is worth the amount of money they're providing in the loan. However, the property survey is not always legally required. Some mortgage companies will be satisfied with title insurance.

A property surveyor will research into the property before they even look at the land. They'll research the history of the deed and may include a title search. This title search makes sure there are no discrepancies when it comes to who owns the land. All property surveys begin with research into legal descriptions about the land they'll be surveying and its history. Then, the surveyor will actually go out to the property and sketch out the land, its boundaries, and different elements that make up your property. This is called the fieldwork. After surveying, they will provide a type of map detailing the property's legal boundaries. The survey will also include a written description of the property, the street address, the location of buildings and adjacent properties, and any improvements a homeowner can make to the land.

A property survey also includes things like right-of-ways and easements. These are elements that detail what to do with shared yards or driveways, or if your neighbor has a right of way to the street or alleyway between your homes.

Why a Property Survey is Important

It may not seem like a big deal for some, but completing your due diligence when it comes to the property survey can save you from making a very costly mistake, like building your home on someone else's land.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


How to Get a Property Survey

Joseph Coupal - Friday, August 23, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

Are you looking to put up a fence in your yard, but a survey may be required to show where the fence will be added. Is a property survey something you would have gotten when you bought the house?

You may not have received a property survey when you bought your home because they are not mandatory in every jurisdiction. Still, there's a pretty good chance one exists somewhere.

For the record, a property survey, often called a cadastral survey, serves to create a permanent record of property lines, easements and land placement. You've probably seen one of those hard-hat wearing people on the side of a road peering through a tripod-mounted compact telescope called a theodolite, which measures the vertical and horizontal angles on a property to provide the triangulation necessary to create a survey.

Oftentimes, lenders, title companies or both require a copy of a survey to close on a home purchase. If you can't find yours -- assuming you ever needed one for your transaction -- check to see if either entity has a copy on file. The local tax assessor or tax collector may also have one.

That's Not the Only Place to Look

Even if a survey was never conveyed to you, your local property records or engineering department may have one on file, albeit probably an older version. While such dated surveys are typically accurate on standard city lots, they can be wrong if you live on a former country parcel that's been altered for suburban development.

In case you're wondering, your HOA, in requesting a survey, wants to make sure your planned fence won't encroach on a neighboring property and conforms to its uniform standards such as no chain-link fences, no purple fences, etc. (In fact, be sure to get the type of fence you want approved by the HOA first; don't expect your fence company to know the rules and regulations or to get HOA approval for you.)

How to Get a New Property Survey

There's an outside chance you'll need to have a new survey drawn and if that's so, contact a local engineering firm like Morse Engineering and Construction. A surveyor should be able to examine your deed and its property description, as well as any remaining property markers such as iron pins and small monuments to draw a new one. While there's plenty of advice online about how to draw your own survey, most HOAs and organizations requesting one will want to see a professional version.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

Fox Business

Options if the Septic System Fails?

Joseph Coupal - Friday, August 16, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

Seller’s options

If you’re the seller, although the expense is great — generally tens of thousands of dollars — you will likely want to replace the private septic system prior to marketing the property. Marketing a property with a passing Title 5 should lead to a much quicker and less complicated sale than using a “wait and see” approach. Not to mention it’s good to get the distraction of the construction mess, inspections and document recording out of the way when you’re planning your move. A passing Title 5 report is good for two years.

There’s a Massachusetts tax credit available for repair or replacement of a failed septic system for Massachusetts residential property owners. A maximum credit of $1,500 per year may be taken over four years, up to a total credit of $6,000.

Buyer’s options

Perhaps an FHA 203k loan or other construction loan should be considered. These loans, however, may come with a higher interest rate than conventional loan products. Recently quoted rates for a 30-year fixed-rate construction loan was 5.5 percent.

You may be able to obtain a conventional loan if the seller can put funds for the repair or replacement in an escrow holdback account. Funds for this generally need to be 1.5 times the estimated cost. Not all lenders offer escrow holdbacks, and if they do, they may only allow them seasonally during winter months.

If you’re able to pay cold, hard cash for the property, a failed septic system still needs to be repaired or replaced within two years but is often still usable, depending on the type of failure. Be advised: The system will be unusable for a part of the day that the sewage pipe from the home is connected to the new septic tank (or tanks).

It’s best to research Title 5 prior to selling or buying a home. For more information, one good resource is the state’s own consumer fact sheet for septic system repairs and inspections. You can also contact your local board of health. For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

Planning a Septic System with New Construction

Joseph Coupal - Friday, August 09, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Construction Fiskdale, MA

If this is the year you plan to build on your lot, it’s important to consider every aspect of the construction process. If your property isn’t served by a municipal sewer line, for instance, you’ll need to know how to plan for a septic system. Fortunately, there are many advantages of a private septic system, and understanding how these systems work, as well as how to facilitate their installation will make building on your lot go much more smoothly.

Septic systems are environmentally friendly, because they provide homeowners with a simple solution for onsite wastewater treatment. By doing so, they reduce the risk of raw sewage discharge from treatment plants and contamination of groundwater by aging sewer lines. Further, by allowing water to seep into the ground and recharging groundwater onsite, they replenish your home’s clean water supply while helping plants to grow on your property.

Before you build on your lot, contact your city officials to ask about the regulations that pertain to the installation of a septic system. In this way, you’ll be able to learn the requirements for the size of the tank, material from which it is constructed, soil composition, and where the tank should be placed. This should be one of your first steps in building on your lot, because you’ll need to know the minimum distance required from neighboring property lines, your house, and water sources.

