What is a Location Survey
Think of a Location survey as an Approximate Survey. The goal is to approximately determine the location of the property lines, buildings, and any other improvements (driveway, sidewalk, retaining walls, etc.) and how they relate to one another. All of this information is then illustrated on a drawing, referred to as a Location Drawing, or sometimes a House Location Drawing.
Location Surveys / Drawings are not "accurate"
Location Surveys / Drawings do not provide for the accurate identification of property boundary lines and should not be relied upon for the establishment or location of fences, garages, buildings, or other existing or future improvements. Again it is important to view a Location Survey as an approximation of what is actually on a property. The goal isn't to determine exactly where things are, instead the goal is to determine where things are in relation to one another. For example, does the House appear to be inside the property lines? Yes or No?
Why Location Surveys / Drawings are not "accurate"
Let's break this question down into two parts:
1. Wouldn't inaccurate Surveys mislead & confuse?
Yes, yes they would, and they do. Countless home owners assume what is shown on a Location Drawing is "accurate", and they use them to determine where to install landscaping, trees, or even fences. This can lead to disputes with adjoining neighbors who claim that they placed said tree's or fencing on their property. Ultimately a land surveyor is called to try to determine where the actual property line is by performing a Boundary Survey. The lesson here being that a Location Survey is NOT a Boundary Survey.
2. If Location Surveys mislead & confuse, then why do them?
Why do an "Approximate" Location Survey? Clearly they can lead to confusion and headaches, why not just always do a Boundary Survey? The answer to that question is two fold; what the lender requires & cost. The Location Survey is the main survey tool your Lender, Title Insurance Company, or other agent uses during refinancing or purchasing a home. It gives them a general idea of where things are, and that's typically enough for them to sign off on your loan. This is good news in that Location Surveys are much less expensive than Boundary Surveys, since they are easier to perform taking surveyors mere hours instead of days to complete. To highlight this point consider that Location Surveys will usually run in the 100's of dollars, where as Boundary Surveys will usually run in the 1,000's of dollars.