How to Find an Existing Survey of Property

By Aaron Gifford - Updated June 15, 2017
Female real estate agent looking at a house exterior

City real estate recording offices have access to surveys recorded. Surveys are performed to pinpoint exact property lines and then describe those measurements on a document. Usually, surveys take place before a parcel is sold or subdivided, but they are also employed to resolve property disputes.

Modern standards set by the American Land Title Association require survey data to include boundary lines, the location of the main building including improvements, the location of ancillary buildings, and notations of easements or right-of-way agreements for utility companies and railways.

City Hall Public Survey Records

Visit the appropriate town or city hall and inquire about survey records. If the property was developed, survey records may be included in the site plan that was ultimately approved by a planning or zoning board. You can also ask the local assessor and code enforcement officer if they have survey records on the property.

County Clerk

Look through the title abstracts in the county clerk's office. The books are organized by dates that properties changed hands. Each page listing for the property will include an index number for finding the previous transaction. Go back far enough and there should be records of the original property description and survey.

Order Survey Report From Title Company

Title companies can order a survey for a fee. They will access public databases that you also have access to, but you can expedite the process since they know where to look. Depending on urgency, this is probably the most efficient method.

County Tax Mapping Office

Go to the county tax mapping office and real property office. Depending on each office's methods for creating tax maps, surveys may be included in its files. Not all mapping offices have surveys; it might only have plats which indicate street, hydrant and utility locations. Call ahead so you don't waste a trip to the county tax mapping office.

Tip

Some states publish survey information online. Visit the Public Land Survey System website (see Resources) to get a better understanding of how surveys on public lands are organized and maintained.

About the Author

Aaron Gifford is based in New York. He has been on staff at the "Syracuse Post-Standard," the "Watertown Daily Times" and the "Oneida Daily Dispatch." He's also written for "Long Island Newsday," "Empire State Report" magazine and "In Good Health." He has been writing professionally since 1995. Gifford holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University at Buffalo.

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