Once you’ve determined the regulations, contact the local utility companies, so that they can come out and indicate any lines or pipes you’ll need to avoid when you build on your lot. This is also the right time to schedule appointments with surveyors and inspectors, to make sure you’ve obtained the proper permissions necessary. When you begin to build on your lot, you’ll want to make sure that everything is in order and being handled correctly.

Enlist the help of professionals to install your septic system. A company like Palm Harbor Homes, with experience building in your area, can put you in touch with the right contractors who know how to get your lot move-in ready. When it comes to something as important as installing a septic system, you want to know that you’re working with someone you can trust.

When you’re ready to build on your lot, Palm Harbor Homes can help! Customized to meet your family’s needs, Palm Harbor Homes are built under the highest standards and can be assembled on your property in a matter of weeks by professionals who know how to properly plan for construction. Visit the website to learn more, or connect with the online community on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Why You Need to Inspect Your Septic System

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries, LLC - Septic System in Sturbridge, Fiskdale, MA

Failing septic systems and cesspools can contaminate drinking water, shellfish beds, and beaches. Title 5 of the State Environmental Code protects us by requiring inspection of private sewage disposal systems. Local boards of health receive these inspection reports. Most systems will pass inspection. Title 5 requires the replacement or upgrade of systems that fail.

If you own a home with a septic system or cesspool and plan to put it up for sale, add a bedroom, or change its use, you will need to get a system inspection. This information will help you make the right decisions about who to hire and how to finance repairs.

You'd Better Shop Around

When you need to hire a system inspector, there are two important things to remember:

  1. MassDEP does not regulate inspection fees, nor does any other state agency. Inspectors can charge whatever their customers are willing to pay. The fee also may vary depending on the complexity of the inspection.
  2. Only certain professionals may perform Title 5 system inspections:
    • Professionals who meet experience requirements and have passed a MassDEP-administered exam;
    • Registered Sanitarians;
    • Certified Health Officers; and
    • Registered Professional Engineers who specialize in civil, environmental or sanitary engineering.

Before hiring anyone, do some comparison shopping:

  • Get written estimates from several inspectors. Ask them whether the price of the inspection includes pumping the system; often it does not.
  • Ask for and check each inspector's identification and references.
  • Before signing a contract, be certain that it spells out the work plan, the cost and payment terms, and any guarantees the inspector is willing to provide.
  • Once the inspection is complete, make sure the person who signs the form is the same person who conducted the inspection.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


Four Options for Septic Systems When Building a House

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, July 18, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Construction

To plan your ideal home and watch it come into being is a pretty amazing process. And there’s probably nothing like the topic of sewage to burst that happy bubble where you daydream about your new home.

Buzzkill or not, building a house in rural New England often means a private septic system might form a crucial part of your new home reality. You won’t just be making decisions about laminate vs. hardwood flooring or what color the exterior of your house should be. You’re going to have to deal with something that sounds nasty even to just say it aloud: effluence.

Let’s make sure we even know what a septic system is. The main objective of a septic system is to remove waste from the house, disperse effluence into the ground, and then let nature take over the job of “treating” the water. That is, filtering the liquid waste through soil, sand, and gravel and returning it into the aquifer from which it originated.

Very early on in the construction of your home, a general contractor will talk to you about what kind of septic system your property will need. The best system will depend on a combination of factors, such as how many people live in the house and the soil composition and soil depth of your land.

In most cases, though, your septic choice will be among a set of four standard options.

Gravity Fed: In this passive system, waste leaves the house through a pipe, which is connected to a fiberglass or concrete tank. Inside the tank, naturally occurring bacteria break down the solids contained in the incoming waste. Eventually, as more sewage comes into the tank, gravity forces the old sewage out. It is dispersed through a series of perforated pipes that are buried in gravel-filled trenches several feet under the ground.

Pressure Distribution: This system is similar to the gravity fed system, except that it includes a pump. Instead of waste gradually ending up in the drain field (or leach field), the pump periodically floods the drain field with effluence.

Sand Filter: This system also uses pumps, but instead of the waste being pumped directly into the soil, it is first dispersed through a series of pressurized lines placed atop a bed of gravel. From there, the effluence trickles down through what is, essentially, a box of sand. The sand treats the wastewater, which collects in a drain under gravel and is then moved into a second pump chamber before being pumped into a drain field.

Mound: In this system, pumps disperse effluence into a sand- and gravel-filled bed that is constructed above the natural surface of the ground.

It’s details like this that can make the difference between a house that’s easy to maintain and one that requires far more attention far more frequently. For more information on other important aspects of building a house, check out our blog on construction terms you need to know!

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

Options if Your Site Fails a Perc Test

Joseph Coupal - Friday, July 12, 2019
Percolation Testing

Even if your site fails a perc or deep-hole test, all is not lost. For sites with high water tables, you may be able to “de-water” the leaching area by strategically placing gravel-filled trenches and subsurface drain pipe to conduct water away from the drain field. You’ll need a highly experienced earthwork contractor, and possibly the help of a civil engineer or geotechnical engineer, to make this work.

Also, a wide range of alternative septic systems have been developed in recent years for use on almost any type of site. Find out which systems are approved for use in your area and which might be suitable for your site. In general, these systems cost more and many require pumps, alarms, and other components that require more monitoring and maintenance than a standard septic system. As these become more common and more widely accepted, formerly unbuildable lots may all of a sudden become approved building lots. As with all new building technology, however, look at products and systems with a proven track record in the field.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.