Land Survey vs Plot Plan: What's the Difference?

Land Survey vs Plot Plan: What's the Difference?

This is for informational purposes - always check with your permitted authority or regulatory body first.

A land survey and a plot plan are both helpful in sketching out a property. They both give you a greater understanding of what the property is and what it encompasses. 

However, the way they do this is different because they are designed with different goals in mind. This makes them useful in mostly unrelated circumstances. 

To understand when to use one and when to use the other, it is important to understand what these are and what they do. Once you know this, you can make the right choice for your property. 

Related: How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

What Is a Land Survey? 

A land survey is when you have the boundaries of your land officially measured. This lays out exactly where your property ends and where the properties of those around you begin. 

Why Would You Need a Land Survey? 

A land survey is necessary whenever you want to define the boundaries of a property. This is a common necessity when working on the property in many different situations. 

For example, it is often done before a property is bought or sold. In this situation, the potential buyers will want to know exactly what they are about to purchase. The results of the land survey could influence their decision to go through with the deal. 

It is also common to do a land survey before improving areas of the property near the property line. Imagine you are building a fence on the border between your yard and your neighbor's to block the view of their yard. You don't want to build the fence and then, years down the road, find out you built it on your neighbor's land. Instead, you will use the results of a land survey to get it right the first time. 

A similar situation also arises when there is a dispute surrounding property lines. If the owners of two neighboring properties disagree about the border between their properties, they may need a land survey to settle the disagreement. 

What to Do Before a Land Survey

If you are having a land survey done, you want it to go well, and you want to make the most of it afterward. To do so, you need to prepare a bit first. 

If you are the landowner, you should have all documents related to the property on hand, like the deed to the property. You should also get a map of the land ready. You will likely need to supply the surveyor with all of this information. 

You also need to address the land itself. Go to where you believe the boundaries of the property to be. Try to clear this area so that the surveyor has access to it. While you are doing so, you can mark the line with something. 

Finally, you should make an effort to meet with the surveyor. This will help you address any of their questions or concerns immediately instead of waiting to deal with them later. Doing so will allow them to do their job.

What Is a Plot Plan?

Woman working on a plan on her computer

A plot plan is a rendering of a property designed to look at it from an architectural and technical standpoint. It will detail the property itself and many of the features within it. 

So, a plot plan is essentially a big map. The map will detail any structures on the property, such as buildings or sheds. It will also include large features, like a pool or water feature. Many even include details about the landscaping, such as depicting where paths run and where flowerbeds are. 

Related: Essential Features of All Plot Plans

Why Would You Need a Plot Plan? 

A plot plan can be helpful in many different situations. Typically, it is useful when you are planning to work on a property and need an accurate picture of it to plan. 

For example, you could use a plot plan to plan out some major landscaping work. The plot plan will help you see where your current flower beds are, how much space you have to expand them, where new pathways can run, and much more. This allows you to judge these options and pick something that works for your property. 

You could also use it for major projects. For instance, you could use it when you are building a pool or remodeling a pool. In these situations, the plot plan shows you how intense you can get with your remodeling or how much room you have for a pool. 

In general, almost any time you are working on your property, a plot plan can be helpful. The degree to which it is helpful will simply depend on the job. 

Land Survey vs. Plot Plan

So, land surveys and plot plans give a sketch of a property. However, the sketch provided by a land survey will show where the borders of the property officially lie. Meanwhile, the sketch provided by a plot plan will show how the entire property is laid out. 

A land survey is concerned with the borders of a property and the issues relating to property lines. Because of this, land surveys are mostly used when dealing with legal technicalities or issues that specifically impact the borders of a property. 

Meanwhile, a plot plan is more concerned with the layout of the property as a whole. This is typically used as a guide for the property that can be used in any situation where a guide like this would help. It is also typically designed to be used for practical, rather than official, purposes. 

You can even use a land survey to help inform your plot plan. The results of a survey will give you the property's exact dimensions. These can then be fed into the plot plan to make sure it is as accurate as possible. Otherwise, the final dimensions listed on the plot plan could be slightly off. 

The Difference Between a Plot Plan and a Land Survey

Home with a landscaped yard and surroundings

Land surveys and plot plans both provide more information about a property and are both helpful in their own way. However, the situations in which they are helpful are different. Knowing and understanding this will allow you to make the right choice when you need either one. 

Related: Site Plan: Everything you Need to Know in 2022



AQ Answer
What is the typical cost of obtaining a land survey? The cost of a land survey can vary widely depending on factors such as the size of the property, its location, and the complexity of the survey needed. It's best to get quotes from several licensed surveyors.
How long does a land survey take to complete? The time it takes to complete a land survey can vary. Factors that affect the duration include the size of the property, the terrain, and the clarity of historical boundary records. Typically, it could take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
Can a plot plan replace a land survey for legal purposes? No, a plot plan cannot replace a land survey for legal purposes. While a plot plan provides a detailed layout of the property, only a land survey can legally determine and document the property boundaries.
What specific preparations are needed before creating a plot plan? Preparing for a plot plan involves gathering any existing property documents, such as previous plot plans or blueprints, and determining the specific areas and features you want to include, like new structures or landscaping elements.
How often should you update a plot plan? A plot plan should be updated whenever significant changes are made to the property, such as adding or removing structures, major landscaping changes, or when new features like pools are installed.
Are there any legal requirements for updating a plot plan? Legal requirements for updating a plot plan can vary by location and the type of changes made. In many cases, updates are necessary for compliance when modifications to the property require building permits or other municipal approvals.


Previous Post Next Post

  • Ryan Crownholm