Land Surveying is not comparable to doing something the same way all the time. Every job is different.
There are many questions about Land Surveying, and it is also very common for most people to have at one time heard that "you always have to do it this way, or that way", or there is a law which says it has to be true, or someone worked for a Surveyor for a summer or year, and they know how to Survey, because they learned how to do it.
It is imperative that you, as a landowner, seek the proper answer for your given situation. When consulting with a Land Surveyor, tell the whole story. This will make the Surveyor better informed to give you his/her professional opinion.
Q: Can I find my own property lines?
A: Legally, you must be licensed to establish a property line. In all States, the requirement of licensure to practice Surveying protects the public. If you determine your own property lines, for your own use, you take the risk of being wrong in your determination. If you then built something from your determinations, or findings, and were in error, your opinion would not even be admissable in court, due to the fact that you are not licensed to practice Surveying. If your neighbor had a Surveyor employed to determine the line(s) and you did it yourself, you are beginning by being wrong, having taken that risk. Is it worth it? You can decide that. Land usually costs a great deal of money. It does make sense to know where the property lines are.
Q: Isn't my survey on file someplace?
A: No, not necessarily. Across the U.S., laws, ordinances, customs and requirements differ on whether you have to file a "Survey". Often, "Subdivision Plats" which are prepared by Surveyors, are filed of record in the local Government Courthouse. Many people view these as a "Survey", because they can see their lot on it. If you can find record documentation to substantiate what you "own" compared to what is referred to on the "subdivision plat", it may help you determine what the "approximate" dimensions of a lot are. Keep in mind that these distances as shown are only approximate. The true distance of a lot line is that which is measured between the positions of original, undisturbed lot corners of the subdivision plat. The Land Surveyor is the one who determines these "positions", and determine whether they may be original, undisturbed positions.
Q: Isn't my property already surveyed?
A: No, not necessarily. Across the U.S., laws, ordinances, customs and requirements differ on whether you can build without a Survey, or sell land without a Survey. For the land that is "Surveyed", one often asks how to find that "Surveyed" land boundary on the ground, not just on a piece of paper. This aids in building fences, landscaping, entry roads and driveways, etc. etc.
Q: Why would I need a Land Survey?
A: To find out the boundaries, or features of your land. To build, to develop, to satisfy local code or building requirements. To find out whether you have encroachments on your land or not. To find out where the land is that you own. Hopefully, you are not like many that are needing a Land Survey because they "have to". This would be the case if they are disputing something with a neighbor, because one or both of them had gone on with building, developing, landscaping, fencing or using the land without knowing where the common boundary line is.
Often, the Land Surveyor will spend considerable time to best help the client understand options available, as well as the considerations to weigh of each landowner's situation.
The Land Surveyor acts in his or her Professional capacity to best answer your questions, taking into consideration Statutory Law, Common Law, and local practice.
Acting as a fact-finder, the Land Surveyor will also advise you to contact an Attorney to settle questions or problems of a legal matter.
It is important to realize that the Land Surveyor does not wish to, nor want to be understood by a client to be practicing Law. But the Land Surveyor will best know when Law may be applied to your situation. The reason for this is that the Land Surveyor is first to determine the situation relative to the property, or boundaries of the property. One of the best values, and reasons to hire a Surveyor is to obtain the Professional Opinion of a Licensed Professional Land Surveyor.