Should I Survey My Ranch?

One of the more common questions we receive from buyers of ranches for sale is “Do I need to have the ranch surveyed?” In a perfect world with unlimited time and resources, it would always be beneficial for a buyer to survey their ranch prior to its purchase. However, given the sometimes-astronomical costs of surveying a large, remote Rocky Mountain Ranch, combined with the time and seasonal limitations of surveying, many buyers decided that the benefits do not outweigh the costs. Thanks to the technological improvements with mapping and satellite imagery, buyers can identify potential issues or problems that will help them to determine if a survey is necessary.

Ranches for Sale: Fenceline - Survey?

It’s hard to believe, but a little over a decade ago, much of the technology we currently use to map and understand ranches either didn’t exist or was prohibitively expensive. Back then, the most accurate way to determine acreage (other than surveying) was to refer to the county’s assessor records and/or use the legal description to physically map out the property by hand using a magic marker and a USGS topo map. The acreages deemed from either of these methods could be wildly variable and inaccurate, and may not be an accurate representation of the true acreage. Without a survey, there was no effective way to determine the accuracy of fencelines, to evaluate potential encroachments, or to truly understand where your land stops and your neighbor’s starts. Many times, landowners had no options other than to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a survey in order to truly understand their property boundaries.

With the emergence and affordability of technologies such as Google Earth Pro, ArcGIS, and now LandID we are able to map properties fairly accurately to identify acreage discrepancies, fenceline inaccuracies, or potential encroachments. The high resolution satellite images combined with county-specific GIS data allows us to zoom in so closely that we can actually see the fenceline and compare to the property line as defined by the county’s records. Many times, particularly on large acreage, multi-generational ranches, fencelines are going to be slightly inaccurate. As long as the fenceline is not encroaching on a valuable aspect of your or your neighbor’s property (a building, a water source, a road, etc.), most landowners and neighbors will agree to look past the slight inaccuracy. However, if there is an inaccurate fenceline that creates (or could create) a disagreement between neighbors, surveying the ranch would be a good, proactive measure to avoid any future unpleasant and potentially expensive conflicts.

At Mirr Ranch Group, we employ some of the most high tech mapping software available to help our clients fully understand a ranch’s fencelines, the county records, and any potential discrepancies between the two. Our mapping technology combined with decades of cumulative experience allow us to advise our clients on whether or not a survey is necessary for their specific ranch. Sometimes, such as when placing a conservation easement or purchasing certain types of title insurance, there is no way around it: You’ll have to survey.  But there are plenty of situations where a survey, and its tens of thousands of dollars price tag, may be overkill.

Like all ranch-related issues, there is no universal, one-size-fits-all answer— Every ranch is unique and requires personalized and thorough research to determine the most appropriate, cost-effective solution.  If we can assist with any fenceline related questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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