Ensure These Features Are Included In Your Land Survey
Having property surveyed is an essential step when purchasing land. Even if the plot is in a heavily developed area that looks like it has clear divisions, you need to know about all of the historical issues associated with the property. Surveyors may provide either a comprehensive survey or a customized one where you choose what to look for, but all surveys should include certain information.
Yes, you could always call 811 yourself to find out where your utility lines are located, but if you're getting a survey of your property, you should get the utility information as part of the survey, too. When your survey is complete, you'll get a copy of what the surveyor found, and it's very convenient to have a map of your property's boundaries along with the locations of the utility lines. You won't have to try to match up the lines with other features on the survey, for example. This is a basic service, so take advantage of its availability.
Even if you're buying empty land, chances are someone did something with it at some point. The survey can tell you what happened to the land and whether what happened violated any codes, zoning laws, or other legal restrictions. Surveyors aren't psychic, but they can pick up on oddities in the land and investigate them further or let you know if you need a specialist, such as a geological engineer, to figure out what happened.
Land Division Laws
If you think you might divide up the property you're about to buy, a survey is in order because that survey will alert you to land-use and division restrictions. This is a topic that you should inform the surveyor about in advance -- don't expect information on dividing up the land if the surveyor doesn't know you're planning to do that -- but once the surveyor knows, he or she will find out what's allowed in terms of division.
Flood plain maps are easily available from the city or county where the land is located, but flood plain designations can change. Plus, even if your land isn't near a flood plain at all, knowing where the lower elevations are on the property helps you with landscaping, drainage, and feature placement.
Surveys are necessary any time you buy property, so you may as well go all out and get as much information as possible. Knowledge is power when dealing with property.