Property Survey in Canada

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What You Should Know

  • A property survey is a formal inspection of a property's boundaries.
  • The purpose is to demonstrate the land you own and prevent disputes.
  • You should order a land survey if you are buying, financing, or constructing a home.
  • Hire surveyors that are provincially licensed to guarantee the highest work quality.
Five-Step Guide to Hiring a Property Surveyor

A property survey (otherwise known as a land survey) is a formal inspection of the boundaries of your property. The survey results are written in a formal legal document and presented visually as a map of the property's boundaries and attached structures.

What is a Survey?

A survey shows how large the property is and maps out where the boundaries are. It also maps out any buildings or other structures on the property. There are GPS coordinates for all the corners and measurements for the lengths in between. The survey will also show any roads that touch the property line.

However, the survey only represents the land at a specific point in time. Any reliance on a survey plan must be done cautiously. A site may change with new fences, building additions, or age.

The importance of a survey

Land Surveyor

The purpose of a land survey is to understand the exact geographic boundaries of the property. You receive a legal document that protects your ownership rights if there is ever doubt about who owns what portion of the land.

This prevents neighbours from fighting over land as you can prove the boundaries of your property. The survey will communicate the border between two plots of land and where the fence should lie.

Property survey steps

After hiring a surveyor, they will complete three steps to verify what lies on your property. The surveyor will:

Step one: Review ownership history

Property surveys begin with an examination of legal descriptions for the land being examined, as well as its history. Your surveyor will review local databases to analyze the history of the deed and title. The title search ensures there are no discrepancies about who owns the land.

A property survey also covers rights-of-way, easements, and other details. These are items that describe how to use common yards or driveways, as well as whether your neighbour has the right of way to the street or alleyway between your homes.

Step two: Surveying fieldwork

Next, the surveyor will come out and measure where each boundary lies and all of the buildings or other structures on that property. Their goal is to determine everything that belongs to your property. The survey will mark any fences, roads, lakes or rivers that intersect the property line and highlight where they end within the property.

Surveyors must follow specific requirements for accuracy. All measurements are taken using exact equipment, such as laser levels and tapes; total station; GPS units; digital angular measuring instruments (DAMI); or a combination thereof.

Step three: Create an ownership map

After conducting research, the surveyor will provide a map that shows the legal boundaries of the property. It will outline all the measurements made during fieldwork; including all corners, along with the lengths and bearing between them. The finished product will also include a description of the land, the street address, buildings, and neighbouring properties' locations.

When to get a property survey

Buying a home

If you're purchasing property in Canada, having the plot surveyed before closing the deal is wise. This will allow you to understand which plot you are buying and prevent any mistakes. It's also wise to have an updated survey done if there has been any subdivision of property since the last time a survey was done (i.e., legal description changed).

Financing a property

Your Canadian mortgage lender may require a property survey to protect their investment. They want to ensure that the property and structures they are financing are represented in the paperwork submitted with the transaction. They also want to know that if the mortgage goes into default, they will not encounter title or boundary issues in re-selling the property.

Construction project

Building Construction

Suppose you have an existing home and want to add on or build. In that case, it is essential to have your land surveyed professionally to avoid problems with construction. A survey will prevent you from accidentally building onto your neighbour's property. Additionally, you will understand the zoning restrictions of your plot.

Types of Canadian property surveys

Surveyor's Real Property Report (SRPR)

An SRPR shows the position of buildings or structures concerning the property's boundaries. This standard assessment also displays other physical features and registered encumbrances, such as easements located on or adjacent to the property.

Site Plans

A site plan is a drawing, or set of drawings, depicting the current layout of completed property improvements such as new buildings, driveways, parking lots, pedestrian walkways, fences, and town services. The plan must also detail any proposed improvements. Site plan approval typically needs to be approved before receiving a building permit for commercial, institutional, industrial and residential development.

Topographic Surveys

A topographic survey shows the elevations, contours on and below the property. The contour lines depict the slope of the property. Closer contour lines demonstrate a steeper slope. In contrast, further contour lines indicate a flatter slope. If boundary information is required, a professional land surveyor must be engaged to prepare the topographic plan.

How much does a survey cost?

The cost of the survey depends on the size of the property and the type of survey being completed. For example, a topographical survey may be more expensive because it requires extra stake-out points to ensure accuracy. On average, the cost will range from $150 to over $600 for larger properties in Canada. A land surveyor should be able to provide you with an estimate based on your individual needs.

