If you are planning to build a granny flat, you may be wondering what professionals you need, starting with: do you need a surveyor for a granny flat?
Yes, before you submit a DA or a CDC, you will need a surveyor to map out your land and provide a survey (also known as plans or drawings), that will be submitted along with your application to be accepted by Council.
Today I will talk about surveyors – what they do, and whether your surveyor needs to come on site.
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Lastly, I will provide you with a list of recommended surveyors in each state.
What is a Surveyor? Are They All the Same?
You may have heard the terms land surveyor, building surveyor or quantity surveyor, but do you actually know:
- The difference between these occupations.
- Their qualifications, or
- Which one you will require?
Not all surveyors are the same. See my list of recommended companies below
I will explain the difference between these qualifications for you now.
Land Surveyors play an important role in the construction industry. Without them, nothing would be built accurately – roads, bridges, buildings, even granny flats.
Land surveying is a vital step in beginning the construction of your granny flat. A Land Surveyor is a qualified professional who uses mathematics, science, and specialised technology and equipment such as:
- Robotic Total Stations (theodolites), GPS receivers, global positioning technology, aerial and terrestrial scanners, etc.
This helps them to determine:
- The terrestrial, 2D or 3D location of points, and the distance and angles in the space between them.
An experienced Land Surveyor will be able to deal with architects, engineers, builders, town planners, etc.
The role of a Land Surveyor includes:
- The measurement of your property.
- Locating buildings, roads, and utilities.
- Recording the space, positioning and angles between two points on the ground, using “benchmarks”(reference points) as a starting point.
- Marking their locations on highly detailed maps (known as surveys), including easements, soil conditions and structures on the land.
So, they will:
- Accurately measure and mark out the primary property boundaries on your site.
- Produce preliminary markers to establish where your granny flat will be located on the land, and
- Ensure it is in a position that can be approved through your Councils’ regulations.
Getting these measurements correct is crucial if you want to avoid building or legal problems after construction begins.
After consultation with a Land Surveyor, your builder will begin ‘setting out’ the property.
This involves marking out every boundary of the granny flat from the preliminary markers created by the Land Surveyor.
From the survey report the builders (or you as an owner-builder) will be able to run string or ropes between corner stakes on the site, creating an outline of where your granny flat will go.
Your designer will need the survey report to position the granny flat.
Other areas (i.e. easements) will also be marked out, to ensure the development complies accurately with the original building plan.
At times, this process is performed by the land surveyor, however this is more likely to happen on commercial projects.
There are multiple ways someone can become a Land Surveyor:
- Vocational training is accessible to become a survey assistant or a survey technician.
- To become a professional surveyor, an undergraduate degree or undergraduate and a masters is required, (depending on where you study).
- After graduating, additional study is then necessary to become a licensed or registered surveyor.
- Though, in Australia, you can still become a highly skilled Land Surveyor with a diploma.
A Quantity Surveyor may have more qualification – they must have completed an accredited tertiary qualification, including:
- A Bachelor of Construction Management, then must do,
- Two years’ worth of “on the job” logbook experience, then must,
- Undertake a professional competence interview.
However, their skill is in preparing a tax depreciation schedule.
Meaning, during various stages of construction, they are able to establish how much the building works is costing a property.
This profession is more like a combination of architecture and business, as they can:
- Advise you what the most economical approach will be.
A Building Surveyor is a licensed professional, who specialises in:
- Building laws and codes, and
- Construction standards.
A Building Surveyor is responsible for making sure that buildings are safely built to current building standards.
Land Surveyor vs. Building Surveyor vs. Quantity Surveyor
To summarise and prevent confusion, it’s worth noting here that there is a big difference between a:
- Land Surveyor,
- Building Surveyor, and
- Quantity surveyor.
A Land Surveyor will assess the spatial layout of your site, ensuring you have enough room for your granny flat.
A Building Surveyor will deal with legal issues and permits in planning and construction.
A Quantity Surveyor will keep a record of costs and materials used for construction, for purposes of depreciation.
So, for the aim of getting a survey to get a granny flat approved, I will be talking about Land Surveyors from hereon.
Can You Be Approved Without One?
Short answer – no.
A surveyor will play an integral role in your project.
You will need a surveyor to assist you in providing a set of plans (a survey) your Council will accept.
Just exactly what is required will vary depending on your Council, but is typically includes:
- A site plan at a minimum scale of 1:200, showing:
You may find that these are called a contour survey, site survey or feature survey.
The names of these surveys are different but to a surveyor they basically mean a similar thing.
This is required to be submitted with your Complying Development (CDC) or Development Application (DA), before approval will be given.
