Prior to preparing a to-scale map of your future small house and property, you will need to hire a surveyor to verify the location of your property lines and boundaries. Your land surveyor should also help you to establish land setbacks so you know what your limits are in building placement. They will probably also be aware of restriction in building placement based on slope of your land and ground stability, or if your land falls within a 100-year flood zone.
Before proceeding to choose a surveyor, you may want to begin this phase of your small house project by obtaining a previous survey from the Town Clerk or Assessor?s office. This will provide your surveyor with a starting point as well as a comparison when the new survey is complete.
Obtaining a previous survey will also help to identify any discrepancies such as property overlapping. Making these identifications now will alleviate any potential future legal hassles that could transpire. While you are at it you may want to inquire about the requirements for submitting a land survey due to the fact that in some jurisdictions your land surveyor will also be required to prepare additional surveys to be filed with county officials.
When choosing a land surveyor you can opt to proceed through word of mouth or by searching advertisements. Whatever route you choose, make sure the surveyor has the necessary qualifications needed to complete the requirements for your project.
If the land you’re surveying is large, with complicated lines, or boundaries that go through inaccessible areas (like swamp or marsh) then you may want to ask them if they’re even willing to survey such a complicated piece. You may also want to talk to former clients regarding previous projects that your potential surveyor has completed.
Before deciding on a surveyor, make sure to ask for an estimate for the entire project and the estimated time frame for completion as well as any unanticipated extra fees.
Once you decide on a land surveyor it’s best to create a written contract agreement that precisely outlines and describe the work to be completed, the time frame for delivery and the payment terms for the land surveyor?s fee. This will confirm with certainty that both parties understand the purpose of the project and mutual expectations of the work that is to be completed.
When the surveying project is complete you may begin to prepare your to-scale drawing of your small house project. This site plan must be drawn to engineers specifications and clearly illustrate your small house structural location along with other structures above and below ground such as additional buildings, the septic system and the well. Any existing structures like sheds, barns, or underground tanks (cistern or fuel) should also be noted.
You may choose to create your own to-scale drawing or opt to have a professional such as an architect complete this site plan. Regardless of the route you choose, the plan must be drawn to the proper dimensions and engineering specifications. If you choose to create the plan yourself you may want to use graph style paper or professional architect paper that contains blue lines to make the project dimensions easier to identify.
As you create your site plan for your small house, keep in mind that you will most likely be required to create more than one copy of the site plan for the planning committee and county offices which usually require a site plan to be on file. A fee usually accompanies the filing requirement (there’s fee for everything!).
Once your survey is finished and on file and your small house to-scale drawing has been created, you are prepared to begin the next phase of your small house building project… setting out stakes for the approximate corners of the future house.
Other Ways to Get a Feel for the Dimensions of Your Land
Google Earth: You may be able to get an interesting aerial view of your neighborhood through Google Earth (it’s freeee). Some areas of the planet are sharper than others. In general metro areas are sharper because more people access images in those area. So your rural land many come up pretty fuzzy. Ya never know, it’s worth a try.
You do have to download the application from Google in order to access the images — it’s not web based. Personally, I try to avoid downloading anything unless I absolutely have to. Often times if there’s an application that I need and a CD is available I’ll usually pay the extra shipping and get the hard copy CD. Two reasons: you have that hard copy to reload onto you machine if your hard drive crashes, and a CD holds less chance for a virus to be attached. Although trusted web businesses are very careful about their security these days.
Maybe check out your local library to see if their public computers have Google Earth. This way you can quickly check on your property without going through that whole download process.
Graphical Information Systems: Another on-line resource I often use is the GIS (geographical information system) for your county. Just put into a search something like “calumet county gis” (insert your own). Not all counties have this system, especially more rural ones, as I’m sure there’s a pretty good cost to maintaining it.
Some GIS databases have an integrated satellite image of the land, at closer magnifications. Green Lake County, WI is one of them (you have to zoom in pretty tight to get that satellite image, though). My parents have a farm there and I’ve used their system to take an aerial look at their property. Those images are wonderfully detailed. It’s kind of fun “spying” over the land like that.
Aerial pictures of your land, either before purchase or before building, can give you some interesting information you might not otherwise gain from other surveying methods.
Go Flying!: Do you have a friend or family member that has a pilot’s license or airplane of their own? Lucky you! It probably won’t be too hard to talk them into giving you a hop up over your property… if you pay for the gas (sadly aviation fuel is much more expensive than auto fuel). But, taking a quick aerial flight around your land could give you a wealth of information you wouldn’t obtain any other way. Like a dynamite factory hiding behind your neighbors barn! Or a neighbor’s manure lagoon that’s really close to the property line and might adversely affect your well water.
Actually, going for an aerial survey flight to scope out a property before you buy it isn’t a bad idea either. Maybe that manure lagoon is enough to say “thanks, but I think I’ll pass on this one”.
If YOU are the one with the license or airplane then this idea has probably already come to mind (it seems many pilots look for excuses to go flying!). My dad and brother are aviation nuts and look for the slightest suggestion to get “the bird” out of the hangar! Dad co-owns a sweet Cessna 172 and my brother is an airline captain. Back in high school I got a student license, but have since developed a keen sense of nausea so don’t do much flying any more.
Make sure to take a camera with a strong strap on it. Taking decent aerial pictures requires opening the window. Don’t fret, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Sure, it’s pretty noisy, but you’re perfectly safe as the door itself it locked. Just be forewarned that once you stick your camera hand slightly out the window the wind is going to try and rip it out of your hand!! That’s where the strap tightly wound around your wrist comes in. I’ve also found that getting good pictures from an airplane is NOT easy. Often the pilot will have to bank so severely to get the wing strut out of the way that it will be unnerving.