Hiring a property surveyor in five steps

Across Canada, land surveyors are overseen by The Canadian Board of Examiners for Professional Surveyors (CBEPS). However, each province has their associations, as demonstrated in the next section. When hiring a property surveyor, make sure to follow these five steps:

Step one: Find local surveyors

There are two methods to initially finding experienced property surveyors in your area:

  • Review local surveyor associations databases to find the contact information of local professionals.
  • Reach out to your network and talk to colleagues with experience in real estate. Your real estate attorney, real estate agent, or title representatives might be able to assist you.

Step two: Qualify surveyors

After receiving recommendations, review the licenses of any surveyors you find. In Canada, surveyors are typically licenced by provincial boards that mandate a code of conduct. In particular, screen out any surveyors that aren't licensed or have significant complaints.

Step three: Interview surveyors

After narrowing it down to qualified surveyors, interview a few to determine their experience with projects like yours. As mentioned above, there are various types of surveys, so a particular surveyor may not have expertise with what you need.

Ask for references that you can talk to. Ask the surveyor what she thinks the project will require, how long it will take, how much they expect it to cost, and if anything could make the price go up.

Step four: Understand costs

Clarify the billing structure of the surveyors. Understand how they charge for travel. This is especially important if you are located far from the surveyor's office.

Additionally, ask about hourly costs for surveys that take longer due to weather. Spring and summer may conceal survey marks with vegetation, while winter snows can cover landmarks entirely.

Step five: Finalize

Choose a surveyor who provides the most appropriate combination of experience, reputation, and service. While the cost of a survey is essential, it's generally minor compared to your total real estate project. Getting it done correctly might save money in the long run.

Hiring a land surveyor in Ontario

Toronto, Ontario

The Association of Ontario Land Surveyors (AOLS) has high standards for registration. Applicants must receive a bachelor's degree from an approved program in addition to a minimum one-year apprenticeship with exams.

You can find an AOLS licensed surveyor on their website. This ensures that you get someone who has undergone rigorous education and has passed all exams.

Hiring a land surveyor in Quebec

The Ordre des arpenteurs-géomètres du Québec (OAGQ) is the governing body for surveyors in Quebec. Applicants must complete three steps to become licensed practitioners:

  1. They must receive a bachelor's degree in geomatics from an approved institution.
  2. Candidates must complete professional evaluations and a one-year internship.
  3. An oath is required.

The OAGQ makes it easy to find certified land surveyors on their website.

Hiring a land surveyor in British Columbia

The Association of British Columbia Land Surveyors (ABCLS) oversees the licensing in the province. To become an accredited member, applicants must complete field project reports, an examination, and a professional assessment interview.

Although the ABCLS does not provide recommendations, you can use their public register to analyze status, contact information, and areas of practice about their members.

Hiring a land surveyor in Alberta

The Alberta Land Surveyors Association (ALSA) manages the licensing process in the province. The most common route to becoming an Alberta and surveyor begins with having your academic credentials evaluated. Candidates must then obtain field experience and pass a series of professional exams.

ALSA provides a land surveyor search to verify that your chosen surveyor is licensed.

The bottom line

To conclude, a land survey will help you understand where your property boundaries lie and what is included with your land. It's best to hire a surveyor when buying, financing, or constructing a new property. Always verify that your surveyor has licensing with your provincial association to ensure the best quality of work.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often do I need a property survey?

When you're buying a home, get a surveyor to conduct an up-to-date assessment of the property. Don't trust an old property survey given by the owner since it may not reflect recent modifications to the property that might impact its usage and value. Furthermore, if the previous survey is more than six months old, most lenders will refuse

How to get a copy of my property survey?

A copy of an older survey may be obtained from the following places:

  1. The mortgage holder of your property
  2. The lawyer who oversaw the property purchase
  3. A neighbour may have a copy of their survey, which may include your property.

How much does it cost to survey property lines?

A residential property survey costs on average between $150 to over $600 for larger properties in Canada.

Why would someone survey my property?

Someone else would survey your property because they are considering buying it. They want to be sure that what you say is true about your property matches what their survey reveals.

How long does a property survey last?

A property survey can typically be completed within a week. However, some projects may take up to three weeks.

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