Please note – As mentioned, this is only a generalisation of the survey required by Councils’, this will vary as per your location.
Does Your Surveyor Need to be On Site?
Yes – a surveyor needs to come to your property and map out the land.
They will be out on site, using the latest technology to map the area, making calculations, and taking photos as proof.
This work is the foundation of information upon which your:
It’s important to understand that there are a many different factors that come into surveying land for its’ proposed development, such as;
Having your boundary lines and land heights accurately measured ensures you can overcome all of these issues and complete your development.
For example, it’s crucial to know the location and heights of drainage and sewage-works if the land is:
This is often the deciding factor of the floor level of the secondary dwelling.
Can You Have a Designer Craft Your Plans with the Survey Report?
Yes – as above, surveyors are often the first people on a development site.
Once they measure and map your land, these measurements can then be used by architects to:
- Understand your unique landscape, and
- Create the best possible design for your site.
This ensures buildings not only fit in with the landscape but are able to be constructed for your site.
What to Look for in a Surveyor
You need the services of an experienced land surveyor.
A few key things to look for, and some important questions to ask, are:
- A good reputation – A trusted professional will have an established reputation, which speaks for itself. Tell friends, family, or colleagues in the area that you are seeking a surveyor and ask who they have used before. A great reference can give you so much information – if they are honest, skilled, if they will give you accurate results.
- A license to work in your state – You can check the Surveyors Registration Board for your state. You can usually search this by surname or Registration number. It will tell you if they are practising, non-practising, suspended or expired.
- Do they protect their workers? – It is crucial for you to know that your surveyor has workers compensation. This demonstrates that they are responsible and safe – all qualities a surveyor should have. Should a member of their team be hurt whilst on your site, you also want to be protected.
- Experience in the service you require – Surveyors handle multiple projects, from mapping large areas to engineering surveys. To see if they have experience in the work you’re seeking, ask for references. Then ask for more. Follow up those references by calling them and asking what they were like to work with.
- Ask them about ongoing training and the latest technologies – As you narrow down your selection of surveyors, start considering their skill set. You want to ascertain their companies’ approach to further education. It is important to ask: “Are they using the latest technology and equipment?” A friendly, knowledgeable surveying team should be happy to answer this question for you.
- Do they check their work – A surveyor should always check their work for accuracy. This attention to detail is highly important. Ask the company how they ensure their work is accurate?Their answers should include reviewing existing or current maps and surveys, and thoroughly checking their data.
Is a Surveyor at Fault if Your Granny Flat is Not Approved
No, there is more to getting your granny flat approved than the surveyors’ role. This is why it’s important to do your research first and find out exactly what your Council requires for approval.
It is important to note that it could be something as simple as:
- They don’t like the look of a cheaper design, if it does not fit in with the look of your surrounding neighbourhood.
However, it is still important to use a licensed surveyor. As mentioned, each state has its own governing body, so I recommend that you check your surveyors license with them.
This is as a licensed surveyor is the:
- Only person who is legally permitted to perform a survey and mark the boundaries of your property.
Meaning, a survey that is prepared by a non-licensed surveyor has no legal standing. It is important to understand that, if a boundary dispute was to occur, these surveys will not be acknowledged as evidence.
List of Surveyors in Each State
A surveyor may not come cheap – graduates earn an average of $55-60k per year.
However, they have access to the latest technology and equipment, which is always changing. They can work for themselves, in private firms or as part of government departments.
I have provided a list recommended Land Surveyors throughout Australia below:
New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory
Land surveying is a complicated, challenging role.
It is the measurement and mapping of our surrounding environment, using science, mathematics, specialised technology, and equipment. A surveyor will need to have a strong understanding of spatial awareness in both 2D and 3D.
The surveyor is usually the first one on your site, and this is a crucial step in beginning your development. Your project relies heavily on the decisions the surveyor makes while working there, such as:
- Accurately measuring and marking out your property’s boundaries, and
- Using preliminary markers to ‘set out’ where your new granny flat will be located.
They will use current technology to map out the site, make calculations and take photos to use as proof. A surveyor then gives advice and provides information to guide the work of engineers, architects, etc.
Accurately understanding the dimensions and topography (contours) of your site is important, as it ensures:
- What you plan to achieve will comply with building guidelines and your Councils’ regulations plans, and
- The end goal of your project will remain unchanged.
For example, as you are adding a secondary dwelling, you need to understand if everything will fit on your site, and:
Additionally, as you are proposing to build a new development, Council approval is required. To achieve approval, a professional survey is necessary.