Buying a survey plan: FAQ

Q: Why are the prices of the survey plans so varied, with some $65 and others over $200?

A: The plans priced around $65 are "public plans"—Registered Plans of Subdivision and Reference Plans—the distribution of which is governed by the Government of Ontario. Subdivision plans come in two formats (Registered Plans or M-plan) depending on their age and how they were registered. Both types show the original lot and street configuration and are useful for understanding the broad strokes of the neighbourhood and primary lot boundaries. They seldom show buildings, fences and other features on properties, and so their usefulness to the homeowner is limited.

Reference plans are prepared for a specific purpose that requires a certain section of land to be illustrated. Some "R-Plans" show an entire parcel of land in detail and may include buildings. Others only provide a general overview. Although inexpensive and informative their use may be limited for your requirements.

The higher-priced plans are "private plans" (e.g. SRPR, BLS and Plan of Survey) and may contain a wealth of detail regarding a property’s physical features, such as building and fence locations and often the presence of additions, driveways, decks and sheds. The primary use of these surveys is to provide an accurate map of the extent of the property and the location of these features relative to the official boundary. They can be very useful to a homeowner.

Q: Why isn’t there a plan for my property?

A: Not all properties have had a survey performed. There is also a possibility however, that a survey company that does not currently offer its plans through PYB may own the survey of your property. If you can’t find a plan, contact us and we can do a custom search for you.

Q: Why do some plans seem to show only the heavy boundary lines and the outline of the house but not much else?

A: Most homes in newer subdivisions had a basic survey plan when just the foundation or framing had been done. Later improvements (decks, fences, sheds etc.) would not be shown unless there is a more recent plan available for the same property. Survey plans that are 60-100 years old or so may show far less detail as survey standards then were quite different than today.

Q: Some plans look really old. Can I use them?

A: Yes you can, but please proceed with caution. A survey plan is a snapshot of the land at the time the survey was performed. A plan that was created in, say, 1940 may still be accurate for an older home where little has changed since that time. However, if the land has been developed and properties have undergone renovations and transformation over the years, a new survey plan may be required and would be the prudent choice. Interestingly, surveyors rely on older, original survey plans in their research as they often contain the most reliable evidence for boundary identification.

Q: Can I use a plan from the property next door?

A: If you are trying to accurately approximate the location of the property line between your houses, you may find that your neighbour’s survey plan includes some key measurements from your property.

Q: Can I use these plans in a real estate transaction?

A: Yes, with caution. Whether you are using a survey plan for due diligence prior to making an offer or including it in the official sale documentation, be sure to take into account the age of the plan and the risk that an older survey plan may not reflect the current configuration of the buildings and other site features that may have been added or removed since that plan was created. Learn how to read the plan here on PYB, use your best judgment and consult with a surveyor or lawyer if you are unsure.

Q: The plan you are showing me for my property is for a different address. Why?

A: Surveyors and land registry professionals have not traditionally referenced survey plans and records by street address. They use a naming convention called a geographic or legal description, which is quite often difficult to connect to the street address that homeowners are used to. For example, what you may know as “55 Fountain Street, Toronto” may be known to the land professionals as “Part of Lot 1, Block 3, Registered Plan 1243, City of Toronto”.

PYB has created the geospatial algorithms and software that link these geographic addresses to their street addresses so that you can easily search for your survey plan.

Unfortunately, some plans are just too difficult to place accurately and mistakes arise—but we’re improving our search engine each day. If our search returns the wrong survey results, please contact us and we’ll do our best to help.

Q: Why don’t you have plans for properties outside the Greater Toronto Area?

A: We believe in getting things right on a small scale before expanding. Our goal is to perfect our technology and search accuracy in the GTA region before looking further afield. We plan to expand our geographic coverage soon!