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OT- Why are elevation surveys for a house such a ripoff ?

Milacron

Super Moderator
Compared to a regular house survey for example....which requires comp research, square footage confirmation and many pages of info....for 500 bucks..whereas I should think an elevation survey would require finding sea level and shooting the foundation height above same with transit or whatever...piece of cake. But here, a regular house survey is 500 bucks and elevation survey is $600 ! Seems like it would be $75.
 

Limy Sami

Active member
Because estate agents / realtors / mortgage companies are the spawn of the devil and scum of the earth, that should have been drowned at birth - slowly.
 
I’m surprised that this survey is still required. Google maps can display the elevation of any gps location coordinates. My new house is1102 feet above sea level.
Joe
 
Compared to a regular house survey for example....which requires comp research, square footage confirmation and many pages of info....for 500 bucks..whereas I should think an elevation survey would require finding sea level and shooting the foundation height above same with transit or whatever...piece of cake. But here, a regular house survey is 500 bucks and elevation survey is $600 ! Seems like it would be $75.

Surveyor has the same round-trip to make. He doesn't use actual nor even mean sea level directly, it moves.

"GPS" may have changed all this by now, but maybe not for the accuracy wanted. Paying for the TIME of a Registered pro, and his overheads, regardless.

Usta bee we'd look-up where the nearest top bench mark was, shoot a series of successive levels off it, sometimes for quite a distance. Had to cut prickley-pear brush for nearly a mile, Teepleville-Woodcock (proposed) flood control dam #5, 1961.

Sparsely populated area in Western PA, nearest TBM was on the front stoop of a church atop a hill.

Cheap at $600, actually. Try getting your air-con looked at or yer motorcar serviced for less.

:(
 

mach2

New member
There may be a GIS web site of your county that shows you elevation and contour information.

Nobody uses a transit anymore. Aerial and satellite surveys and records are usually a start point and surveyors obtain more accurate grades and elevations using global positioning equipment. After that a drawing is made with CAD software. The cost for the equipment is high and is expensive to maintain. $75 might buy an hours time. Can’t drive to most places in that time. I would say $600 to shoot elevations of a small plot is a bargain.
 

snowman

New member
Compared to a regular house survey for example....which requires comp research, square footage confirmation and many pages of info....for 500 bucks..whereas I should think an elevation survey would require finding sea level and shooting the foundation height above same with transit or whatever...piece of cake. But here, a regular house survey is 500 bucks and elevation survey is $600 ! Seems like it would be $75.

It is absolutely a piece of cake. All they need is to drop their total station within the line of sight of the house, and a known elevation. Takes less than ten minutes.

But, they did all that work on the regular house survey and lost money at the market rate of 500, so they have to charge more for the easier one.

It's not even a transit anymore. And yes, GPS coordinates are plenty accurate enough for most of the work. But once you drop that total station on the ground, sight off a known marker, or even two for really precise work...you can measure anything you can see to within 1/16".
 

DanLinsch

Member
Sometimes it is the flood elevation the surveyor is certifying. Take a look at what is required:

https://www.fema.gov/media-library-...d08de1dc3ab64235b/F-053_EC_May2017_RE_rev.pdf

A lot more to all the federally required data than throwing up a total station and taking a couple of shots. Around here, $600 for that certification would usually be considered very reasonable.

Residential site survey work would normally be quite a bit cheaper than a FEMA NFIP cert.

Then again, maybe flood insurance was not required.

