Welcome to USA Land Surveyors. This site is owned by a land surveyor and it is for land surveyors. After 25 years owning his own land surveying and engineering consulting firm, Keith Maxwell was “forced” to do marketing by the Great Recession. After much trial and error he hit on this thing called the Internet, which blew away all the other marketing methods. For the last 5 years he’s been helping other surveyors get found on the front page of Google in their local market.

Why Land Surveyors MUST Be Online

Keith works with only one local surveyor per city or town. No city is too small for internet marketing. If you have more than 2 competitors, you need to be found on Google ahead of them, preferably in 1st place.Keith Maxwell, PLS, PE

If you prefer to be only found for ALTA Land Surveys, we have a page dedicated to this valuable surveying business type.

Call Keith today at 888-316-4124 to talk about how he can help market your land surveying business and get found on Page 1 of Google.

Six Things To Know About Your Property

Your property and house may be your single largest purchase in your life. You should protect it with the diligence that you would a stack of gold. Here are a half dozen things you should know about your property.

  1. Where are the property corners/property lines? And, what is marking the corners?
  2. Are there any encroachments over my property lines? If so, how far? Are these encroachments by me onto my neighbor or vice versa?
  3. Are there easements across my land?
  4. Am I in a flood hazard zone?
  5. Do I have a copy of my deed?
  6. Do I have a drawing from the last survey?

Where are my Property Lines/Property Corners?

Property corners are usually marked by some type of permanent marker, like a rebar or metal pipe. Wooden stakes rarely mark your property corners, they are a witness to the metal corner that is probably buried underground near the stake. So, a little digging may be necessary to find your corner. Surveyors bury these corners to keep them from being hit by lawn mowers or pulled up by neighbors.

Your property lines run between two property corners. Most times property lines run in a straight line, though they could also be in a curve. Typically road right-of-ways are the most probable curved lines. By looking at the original plat of your property at the courthouse (for a subdivision lot) you can determine if any of your lines are curved.

If you are not in a platted subdivision, there should be a “metes & bounds” legal description on your deed to indicate the distances and any curved lines. If you don’t have a copy of the deed look County Probate or Recorders office.

Are There Encroachments Over My Property Lines?

An encroachment is anything man-made, owned by one landowner that is built over their property line between them and another owner. Common encroachments are driveways, retaining walls, fences, outbuildings, and utility lines. These encroachments can be in either direction. If your driveway encroaches onto your neighbors land, that is an encroachment onto them. It is more of a problem for them than you, technically. If this isn’t significant, and wouldn’t hinder you using your driveway, then it may not be worth bringing up to your neighbor. And, if a neighbor’s driveway, or fence, or other object encroaches barely (less than a 6-inches) then this may not be worth arguing over.

Property Line Encroachments - Land SurveyingOnce an encroachment is found, there are numerous solutions. Moving the encroaching object is most times the easiest. If this will create a significant burden, then an easement can be written that indicates that both sides are aware of the encroachment and they are OK with it as long as it doesn’t setup any type of adverse possession claims later.

Are There Easements Across My Land?

An easement is where one person or entity (a utility company for example) has a right to use your land, but doesn’t own that part of your land. Common easements are for sanitary sewers, water mains, storm drainage, power lines or other utilities, or access easements. An easement is for a specific purpose. A sanitary sewer easement cannot be used for a power line, unless an additional agreement is given by the landowner. You should know of any easements that are currently on your property. There is usually some type of recorded document of an easement.

There are also times when an unwritten easement has been “given” (acquiesced) by you not stopping the use. In one case I know of, a landowner allowed school children to cut through his yard for years and later when a new owner tried to stop this “trespass” he could not do so because it had been allowed to go on for so long a time.

Am I in a Flood Hazard Zone?

Flood Hazard Maps are created by FEMA to show the areas that are susceptible to flooding during a 1-percent chance storm event. You can find these flood maps by visiting the FEMA Map Service Center and entering your street address. Flood zones are determined by a certain elevation, the Base Flood Elevation (BFE), in the vicinity of your house. If the flood zone adjacent or on your property is anything other than Zone A, which has no BFE determined, then the surveyor has a flood elevation he can compare to your house elevation.  You can learn more by visiting our elevation certificate page.

