Morse Engineering and Construction Industries

Septic Tank Pumping in the Winter

Joseph Coupal - Friday, November 08, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction Industries - Septic System Construction Fiskdale, MA

With the weather continuing to get colder and winter not too far off, many residents are wondering whether it’s possible to schedule a septic tank pumping visit during the coldest season. While the short answer is yes, the situation requires a bit more of an explanation.

It is possible to conduct a septic tank pumping at any time of the year, no matter how cold it is. However, winter often presents a challenge not to the actual pump, but to the technician’s ability to access your home. Big snowstorms can make the roads treacherous to drive on, so they must be clear before service can be delivered. Additionally, the technicians must be able to make their way to your septic tank from where they park on your property. To carve out a path, you may have to do some shoveling, or you can wait until the snow melts. In any event, because of these winter weather issues, it’s ideal to schedule your septic tank cleaning before any storm hits.

While the cold won’t limit your septic tank pumping capability, it’s important to note it can stop a full-scale replacement of your septic system. Since that would entail more intensive excavation work, it can be problematic to proceed when the ground is frozen. Those types of projects are best undertaken during the warmer months of the year. When it comes to septic inspections, many residents also tend to pick a warm month for their annual visit for the same accessibility issue mentioned before. On the other hand, winter is a less busy time for septic companies, so you may have an easier time getting an appointment.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

How To Find My Property Lines?

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, October 31, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

When you look at your house and yard, you're fairly confident you know your property lines. The neighbor's fence and where you mow your grass all seem to match the boundaries between other houses on your street. A fence here and there may slightly stray into someone else's yard, but for the most part everything seems about right.

Now imagine being so wrong about your property lines that your house is built on the completely wrong lot.

It’s happened before.

Much smaller mistakes, or discrepancies between documents, can lead to costly issues if you and a neighbor disagree over the location of your property line, whether it's a couple inches or a couple yards. To steer clear of conflicts, avoid making any changes to the edges of your property that could lead to a problem, monetary or otherwise, down the line.

Why You Must Know Your Property Lines

From permits to purchases, being able to identify your property lines accurately makes it much easier to complete a project or move forward with a transaction.

In most official cases, having a new survey done is the way to go. If you want to build a swimming pool, and you're not 100 percent sure where that easement is. You could have a new survey done.

Additionally, when you purchase a home, it's not uncommon for your mortgage lender to require a new survey be conducted on the property. Even when that's not the case, your title insurance company will likely recommend a new survey as well, so you know if the neighbor's garage reaches over onto the property or if the outdoor kitchen encroaches on a sewer easement, which could be costly to remove down the line.

Issues discovered in the new survey of the property may not be covered in the standard owner’s title insurance policy, but knowing those concerns before you close could help you decide if you need to renegotiate with the seller or walk away from the deal entirely.

How Do I Find My Property Lines?

Your property lines were established when your neighborhood was originally developed. The property lines are noted in a couple different locations, including in the legal description for the lot, which would be on your property deed, and on a plat map, which is typically available through your local assessor's office or planning office.

But being able to perfectly translate the legal description to establish the physical boundaries on your property can be quite the feat if you’re not trained to do so. Many properties have hidden markers at the corners that, if found, can help you find your bounds, though hiring a professional surveyor to reestablish your property lines will give you the most accurate answer.

Here are your options for finding your property lines:

Hiring a Surveyor

For existing residential properties, a surveyor specializes in making precise measurements to locate the legal boundaries of a plot of land and any improvements to the property, from the house and driveway to a swimming pool or backyard shed. Surveyors also play a vital role when developing land to determine new property lines, locate the property location of a building to meet zoning and code requirements and more.

Taking the details from the legal description and plat map, a surveyor carefully measures the legal boundaries of your property. When the original survey is completed, metal bars are often buried at the corner points of the property. To help you see the corners or boundary lines, a surveyor will likely leave wooden stakes or flags in the ground at those spots as a temporary reference for you.

The complexity of a survey depends entirely on the geography of the area, what's on your property and what surrounds it.

Hiring a surveyor is certainly the most accurate way to find out your property lines

Required or not, have a new survey done – or refer to one conducted in the last few years – as a way to play it safe when buying a property and doing home improvements. Otherwise, you could find that you need to pay to remove an addition to your house or take out a swimming pool because it encroaches on the neighbor's land or is going to be a part of planned road expansion. Those fixes are going to be problematic, and they're going to be costly.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


How to Find Out Where the Property Lines Are

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

Property lines, or boundary lines, are the defined points where one person's land ends and the neighboring lands begin. You can find them on your property deed, on the survey you received when you bought your home, or by using the mapping tools at the county assessor's office. Use your boundary lines to determine where to legally place desired items. Erecting a structure, such as a fence, or using a part of another person's land can lead to lawsuits and unpleasant situations with neighbors.