Dan L
 

akajun

Member
We used to do an as built survey, basically locating your corners and the corners of all permanent structures , this was never a flat fee, because a small lot and a 4 corner house was about 1-2 hrs work for a 2 man crew, but a McMansion with pool and guest house you may be there all day.
Same with an elevation, if we had a known benchmark that we set in the area or a federal benchmark then 1-2 hrs with a level and rod. But a house in the middle of nowhere where you had to run 3-4 miles, all day .
Also, the surveyor is staking his license on that flood certificate . If that structure ever floods you can guarantee someone is going to try to hang it on you for the insurance . My dad has been retired for 10 years, we had massive flooding here last year and sure enough people have contacted him for his old records on stuff he did decades ago that didn’t jive with the current certificate done with a GPS or a flat fee surveyor.
Btw if you’ve ever used a surveying gps, your not using it in a neighborhood with trees, can’t get a signal
 
Sometimes it is the flood elevation the surveyor is certifying. Take a look at what is required:

https://www.fema.gov/media-library-...d08de1dc3ab64235b/F-053_EC_May2017_RE_rev.pdf

A lot more to all the federally required data than throwing up a total station and taking a couple of shots. Around here, $600 for that certification would usually be considered very reasonable.

Residential site survey work would normally be quite a bit cheaper than a FEMA NFIP cert.

Then again, maybe flood insurance was not required.

Dan L

He's on a Marina on a coast known for bouts of unfriendly wind and wave?

I'd be about as willing to insure him against tax increases as flooding.

:)
 

Rick Finsta

Active member
At least you're getting an actual service performed for that money. Title Insurance is the real scam - they don't even verify the property descriptions on the deed, they just collect a check every time there is a conveyance. When I bought my house, it was referenced as being South of a State highway that had been moved several miles further South from my property decades ago. We had to delay the closing while my attorney convinced them that they had been "insuring" the deed for a property that hadn't physically existed for over 50 years.

I think the trick to the elevation thing is finding the guy that will let you know how much dirt you may have to add around the house to get our of the 500 year flood plain, and offer to come back when his equipment isn't "broken." That right there is worth the $600 twice.
 

stephen thomas

Active member
Shop around.
I know it is a different survey, but this past fall i had some corners on a "difficult" section of our property surveyed to find down to the last couple inches, how far I could go in my neighbors direction, and towards the road on the other angle. The guy at the county told me who was good, and cheap (2 options). They fit you in "when they are in your area". Couple weeks later, 5 copies printed out with scale and dimension notes where needed. $75.00

Again, recognize this is not your specific request, but in a competitive area, there may be someone busy every day but flying slightly below the radar in terms of advertising themselves. & nice to support crews that make their money by being efficient with their time.

Didn't need an elevation - but nice thing is there is a benchmark planted in the stone wall in another section of the property right beside the cellar door. :)

smt
 

FredC

Active member
I’m surprised that this survey is still required. Google maps can display the elevation of any gps location coordinates. My new house is1102 feet above sea level.
Joe

How do you get it to do that? I can get GPS Lon & Lat but not elevation by clicking on a spot but not elevation.
 

DanielG

Active member
At least you're getting an actual service performed for that money. Title Insurance is the real scam - they don't even verify the property descriptions on the deed, they just collect a check every time there is a conveyance. When I bought my house, it was referenced as being South of a State highway that had been moved several miles further South from my property decades ago. We had to delay the closing while my attorney convinced them that they had been "insuring" the deed for a property that hadn't physically existed for over 50 years.ice.

Legal descriptions tend not to get updated over time. Usually the title policy references a specific lot/block/subdivision.

I don't buy property or lend money against property without title insurance. The cost is low (~0.2%) and it saves you tons of money if things go wrong. The title insurance isn't about the bounds of the property; that's what a survey is for. The title insurance policy protects you against liens being placed/having been placed on the property. Let's say you buy a house. The previous owner had a mortgage, a home equity loan, and hadn't fully paid their contractor when they remodeled. Both of the lenders placed a lien on the property, and the contractor placed a lien on the property as well. All of these need to be paid off at closing for you to actually own the house free and clear. My dad has actually had to make a claim against title insurance at least once.

The other thing to keep in mind when you're purchasing property is that there are two types of title insurance, lender's and homeowner's. Most lenders will make you pay for lender's title insurance. That protects their investment. Homeowner's title insurance is optional, but it is something that is, in my opinion, worth getting.
 

