What Is A Property Survey & Why You Need One For a Fence Installation

Copy of a property survey on a messy desk with a calculator, pencil and ruler

“What is a property survey?”

Don’t worry – it’s not a dumb question. It’s actually a question we fencing contractors get a lot. Property surveys are just one of those things you don’t think about very often. The next question we get is normally:

“Why do you need a copy of my property survey?”

Again – this is a totally normal question! Home and business owners alike want to know why we need a property survey to install their new fence.

In this post, we’ll go over exactly what a property survey is, what a property survey looks like, what it costs, why you’ll need it for your fence installation, and common questions and issues that can come up during the permit process regarding your survey.

You can click any of the items on the list above to jump to that section or keep scrolling to read everything. You can return to this clickable table of contents at any time by clicking the “Back to Top” link under each section!

Property Survey Definition

By definition, a property survey is a legal document completed by a licensed land surveyor that includes specific property information regarding the physical aspects of a property, including:

  • Boundary Lines
  • Easements
  • Zoning Categories

Most mortgage lenders require a property survey, so you probably have one around somewhere. Here’s a quick breakdown of what’s included:

Boundary Lines

Boundary lines, also known as property lines, define where a property starts and ends. It’s important to know exactly where these lines are to prevent issues with your neighbors or town, especially when installing a fence or pool.


A property easement is a legal situation in which a title to a specific piece of land remains with the landowner, but another person or organization has the right to use the land for a distinct purpose. Basically, it’s just permission for you to use land that isn’t yours (or for someone to use your land) for a specific reason.

Some examples in New Jersey include driveway easements, beach access easements, and utility easements. There are different types of easements and honestly it can get a little confusing. The thing you really need to know is that if there are easements on your property, they should definitely be on your survey!

Zoning Categories

The last part is pretty simple. The zoning category of your property basically just says whether it’s a commercial property or a residential property.


What Does a Property Survey Look Like?

A property survey done by a professional land surveyor consists of two parts that look fairly different. These two parts are:

  1. The Property Survey Illustration
  2. Written Report

The Illustration

Close up of a property survey on a messy desk

The property survey illustration looks like a black and white map with a raised seal. Sometimes the illustration is on a large piece of paper.

The illustration includes visual information regarding the property, including physical boundaries and any overlapping or spacing between your property and adjacent properties. It will also show the physical location of any water structures, physical structures, adjacent roadways and driveways on your property.

Typically, the illustration also includes typed information like your address, the surveyor’s information, and street names.

If you’re interested in obtaining a property survey for a a fence installation permit, you will need this part of your property survey.

The Report

On the other hand, the written report looks very different.

Instead of a drawing, this written legal document is a description of the property. It includes important information, like official property measurements, the description of any buildings or structures within the property boundaries, and the presence of any existing easements.

There can be a lot of information inside a property survey written report. For example, property improvements will be in this section as well as zoning information for commercial or residential use. It’s important to know where these two parts are in case you want to sell or alter your property.


Property Survey Cost

Understanding a property survey is one thing, but how much does one cost?

According to HomeGuide.Net, the national average cost for a property survey in the U.S. is somewhere between $300 and $800. As with most services, this depends on a number of different factors. For example:

  • Your location
  • The size of your property
  • How long it’s been since your last survey
  • The topography of your property
  • If you’re having stakes put in

Property Survey Cost in New Jersey

The biggest factor is always the location. We’re located in New Jersey, and if you’re located in New Jersey you know that things are just more expensive here.

The average cost for a survey in New Jersey is higher than the national average. Most property owners can expect to pay somewhere between $700 and $1,000. This can be higher depending on the size and topography of your property.

This price can also go up if you need to have the property “staked-out,” which means having the corners marked by wooden stakes. Luckily, you don’t need to do this if you are getting a survey for a fence installation (but it doesn’t hurt!)


Do You Need A Property Survey For a Fence?

Time to answer a question we get every week here at Artistic Fence! Do you really need a survey for your fence installation?

Horizontal Wood Fence Stepped

Most of the time, the answer is “yes” because in most New Jersey towns you need a survey to go for a permit.

No survey equals no permit, which equals no fence.

But what if you live in a town like Ringwood that doesn’t require a fencing permit? There’s no need to go crazy looking for your survey, but we always recommend showing your fence installers. If you can show your installers your survey, that can make sure that the fence installed on your property and your property only.

It’s better to be safe than sorry!

What Kind of Permit Do You Need?

As we mentioned above, a handful of New Jersey towns do not require a permit for a fence. However, most municipalities require either zoning or building permits.

The best way to check whether or not your town requires a permit is to call your municipal building. You can also ask your fence contractor. If we’ve done work in your town before, chances are we know exactly what to submit.

How To Submit Your Survey For Fence Installation

As we mentioned before, each municipality in New Jersey has a different rules for fence permits.

When you need a fence permit, you will also need to submit a to-scale copy of the illustration portion of your survey for the town to review.

Depending on the type of permit, you might also need some other paperwork. That’s why we always recommend you call and check!


Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Find My Property Survey?

If you already own a home, you might want to check where you store your important documents. You more than likely have it somewhere in your house if you moved in recently.

If you can’t find your survey or it’s been a while, your local property records or engineering department may have one on file. Even if they do, you will probably need to get a new one because it is probably older or outdated.

If you are moving into a new home, you can ask the seller to ask their lender if they have one on file. You can also check with the local tax accessor’s office.

Who Does A Property Survey?

A lot of times people ask us if we do property surveys. Surveys must be done be licensed surveyors. As a reminder, these are legal documents. Fence contractors, handymen, and other parties can’t do a property survey.

If you are looking for a surveyor, we recommend asking your neighbors who they went with or doing a quick internet search.

Will My Fence Contractor Get My Permit For Me If I Give Them a Copy of My Survey?

White pvc fence installed by Artistic Fence in Wayne, NJ | Solid white pvc fence with deco rail and bar harbor picket fence gate

This really depends. Some fencing contractors go and get all of their customers’ permits while other fencing contractors refuse to go for any. You should always ask your fence installer who is responsible for the permit. This is very important because if you needed a permit and didn’t get one done before the fence was installer, you can get in some trouble.

Here at Artistic Fence, we offer the option to our customers. If you go for the permit yourself, you can call the office with any questions and our staff will help walk you through the paperwork and permit process.

If you would like us to go to your permit, we offer that at an additional fee. We will just need a copy of your property survey and we’ll take it from there!

Keep Learning

If you have more questions regarding the fence installation process, you can read our blog that explains everything from start to finish!