Survey Definitions

Accuracy
Accuracy relates to the quality of a result, and is distinguished from precision, which relates to the quality of the operation by which the result is obtained. Your surveyor should be accurate and precise – We are!

ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey
A survey usually reserved for commercial properties. There are many criteria agreed upon by various interested parties and the surveyor regarding what services will be performed for the survey and shown on the map.

Building Line
The allowable minimum setback for a house or building from the lot lines. Setback lines are established by zoning considerations or by developers and enforced by local municipal zoning administrators.

Certified Survey Map
A recordable map which divides land, up to four lots. The State and local municipalities have laws and ordinances that regulate these surveys.

Easement
Areas of land owned by the property owner, but in which other parties, such as utility companies, may have limited rights, granted for a specific purpose.

Encroachment
A structure or part of a structure that occupies the property of another.

Encumbrance
An interest or a partial right in real property, which diminished the value of ownership, but does not prevent the transfer of ownership. Mortgages, taxes and judgments are encumbrances known as liens. Restrictions, easements and reservations are also encumbrances, although not liens.

Exception
From a title insurance policy, portions of the land containing encumbrances and in which free and clear title is subject to certain conditions. From a legal description, portions of land which are included in a larger parcel of land but then excluded from it by a subsequent legal description.

Flood Plain
An area delineated by a flood study known or suspected to flood during periods of extensive rain fall or the spring ice melt of ice filled rivers.

Improvement
Usually some sort of manmade structure, although perhaps not always a literal “improvement”.

Legal Description
A method of describing a particular parcel of land in such a way that it uniquely describes a particular parcel and no other. A legal description may be a single reference to a lot as shown on a subdivision plat or be described by metes and bounds. To be adequate, it should be sufficient to locate the property without oral testimony.

Monument
An object placed to mark the physical location of a position. A property corner monument is often a link of iron rod driven vertically into the ground, so that the top is at or below natural grade. A cap identifying the registration number of the surveyor responsible for placing the monument may be placed atop the monument.

Offset
In boundary: a point located at the extension of a line and marking the direction of the line. An offset monument may be placed on the extension of a line because the offset position can provide a more durable monument. A common practice is to place offset monuments in a sidewalk or curbhead, as these monuments are less likely to be disturbed, than a monument marking the actual position. In construction: a short distance usually measured at a right angle to a line, to preserve the position of the line when it is anticipated that points marking the line itself would be disturbed.

Precision
The degree of refinement in the performance of an operation, or the degree of perfection in the instruments and the methods used when making measurements. An indication of the uniformity or reproducibility of a result. Precision relates to the quality of an operation by which a result is obtained, and is distinguished from accuracy, which relates to the quality of the result.

Right-of-Way
A parcel of land, granted by deed or easement, for construction and maintenance according to a designated use. This may include highways, streets, canals, ditches or other uses.

Subdivision Plat
A legal instrument intended to take a large parcel of land and divide it into smaller parcels of land. A subdivision plat may also create public rights-of-way or easements, and is usually filed with the public real estate records of the county.

Surveying
A blend of several disciplines, from mathamatician and law scholar, to expert measurer and translator. By interpreting the legal descriptions and applying the science of measurement, the surveyor translates a legal description for construction plans into tangible positions on the ground. These positions then become the basis for construction or for the establishment for a particular location, possibly to show lines of ownership or to document change over time.

Title Commitment
A commitment to provide title insurance to a parcel of land. The surveyor is interested in the legal description and the exceptions.

Wetlands
A low-lying ecosystem where the water table is at or near the surface. Bogs, swamps and marshes are typical examples, however, soil types, plants and animal life can further define a wetland. There are extensive local and federal regulations which apply to and regulate wetlands.

XYZ Coordinates
A grouping of three numbers which designate the position of a point in relation to a common reference frame. In common usage, the X and Y coordinate fix the horizontal position of the point, and Z refers to the elevation.