DMF_TomB

New member
Compared to a regular house survey for example....which requires comp research, square footage confirmation and many pages of info....for 500 bucks..whereas I should think an elevation survey would require finding sea level and shooting the foundation height above same with transit or whatever...piece of cake. But here, a regular house survey is 500 bucks and elevation survey is $600 ! Seems like it would be $75.

.
with machine elevation requires going to a elevation monument of known elevation and measuring from that. usually known elevation monuments are fewer and farther apart compared to property corner monuments. at least thats my guess
.
by the way earth not flat technically got to compensate for earth curvature
.
surveyors often get different numbers. thats why property locations down to 1" are not usually possible. instrument error and maybe ground actually moves over the decades
 

DMF_TomB

New member
reminds me of setting many machine base plates over a 100 foot distance and having repeatability problems checking the next day.
.
turns out the elevation marker stuck on outside building column was going up and down .030" over a 8 hour period from the heat of the sun on the outside building walls. by using a elevation marker on inside wall column the elevation change was easily seen about .004 to .005 per hour
.
trouble with surveys is the markers used for reference are not stable to millionths. think of mud slide where ground moves hundreds of feet suddenly. the little ground movements are often hard to notice as whats your reference ? i believe gps can measure ground going up and down during rainy to drought conditions
 

duckfarmer27

New member
I've worked with GPS but not specifically with survey equipment. The way it works, the more satellites you are locating off of the smaller the error. I would imagine the GPS most of us use does not worry as long as it gets 3 satellites, minimum required to give all 3 coordinates. Accuracy close enough to find the house or fishing spot. Like the stuff I worked on - demanding best accuracy possible - I would think survey gear has the complexity and logic to maximize number of satellites used. Not cheap.

Rate does not seem out of line - equipment is very expensive. At least based on some surveys I have had done. One could always do it the 'old' way going from a bench mark. As others have said, more hours, more labor and more cost.

Dale
 

LKeithR

Active member
And while you guys are all p*ssin' and moanin' about the cost of a survey all the guys over on the "surveyor" forum are complaining
about the cost of some parts they had machined recently. :eek: Tit for tat guys....everybody's gotta make a living...:D
 

sfriedberg

Active member
I'm planning to demolish and rebuild on my current location. Rebuilding will require significant regrading, and county approval of the grade changes, so I've got some questions about elevation surveys unrelated to cost. Zero interest in FEMA (flood) elevation certificates. Urban lot about 1/3 acre with existing buildings and limited vegetation, if any of that matters.

What sort of vertical resolution (precision) do you get? Is this something the end user specifies when ordering a survey done?

What sort of horizontal grid resolution do you get? 5 feet? 10 feet? Specified points only? How much input does the end user have on this?

Is there any sort of "standard language" when ordering a survey that I should be aware of?

I'd like to end up with (I can do my own data plotting) isocurves of elevation for the overall lot, plus elevations at all the existing building and paving corners. Is that realistic? Asking too much? Underwhelming and paltry for a total station surveyor?
 

vonleyser

Member
Try getting permission/approval to build in a FEMA designated
FLOODWAY and you will very quickly forget about the cost of a elevation
certificate.
Have spent 2 years reading FEMAs wording, focusing on a few phrases. Our locale county engineer said we can't build, NO WAY, would need a flood study preformed at a cost of $20,000 plus for this service.

I might not get the award for being the most insane PM member, but having to deal with both FEMAs regulations & our county costs more then a simple elevation cost and pushes you towards being insane.

I have to agree with LKeithR about all the pissing and moaning about
costs.
Job market SUCKS just because I am not willing to drive in this insane city traffic and waste a minimum of 2 hours of my life everyday, so unless machining picks up closer to me and someone wants a grumpy 60 year old with both manual & CNC experience, it looks like I am retired and will be spending some retirement money on building our small house.

And we will have to have the elevation redone to make everyone except me happy that we be at least 18" above base flood elevation. Won't they be surprised when they see the end result.

You all don't believe unless pictures are shown so here you go proof in the pictures.

Permit
Permit.jpg

and the Great FLOODWAY
Floodway.jpg
 








 
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