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Why do surveyors never agree?

Posted By Burk Cornelius, Friday, May 31, 2013

I get asked this question more than any other when someone finds out that I am a surveyor. Well there isn’t an easy answer but I thought I would try to explain it the best I can.

 

Surveying is like investigating a crime scene, the more evidence you find the more likely you will arrive at the correct solution. If you don’t gather ANY evidence you are basically guessing the outcome. If you gather evidence for weeks before making your decision you will likely come up with a different solution than someone who investigated for only a few days.

 

I know, take it easy there CSI-okie! However, the similarities are actually quite common. Evidence that surveyors gather might be historical. Some of it might be mathematical. Some of it might even be biological. But all of it combined, will lead to a more certain solution.

 

Let’s say that a CSI investigating a crime didn’t have access to a certain eyewitness than another CSI did have access to. The first solution is not going to be as certain because a key piece of evidence was missing. If a key piece of evidence is not available to one surveyor that is available to another, you can almost guarantee a different solution from each of them.

 

The problem with some of the physical evidence that surveyors have to examine is that it is often quite old and has deteriorated to a point that it cannot be relied upon. Another problem with our evidence is that not all of it is recorded in the public records thus making locating it difficult at best.

 

Quite often I hear someone say "I am sure my property has been surveyed before”. The problem in Oklahoma is that there is not a requirement to record surveys so even if it had really been surveyed, the only evidence of such a survey is in the prior surveyors office. If one surveyor happens to have such a prior survey available that another surveyor doesn’t they could very likely arrive at two different solutions.

 

What can you do if you are having your land surveyed and want to avoid such issues? First, always have an open conversation between you, the neighbor and the Land Surveyors prior to the work (investigation) beginning. The neighbor might have some valuable evidence that you or your Land Surveyors might not have access to, such as an old survey or a picture of their grandpa standing next to a big survey marker. This kind of evidence is known as parole evidence and is often overlooked by surveyors but is often as important as finding monuments in the ground.

 

So, if you hear someone say "Why can’t surveyors ever agree” just remember surveying is not an EXACT science. Although the rules are rigid, the interpretation of the data (evidence) is subjective and two surveyors may interpret that data in two different ways. Much like two attorneys can, and do, interpret a law in two different ways.

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