Whatever the circumstances, the feeling usually occurs as the culprit’s tail lights fade into the distance or you pull out of the mechanic's service station.
Bait and switch schemes involving fraudulent and unscrupulous contractors are too common. They happen when a contractor is being paid to use one product and switches it out with a cheaper product without approval from the owner, engineer, or architect. It could be a brand of windows or pipes; whatever will go unnoticed. Fortunately for the consumer, building inspectors are there to catch shoddy work or incorrect materials before the project moves too far too fast.
So what do professional land surveying services cost and why? Like many things, professional land surveying services cost what the market will bear, sometimes more, and sometimes less.
As a licensed professional land surveyor, I can safely say that I have never encountered a situation where I would feel comfortable charging $500 for a "lot survey". Let’s consider the following:
Any "lot survey" (assumed to mean a boundary survey) in
will require research at least at three government offices: the county recorder, county surveyor, and city hall. You may also need, and I always recommend, obtaining a title report. The research, less the title report will easily eat up one 8-hour day. California
Next, the licensed professional land surveyor must review the findings of his or her research. They must begin to reconstruct on paper how the property was created. This reconstruction is somewhat similar to the way an architect might create a model but without any creativity. The research materials are evidence which are all weighed and considered.
Once the evidence is collected in the field, it is weighed together with the parol and research evidence. It may be held up and compared with certain case law. Ultimately, the licensed professional land surveyor opines a conclusion from the evidence and reestablishes the most likely location of the land boundary. This may take a few hours or many days to conclude depending on the breadth, depth, and magnitude of the property and the research materials.
If you wanted your boundary marked with survey monuments, the licensed professional land surveyor (or their technician) will return to the property and layout the locations of the property corners, set monuments that represent the property corners, and document any irregularities observed since their last visit to the site. Setting monuments for small lots (less than an acre) in a suburban or urban environment usually takes a few hours. Rural parcels may take much longer, depending on topography, neighbors, weather, etc.
The location of the boundary lines and any monuments set are documented by the preparation of a map, usually a Record of Survey. A Record of Survey is a type of survey map prepared by a licensed professional land surveyor and submitted to the
County Surveyor’s Office for review (sometimes for a fee) who will then file it with the ’s Office. County Recorder
As you can imagine, a “small lot survey” may take a week to begin and conclude. Is that worth $500 or $800? Not to the professional.
Considering the experience, education, specialized hardware and software that most licensed professional land surveyors have, a survey of a smaller magnitude such as outlined above should probably cost a minimum of $3,000. Even $5,000 would not be an unreasonable fee considering the aforementioned time involved.
Back to our disgruntled architect. Although he felt like he was being ripped of because the surveyor was there for 4 hours but billed $800, the architect was not overcharged and ripped off. In fact, the architect was certain the surveyor had done everything that any other duly licensed professional land surveyor would have done. The reality is that the surveyor did not conduct proper research, did not weigh all of the evidence, and did not file a legally required map, the totality of which reveals that the surveyor was practicing below the standard of care required by law and expected by consumers. Had the surveyor practiced accordingly, he would have had to bill the architect about $4,000. The surveyor in question is in the process of having their license revoked.
- A description of the services to be provided to the client
- A description of any basis of compensation applicable to the contract, and the method of payment agreed upon by the parties.
- The name, address, and license or certificate number of the licensed land surveyor or registered civil engineer, and the name and address of the client.
- A description of the procedure that the licensed land surveyor or registered civil engineer and the client will use to accommodate additional services.
- A description of the procedure to be used by any party to terminate the contract.
- An architect licensed under Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 5500).
- A contractor licensed under Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 7000).
- A geologist or a geophysicist licensed under Chapter 12.5 (commencing with Section 7800).
- A manufacturing, mining, public utility, research and development, or other industrial corporation, if the services are provided in connection with or incidental to the products, systems, or services of that corporation or its affiliates.
Clearly, the law expects certain professionals, such as architects, to understand what types of services are being provided and their associated costs when they consult with a licensed professional engineer or land surveyor.
It is assumed that consumers by and large do not have the technical understanding of these professions and so contracts must be executed.