Check the official website for the assessor's office in your municipality. Some assessors have mapping tools available online for all of the real estate in the area. Use the maps to find the boundary lines for your property and to determine where nearby landmarks are located, such as the west line of your street. The landmarks are fixed points that you can use to measure from. Using a tape measure, measure the distance from each of the landmark points to your property line as shown on the maps.

Check your deed. The deed contains a description of your property's measurements and boundaries in words. Measure from the landmarks in the description to the property lines. Mark each corner with a stake or other marker. Measure from each stake to the next all the way around your property to ensure the measured lines match the deed. Physically measuring the boundaries will allow you to visually determine where the lines are and avoid encroaching on your neighbor's land.

Visit the county recorder's office or the assessor's office. Ask what maps are available for public viewing that include your neighborhood and street. Request a copy of any maps that show clear dimensions of your property lines. Use the maps for reference when measuring your property's total boundary line on each side.

Look at your property survey. The survey is a document with a rendering of the property lines and measurements, and should have been given to you when you bought your home. The distance from your house to the property line and the street should be shown on the survey. Use the measurements and details about surrounding landmarks to visually determine the property lines and avoid land disputes with neighbors.

Hire a surveyor if you do not have a survey. A surveyor is a professional who can measure and map the property lines for you. The surveyor will mark the lines at the corners with stakes. Be present when the surveyor comes to measure your property, so he can point out where the property lines are. The cost of a survey varies depending on your location, property value and lot size.

For more information on property surveys, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

Why Do Perc Test for a Septic System

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, October 09, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

A perc test, or percolation test, is a soil test that is performed before installing a septic system tank. The perc test is extremely important because it measures the level of liquid absorption of the soil where the proposed septic tank will be located. It determines how quickly the material from the septic system will be absorbed into the soil.

A septic system works by allowing material from the septic tank to flow into leach lines that are placed adjacent to the tank. As the organic material slowly seeps into the surrounding soil, it is naturally absorbed into the ground and eventually processed through the soil. If the soil surrounding the location of a prospective septic system is not capable of absorbing large amounts of liquid, then a new location will be necessary or the septic system will fail and result in expensive repairs.

Additionally, the placement of septic tanks and entire septic systems are regulated by local building codes, even in rural areas. In many areas, a soil test and perc test are required before a new building permit will be issued. In some cases, these tests must be performed by an approved county engineer in order for approval by the building department. A professional inspector will typically dig several holes around the entire proposed septic system area when performing a perc test for the purposes of building permit approval.

Generally, a perc rate of less than 15 minutes per inch or greater than 105 minutes per inch is unacceptable. However, all areas have specific guidelines and requirements for acceptable perc rates.

For more information on perc tests, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

4 Types of Property Surveys

Joseph Coupal - Friday, October 04, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

There are several different types of surveys.

The type of survey that we order for closing is called a “Location Survey.” A Location Survey shows the location of the improvements on the property in relation to the apparent boundary lines of the property. It generally involves a physical inspection of the property and is accurate to plus or minus a few feet.

This type of survey will generally cost a few hundred dollars. It should not be used for the purpose of identifying the property’s boundary lines, such as for construction or permit purposes (you’ll need a Boundary Survey for that). When you go to closing, you should feel free to ask the settlement attorney any questions you might have about what is shown on the survey.

A “Boundary Survey” is used to identify a property’s boundary lines. In this type of survey, the surveyor will set (or recover) the property corners and produce a detailed plat or map. To accomplish this, the surveyor will research the public records and do research in the field, take measurements and perform calculations.

This type of survey is what is necessary for construction and permit purposes, and it can be expensive — possibly even several thousand dollars — depending on the size of the property and how complicated the records are.

For commercial closings, lenders will usually require a type of survey called an “ALTA/ASCM Survey.” ALTA stands for American Land Title Association, and ACSM stands for American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. An ALTA/ASCM survey is a Boundary Survey that must meet certain stringent standards established by these two organizations.

If you are buying a house and you plan on doing construction in the short term, such as putting on an addition or installing a fence, it might make sense to obtain a Boundary Survey as part of your purchase closing. That way, you would not be paying for a Location Survey for the closing and then having to pay for a Boundary Survey after closing.

