How Much Will the Survey Cost?

Note: The questionnaire has been withdrawn. What started out as an attempt to ascertain survey fees has created a firestorm of opposition. The reason why we wanted the info is to do battle with realtors and title company people who have a nasty habit of dictating to us what our fees should be. But the 30-year-old Arkansas experience, which was clearly price fixing, has left a deep impression. And in today’s political climate, everybody is terrified that armed government agents will show up at the door. So, what started as an innocent idea has everybody freaked out, so we will take the idea back to the drawing board. Thanks to the many who responded.

How much will the survey cost? That’s a very good question that likely will be asked of the Professional Surveyor for every survey project, and a question that needs to be answered and agreed to before every survey. For a boundary survey, a fixed fee could be proposed or perhaps a fee range is necessary, depending on the scope of services and other factors.

IStock 1311075186

Pricing surveys, competitive fee proposals, Qualification Based Selection (QBS) requirements, lack of information provided by the client on which to quote a fee, the necessity of pricing, when to use a fee range and why it is a good or bad idea, getting retainers, getting paid, etc. are all important topics and worthy of their own study and consideration. Here, the scope and information is provided about four different kinds of surveys and the reader is asked to provide pricing for each.

The Survey Projects

1 Lot Survey in Residential Subdivision

Survey a lot in an urban, residential (R-1) subdivision that was platted in the 1990’s. Platted by a reputable firm, you’ve had moderate success in finding monumentation in the subdivision previously but have not done any work near the lot to be surveyed. On the resulting plat, show improvements, platted easements and setback lines. The lot is “buried” in the subdivision, not along an exterior line. Project is about a 30 minute drive from the office.

Below find descriptions of four survey projects. Please give a realistic fee estimate range for each project. Then, let’s assume you are required to propose a fixed fee for the project. Please provide your fixed fee number as well. Also provide the state for which the prices are given (except for the state, answers will be kept confidential). The survey must meet the state’s “minimum standards” which require monumentation, a plat of survey, controlling corners being shown on the resulting plat, as well as the tract acreage, encroachments, known easements, etc

2 NSPS/ALTA Land Title Survey

An “ALTA Survey” of a 12 acre commercial site. Boundary description by metes and bounds is an older, not surveyed description. Surrounding area is industrial/commercial with average amount of record survey work. No record survey of the tract, and none in the immediate area. Tract fronts on one State Highway, other boundaries are not along rightsofway. All Table A items required (including contours) except Item 15 (aerial imagery). Title commitment shows 10 potential easements. The site is nearly completely covered with buildings, large warehouse structures, paved streets, stormwater system, overhead utilities. Standard NSPS/ALTA certification required. Owner has hired a private company to locate and map all utilities. (Not part of your fee.) A Zoning Report will be furnished. Boundary and perhaps associated title issues expected. Project location is local.

3 Dependent Resurvey on the USPLSS

A dependent resurvey of a nominally 440 acre tract on the U.S. Public Land Survey System. Tract described by aliquot parts that lies in parts of four sections in one township. Total perimeter will be 4.0 miles, 3.0 of which must be marked on line using ownerprovided “T” posts on roughly 200 foot intervals. The tract will have 12 corners, most of which will need to be monumented. Anticipated recovery rate of the controlling USPLSS corners is poor. Plat required and corner documentation forms on about 15 corners is expected. Survey is in a topographically rough, wooded area. Access by vehicle will be difficult. No right of entry issues (permissions not required). Project is located about an hour drive from your office.

4 Survey of a Large, Rural, Metes and Bounds Tract

This project is meant more for the eastern states that predate the USPLSS: Boundary survey of a roughly 400 acre, irregular shaped tract in a rural, topographically rough area with poor vehicle access. Boundary description in deeds provided is old and poorly written. Additional title work and acquisition of adjoiners’ deeds will be required. Approximately 0.75 miles of boundary is along a stream. About 1.5 miles of boundary is to be marked on line at about 200 foot intervals. Very few record surveys in the area. Your firm has only a limited amount of applicable survey work in the area. Project is located about an hour drive from your office.

Tabulate Your Pricing

Survey Type Fee Range Fixed Fee
1 Lot Survey
2 ALTA Survey
3 Resurvey on USPLSS
4 Survey of Tract
Your State:
Any comments?


Assuming there are sufficient responses, an analysis of the results will be given. So as not to skew the results too badly, please give a considered, realistic fee range and fixed fee for your location. Each survey specification given should not be too far different from what a Professional Surveyor might receive from a prospective client.

Part of the reason for this exercise is to counter others in the real property industry who seem intent on telling our clients what the surveyor’s fee should be. With enough responses, some national pricing trends will likely appear.

About the Author

Dr. Richard L. Elgin, PS, PE

Dr. Richard Elgin, PS, PE is a surveying practitioner, educator, researcher, collector and author. He codeveloped the “ASTRO” software products and coauthored the Lietz/Sokkia ephemeris. He wrote The U.S. Public Land Survey System for Missouri and Riparian Boundaries for Arkansas and Shoulda Played the Flute (a memoir of his year flying helicopters in Vietnam) and Riparian Boundaries for Missouri (in press). He owns a large collection of early American surveying equipment, rides a Moots bicycle and drives an Alfa Romeo 1600 GT Junior. Dick’s articles have appeared in “American Surveyor” for many years. He may be reached at: