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WSP delivers surveying and mapping solutions for the entire project lifecycle with speed and certainty. Our crews are first on the ground supporting some of the largest projects in Canada. Regardless of the project size or location, we are there, from field to finish.


Plan Ahead: Six Reasons to Survey Your Property

August 04, 2016

WSP Geomatics provides surveying and mapping solutions for clients across the globe. Whether the projects delivers transportation, infrastructure, oil & gas, pipeline, mining, or industrial outcomes, surveyors are there to support the project requirements. Residential surveying applies to many of us and the following blog offers guidance for those looking to purchase real estate.


Whether you are buying your first house or a cabin for the summer, it is extremely important to survey your property prior to purchasing. A survey professional eliminates the stress of this task and provides invaluable insight into your property lines, structures, legal access and more!


1. Visualize the property lines on the ground

  • People often assume that their fences represent their property line. This is often not the case. Getting your property boundaries staked prior to construction of a dwelling or addition is important to ensure you are building within your legal property lines. A survey also helps you see how much area you have to work with and where you can actually build.

Property Line Running Through House

2. Confirm the position of any structures in relation to the property lines

Check for encroachments such as retaining walls, sheds, aerial trespass, etc.

  • Check compliance with zoning bylaws. Are there easements in place for encroachments? Are structures on your property not within your legal boundary?  This may lead to moving and/or dismantling the structure at significant cost.
  • Also check whether your neighbors have built structures into your property. This may seem obvious, but often people build their homes “where they think is best”, especially when looking for the perfect view – and often that can mean inadvertently building on other people’s property.

Real-Life Example of Structures Built on Incorrect Properties


3. Check whether there is legal access to the lot

  • Is the driveway built in the correct spot? Are there any issues with the surrounding roads that could cost money down the road if the land is to be further subdivided? If you are thinking of possibly subdividing your property in the future, it is important to think about how the property will be accessed through separate lots.  Once a driveway is built, it is quite expensive to move.


4. Verify waterfront area if applicable

  • Are there any structures built along the waterfront that a local government could dispute later on? Are the docks, retaining walls, boat houses, or other structures legal? People are often unaware of the laws regarding waterfront buildings. Knowledge of whether your waterfront structures are in the correct position before purchasing a property can save you from having to spend money on legal applications later on.
  • Has the property eroded or accreted and is the property actually worth more or less? Shorelines change, lakes rise and property erodes after time.  Often the original lot layout is no longer accurate at the time of purchase. A property survey will show whether your lot has become bigger (or smaller) over the course of time.  This information can be invaluable when negotiating the pricing of a lot.

 Encroachments on Crown Foreshore


5. Confirm whether the original Crown grant had any reservations or exceptions

  • For example, does the property include or exclude a body of water? People often don’t realize that the Crown owns the water on their lot.  This can mean restrictions on the placement of any infrastructure.
  • There may also be an old roadbed either gazetted or shown on the original Crown grant that is excluded from the property. This can cause problems later on with new construction as the road would have to be closed before any structures could be built.


6. Check zoning bylaws, local building schemes and any covenants on the property

  • There may be a local bylaw for setbacks from a natural boundary or roadway that could limit the potential size of a house. Also, there may be only a certain type or size of house permitted in a neighborhood. A land surveyor can check if there are any restrictive covenants in place on the property that minimize the building type and area.


Thinking ahead and having your property surveyed before you purchase can save you a multitude of headaches and significant money in the long run. Solving many of these issues after-the-fact can not only be expensive, but extremely time consuming.  Realizing that you can’t build your dream house on the lot you just purchased is an experience no one wants.