You would just need to inform the title company so that they can arrange for the surveyor to perform a Boundary Survey instead of a Location Survey.

Property survey in practice

Where questions come up after closing regarding the property lines, but a full survey plat or map is not needed, another option is to have a surveyor “Mark the Property Corners.”

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


What is a Property Survey and Where Can You Get One?

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, September 26, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

Property surveys are done to determine or confirm land boundaries, such as the plot of land a home sits on, and identify other types of restrictions and conditions that apply to the legal description of a property.

Whether you’re buying a home or building an addition onto your property, you’re going to need a property survey. Let’s explore in more detail what it is and how to get one.

What is a property survey?

A property survey is all about defining what’s yours and what isn’t. They’re done for many different reasons.

Surveys are used to establish boundaries when new parcels of land are being developed, as well as to identify and confirm already established land boundaries.

For example, if you’re considering putting up a fence on your property, you’ll need to know where your property line ends — and where your neighbor’s begins. That’s what a property survey helps you determine.

If you’re looking to buy a home, you might be required to get a survey, depending on where you live. Many lenders and title companies require a copy of a survey to close on a home, but they’re not mandatory everywhere.

Where do I find my property’s survey?

If you’re buying a home, ask the seller to check with their lender and/or title company to see if there’s a property survey on file. The local tax assessor’s office may also have one.

If you’re already a homeowner and a survey was never provided to you, your local property records or engineering department may have one on file, but it’s probably older and could be outdated. While such dated surveys are typically accurate on standard city lots, they can be wrong if you live on a former country parcel that’s been altered for suburban development. You can also check with neighbors to see where they got theirs.

What are the different types of property surveys?

Because there are many reasons to have a survey done, there are a few different types of surveys.

For example, land surveys are done to show the boundaries of a parcel of land. There are also topographic surveys, which show the plane as well as the elevation of land. If road improvements are requested, for instance, a topographic survey would be needed.

Other types of surveys include:

  • Monumentation surveys: These are done if you want to add a fence to your property.
  • As-built surveys: Determine property lines but also where improvements can be made, like driveways and sidewalks.
  • Mortgage surveys: Like as-built surveys, these show property boundaries for an entire property that will be mortgaged.
  • Floodplain surveys: Show flood hazard areas.

If you’re requesting a property survey, be specific about why you need it. That way when you get an estimate for the work, it’s accurate in relation to what you need done.

Why are property surveys important?

While property surveys aren’t required everywhere, they are in many jurisdictions across the country. That’s because they detail how your property is defined in an official capacity. Rather than guessing where your property lines are, you have a document that makes it clear.

Property surveys are required for lender title insurance policies.

In order for a title insurance policy to be issued, it needs to be known if there are any encroachments on the property prior to closing. They’re usually done before a home purchase, or when someone is putting a pool in or a fence.

Cities or contractors will require a survey before permits can be pulled. So if you’re hoping to build a pool in your backyard, you’ll need a recent survey completed. While there’s a chance you could use an old survey to pull permits, it’s not always guaranteed. In that case, you may want to get a new survey completed.

How much a property survey costs

The cost of a property survey depends on what type of survey you need and the property’s size, location and history. A simple property boundary survey costs anywhere from $100 to $600, while a mortgage survey costs an average of $500, according to data from HomeAdvisor, which lists average costs for various types of property surveys. The more complex a property’s features and records history, the more you’ll likely pay for a surveyor’s time.

If you’re buying a home and need a survey to establish property lines, determine whether a property is in a floodplain or because your lender requires one, you will pay for the survey.

How do I hire a property surveyor?

Searching for property surveyors in your area is one of the best ways to find companies to get the job done.

There is a surveying society in each of the 50 states, all of which are affiliated with NSPS. Each of those societies has a website, which will typically include a ‘Find A Surveyor’ section.

Don’t be afraid to ask your title company or lender for recommendations. This can help you find a trustworthy and reliable surveyor near you.

You should also take the time to question your potential surveyor. Talk about your needs beforehand to make sure they can fulfill the requirements. Check that the surveyor is licensed to practice in the state where the property is located.

Be mindful of how much time it takes to complete a survey. Wooll says property surveys can usually be completed within a week, but it could take up to three, depending on the company.

There’s no way to determine exactly how long it’ll take to complete a survey since there are so many variables to consider, including the quality and availability of property records, such as deeds.

Bottom line

You might not need a property survey done before buying a home. In some cases, your lender or title company might require one, so make sure you’re prepared for the additional legwork and cost. Whether you’re closing on a home or planning a major addition, knowing your property’s precise boundary lines can help avoid costly headaches and disputes with neighbors later on.