Flood Hazard Zone - Elevation Certificate

Do I Have a Copy of My Deed?

If you can’t find your deed, one can typically be found in the Probate or Recorders office at your local county courthouse. Some counties have these documents online and others require you to visit the courthouse. The record room is usually staffed by someone who can help you find your deed. Expect to pay a copying fee if you want to take a copy home with you.

You should have a copy of your deed if you want to hire a surveyor to find your property corners. If you live in a subdivision that is platted (the entire map is recorded in the Probate Office) you can get a copy of a portion of the plat map that covers your lot. Carrying a digital camera or camera on your phone is often preferable to a paper copy, and cheaper. Snap a picture of all parts of a subdivision plat for the surveyor.

Do I Have a Drawing from The Last Survey?

If you haven’t had a survey done on your property since you moved in you may have to ask the former owners for that. If they don’t have it, then you may have to rely on just the subdivision plat copy from the courthouse. If you did have a survey done, and you can’t find it, contact the surveyor who completed the survey and ask for an unsigned copy.

When you get a new survey completed, protect the survey drawing just like you would your other valuable papers. You may have paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for this survey and having a copy is extremely valuable to you if you had to have any additional survey work done in the future. A prior survey is an invaluable document for us surveyors trying to “retrace” your property lines.

Keith Maxwell is a licensed land surveyor and civil engineer in the State of Alabama. He has over 25 years’ experience in surveying property in the state. Contact him at 334-826-9540 for help with your property in Alabama.

Even Millionaires Have Fence Problems

Boundary Line Disputes – Fence Problems

In this NY Post Article, two Manhattan millionaires fight over the placement of a fence. One neighbor, who’s fence had been over the line by 12-inches for 20 years tried to sue for “squatters rights” and prevent the neighbor from making improvements to their property and taking down the fence.

While I can’t really sympathize with millionaires about anything, it certainly shows you that boundary line disputes can happen to anyone.

Even if your land isn’t worth millions per square foot, you should “protect your boundary lines.” It has certainly been the case in the past that fences have “matured” to the point that they are judged to be the property line.

So, if your neighbor’s fence is over the line, or a wall, or anything really, you should do something about it. Now, you don’t have to always sue them.

One solution might be to write them an easement for the encroachment and have them sign and acknowledge the encroachment. This lets them know that you know they are encroaching, and their agreement to the easement should remove any chance of them taking the property.

Of course, always consult an attorney in these matters. The attorney will want an updated survey so he/she knows what the situation is.

Protect your own property rights. Even if you’re not a millionaire.

 J. Keith Maxwell is a Professional Engineer & Land Surveyor and has acted as an Expert Witness on multiple boundary line disputes.

Get Permission to Market Your Business First

Interruption Based Marketing is the Worst

How many of you hate commercial interruptions as much as I do? Probably not many of you because I HATE them so much that I unplugged from Cable. I only watch the channels (Apps) that I subscribe to (Hulu & CBS mostly.) I even pay extra for Hulu to skip the commercials. CBS they still shows a few commercials, but less than watching live. I hate the interruptions. You may not realize it but an hour program contains almost 20 minutes of commercials.

As people flit from app to app online, they have little patience for any interruption, especially a banner ad or, heaven forbid, a 30-second commercial. – NYTimes Article

This is the same if you listen to radio, unless you pay for Satellite radio. So, we pay more to skip commercials in our lives. But advertisers are constantly trying to get our attention. They interrupt us with ads on videos, billboards, signs everywhere, and commercials on anything we can watch.

Interruption based marketing is the worst type, as opposed to Permission based marketing.

Permission Based Marketing is In

Permission based marketing is where the person you’re marketing to is actively looking for a business like yours. An early example is the Yellow Pages. Years ago, when you needed a plumber, you’d look in the Yellow Pages under Plumber and there they were. You were giving them permission to show you their ad and tell you what they could do for you.

Today folks use Search Engines, mainly Google. When someone searches for a “land surveyor near me” they are giving you permission to market to them. Stop and go enter “land surveyor city st” into Google. Did your company come up at the top of the list? Did you show up in the Top 3? Did you show up on the first page at all?

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

Just like the Yellow Pages of old, if you aren’t in there, you aren’t in business.

I highly recommend Seth Godin’s book “Permission Marketing” for extra reading on this subject.

J. Keith Maxwell is a land surveyor and engineer in Alabama who is helping other surveyors to market their business online. Call him at 888-316-4124 to discuss how he can help you.

Benefits of Investing in Real Estate

Investing in real estate should be treated like any other investment you make.  You need to fully understand what you are getting into and the risks associated.

Investment Risk

ALL investments have some sort of risk. Even keeping your cash in a mason jar in the back yard has risks, and not just that you’ll forget where you buried it. Cash or CD’s paying a very low return carry “inflation risk.” This means that if you consider inflation, and you don’t earn more than inflation, you’re actually losing value in your money. Inflation averages around 3% per year. So, your money has to gain 3% in order for you just to keep up with the same buying ability for the same dollar.

Investing in mutual funds has “hidden fees” risk. Most mutual funds carry significant fees, anywhere from 0.5% to 5% which “drain away” from your balance without you knowing it.

There are many investors who view real estate as too risky of an investment to get involved in.  Another camp looks at real estate as the best way to make sustainable wealth now and in the future.  The benefits of investing in real estate greatly outweigh the negatives.  There is risk with everything you do, but real estate offers security and benefits that no other form of investing can match.

Top Reasons to Get Into the Real Estate Business

  • Tax benefitsThe tax benefits alone make real estate an attractive investment vehicle.  On any rental property you own you can write off mortgage interest and depreciation.  Because of this the money you make from cash flow is essentially tax free.  You can also use rental properties to claim deductions that will lower your taxable income for the year.  Even when you decide to sell you can take advantage of a 1031 tax exchange so you do not have to pay the full capital gains tax.  There are many ways to use the tax code to help your real estate business. And, passive income, is taxed at the lowest level.
  • Appreciation.  Buying a piece of real estate often times holds greater future value. Of course this is not the case all of the time but over the past several years we have seen values increase.  All markets work in cycles but in most cases property values will appreciate five and ten years down the road.  This gives you the ability to cash in on your investment when you sell in addition to see the rewards every month.
  • Cash flow.  Owning the right rental property allows you to collect checks every month while still looking at the future.  Running a rental property is not easy but it could offer a higher monthly return than anything else you do.  The beauty is that this cycle can continue in much the same way for years to come.  With the right property and the right tenants you can see cash flow for the foreseeable future.
  • Leverage. Real estate is one of the few investment vehicles where using the bank’s money couldn’t be easier. The ability to make a down payment, leverage your own capital, and increase your overall return on YOUR investment is incredible.
  • Uncapped returns.  With IRA’s and bonds you know what your annual returns will be from the first day you own them.  In most cases these returns will be less than 2%.  While this may be considered safe there is something to be said for the returns you are not making on your money.  Real estate gives you the ability to earn an unlimited amount of money on every deal.  Some deals you can earn a 20% rate of return while others only 10-12%.  The upside potential is much higher in real estate than anything else you will get into, including the stock market.
  • Private money lending. Real estate deals thrive on private money lending. Most property rehab projects can’t get bank funding. So real estate investors are needed. These returns can be extremely attractive AND they are guaranteed with real estate.


Some of the most successful people have accumulated their wealth through real estate.  There are risks associated with every type of investing but only with real estate does the reward make sense.


J. Keith Maxwell is the Office Manager for Astute Home Solutions in Madison, AL. He buys and rehabs houses in order to make neighborhoods look better, to help employ others, and to help homeowners out of difficult situations. Call him at 866-HOMES60.