If you have questions about getting your property surveyed, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


10 Reasons to Have Your Property Surveyed

Joseph Coupal - Friday, September 13, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

Most people seek out the expertise of a professional surveyor to settle common property description issues before they become problems. The following are some common reasons property owners hire a surveyor.

1. Boundary Lines

One of the most common reasons a landowner seeks the assistance of a surveyor, the location of boundary lines and other lines of occupancy or possession is a critical piece of information to have before you build a fence, add a sun-room or pave your driveway. All too often the survey shows that you and your neighbors were operating under the wrong assumption about the placement of the boundary line between your properties. Before you have that fence erected, you want to make sure it will be built on your property, not your neighbor's. The boundary line certification will also tell you whether the legal description of your property is accurate.

2. Gores, Overlaps, and Gaps

Part of the boundary line certification, most surveys include a statement that unless the surveys shows otherwise, there are no discrepancies between the boundary lines of your property and the adjoining property. This is especially pertinent if your property is continuous with alleys, roads, highways, or streets.

3. Rights-of-Way, Easements, And Abandoned Roads

A survey will show all the conditions imposed by law that are reflected in your property's title report and other agreements. If your property blocks your neighbor's access to the road, for example, there may be an old agreement (called an "easement") that gives your neighbor the right to walk across your yard to the street.

4. Ponds, Rivers, Creeks, Streams, Wells, and Lakes

The typical survey reports visible or surface waters only. Underground waters and wetlands are topics that are better covered by other professional inspections.

5. Joint Driveways, Party Walls, Rights-of-Support, Encroachments, Overhangs, or Projections

Unbeknownst to you or your next-door neighbor, you may have an obligation by law to support your neighbor's driveway by maintaining your own.

6. Existing Improvements

The surveyor will usually certify that the buildings and other improvements, alterations, and repairs to your property that exist at the time of the survey are not in violation of laws or other restrictions such as those regarding height, bulk, dimension, frontage, building lines, set-backs, and parking. Of course, the surveyor will also tell you if your latest improvement is in violation of a local ordinance or other law, which will put you on notice that a change is in order.

7. Water, Electric, Gas, Telephone and Telegraph Pipes, Drains, Wires, Cables, Vaults, Manhole Covers, Catchbasins, Lines, and Poles

Poles and above-ground wires are obvious, but the surveyor can usually report on the existence of underground cables and drains, as well, if the information is provided to him or her by your utility companies and municipality. Such information is important for two reasons. A utility company may have the right to use a portion of your property for upkeep of utility lines, and may have a say in how tall you let your trees grow, for instance. Also, knowing the exact location of underground utilities is critical before any excavation or construction begins.

8. Cemeteries

It is unlikely that unbeknownst to you there is an old family burial ground in your back yard. The survey will show the exact location of any old cemeteries on your plat.

9. Access, Ingress and Egress

Your survey should state, at a minimum, whether there is physical vehicular ingress and egress to an open public street. It may also specify the adequacy of access for a particular purpose, such as delivery trucks, emergency vehicles such as fire trucks, and driveways for tenants.

10. Zoning Classification

You probably know whether your property is zoned for residential or light industrial use. But you may be surprised to discover that your zoning classification puts specific restrictions on how you use your property. This part of the survey simply reports your zoning jurisdiction and classification. Once you have your completed and certified survey, you may want to consult an attorney about whether you are using your property in conformance with zoning ordinances or for other advice about the legal ramifications of your property survey.

Curious About Why You Should Have Your Property Surveyed?

Sometimes a dispute between neighbors is just the result of misunderstanding, such as confusion over where one property ends and the other begins, which is why having your property surveyed is a good idea. If you have questions about getting your property surveyed, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

What is a Property Survey?

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, September 05, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

There's a lot of research you have to do when you're thinking of purchasing an investment as big as a home. This research is also called completing due diligence, which is a real estate term. Essentially it means that you know exactly what state the house you want to buy is in, and that you'll be prepared for whatever happens.

One of the things that you should complete (but sometimes don't have to, depending on your mortgage company) is a property survey. It may not seem like a big deal, but not having a property survey completed, and not following up with the surveyor can create some disastrous results. But first, let's look at what a property survey actually entails:

What is a Property Survey?

You can have your property surveyed at any time, but you will most likely hire a surveyor when you're buying a home or constructing something. Most mortgage companies require a property survey to make sure the property is worth the amount of money they're providing in the loan. However, the property survey is not always legally required. Some mortgage companies will be satisfied with title insurance.

A property surveyor will research into the property before they even look at the land. They'll research the history of the deed and may include a title search. This title search makes sure there are no discrepancies when it comes to who owns the land. All property surveys begin with research into legal descriptions about the land they'll be surveying and its history. Then, the surveyor will actually go out to the property and sketch out the land, its boundaries, and different elements that make up your property. This is called the fieldwork. After surveying, they will provide a type of map detailing the property's legal boundaries. The survey will also include a written description of the property, the street address, the location of buildings and adjacent properties, and any improvements a homeowner can make to the land.

A property survey also includes things like right-of-ways and easements. These are elements that detail what to do with shared yards or driveways, or if your neighbor has a right of way to the street or alleyway between your homes.

Why a Property Survey is Important

It may not seem like a big deal for some, but completing your due diligence when it comes to the property survey can save you from making a very costly mistake, like building your home on someone else's land.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.


How to Get a Property Survey

Joseph Coupal - Friday, August 23, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

Are you looking to put up a fence in your yard, but a survey may be required to show where the fence will be added. Is a property survey something you would have gotten when you bought the house?

You may not have received a property survey when you bought your home because they are not mandatory in every jurisdiction. Still, there's a pretty good chance one exists somewhere.

For the record, a property survey, often called a cadastral survey, serves to create a permanent record of property lines, easements and land placement. You've probably seen one of those hard-hat wearing people on the side of a road peering through a tripod-mounted compact telescope called a theodolite, which measures the vertical and horizontal angles on a property to provide the triangulation necessary to create a survey.

Oftentimes, lenders, title companies or both require a copy of a survey to close on a home purchase. If you can't find yours -- assuming you ever needed one for your transaction -- check to see if either entity has a copy on file. The local tax assessor or tax collector may also have one.

That's Not the Only Place to Look

Even if a survey was never conveyed to you, your local property records or engineering department may have one on file, albeit probably an older version. While such dated surveys are typically accurate on standard city lots, they can be wrong if you live on a former country parcel that's been altered for suburban development.

In case you're wondering, your HOA, in requesting a survey, wants to make sure your planned fence won't encroach on a neighboring property and conforms to its uniform standards such as no chain-link fences, no purple fences, etc. (In fact, be sure to get the type of fence you want approved by the HOA first; don't expect your fence company to know the rules and regulations or to get HOA approval for you.)

How to Get a New Property Survey

There's an outside chance you'll need to have a new survey drawn and if that's so, contact a local engineering firm like Morse Engineering and Construction. A surveyor should be able to examine your deed and its property description, as well as any remaining property markers such as iron pins and small monuments to draw a new one. While there's plenty of advice online about how to draw your own survey, most HOAs and organizations requesting one will want to see a professional version.

For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.

Fox Business

Options if the Septic System Fails?

Joseph Coupal - Friday, August 16, 2019
Morse Engineering and Construction - Septic System Inspection

Seller’s options

If you’re the seller, although the expense is great — generally tens of thousands of dollars — you will likely want to replace the private septic system prior to marketing the property. Marketing a property with a passing Title 5 should lead to a much quicker and less complicated sale than using a “wait and see” approach. Not to mention it’s good to get the distraction of the construction mess, inspections and document recording out of the way when you’re planning your move. A passing Title 5 report is good for two years.

There’s a Massachusetts tax credit available for repair or replacement of a failed septic system for Massachusetts residential property owners. A maximum credit of $1,500 per year may be taken over four years, up to a total credit of $6,000.

Buyer’s options

Perhaps an FHA 203k loan or other construction loan should be considered. These loans, however, may come with a higher interest rate than conventional loan products. Recently quoted rates for a 30-year fixed-rate construction loan was 5.5 percent.

You may be able to obtain a conventional loan if the seller can put funds for the repair or replacement in an escrow holdback account. Funds for this generally need to be 1.5 times the estimated cost. Not all lenders offer escrow holdbacks, and if they do, they may only allow them seasonally during winter months.

If you’re able to pay cold, hard cash for the property, a failed septic system still needs to be repaired or replaced within two years but is often still usable, depending on the type of failure. Be advised: The system will be unusable for a part of the day that the sewage pipe from the home is connected to the new septic tank (or tanks).

It’s best to research Title 5 prior to selling or buying a home. For more information, one good resource is the state’s own consumer fact sheet for septic system repairs and inspections. You can also contact your local board of health. For more information, contact Morse Engineering and Construction.