A Land Survey is your official “map” of your Nova Scotia land

“Is it surveyed?” is a common question that comes up when buying land in Nova Scotia, or anywhere really. While a survey isn’t essential, it’s the surest way to fully understand the boundaries of a property. And for certain activities like subdividing land, it’s essential. In this post we’ll dive into the ins and outs of surveying land, and include a list of Nova Scotia surveyors for each region.

A land survey to confirm property rights

If you’re buying or owning property in Nova Scotia, getting a land survey can help you protect your investment. The work of a surveyor produces a detailed map that shows exactly where your property lines are, which is quite handy for avoiding any mix-ups with the neighbors. Typically you can see the surveyor’s work with your own eyes – in brush-covered areas they will typically cut (or “slash”) a clear trail along the boundary lines. As the landowner, it’s important to keep these boundaries cut. If you let the vegetation erase those trails, you’re losing some of the value of the investment in the survey.

In Nova Scotia, land can take on some strange dimensions. Narrow, long rectangular lots exist in many places. A 200-acre lot might be just 50-feet wide, so knowing where the property abuts the neighbour’s is important. And surveys don’t just mark out the boundaries; they also show where buildings and fences sit on your property, as well as existing rights of way or easements, which can be quite helpful if there’s ever a disagreement over land. 

In one instance I purchased property and later realized as I looked at a satellite map that there was a neighbour’s barn that was clearly encroached on my land. I did what I often do when predicaments arise – absolutely nothing – but luckily the owner reached out to me to resolve the problem. Part of the solution of course was a survey. Together we planned out some subdivision lines and engaged a surveyor to make it official. 

But it’s not just about solving disputes. Knowing the exact scope of your land is useful if you ever want to sell your place or build something new. Everyone involved gets to see the clear-cut lines, which makes everything smoother.

But again, a survey isn’t essential. I typically only get a survey done if there are important questions or issues to solve, or if there’s a development work that requires it such as subdivision. Another thing to explore is whether the property has been previously surveyed. Some surveys will appear in the Property Online Land Registry, but it’s not automatic that all surveys get added to that database. In the example I referenced earlier, I can go to Property Online and view the survey that was created to enable subdivision of the lot. In another example, a neighbour shared with me a survey that was done about 10 years ago – searching Property Online does not turn up that survey.

If you don’t have any luck turning up old surveys, you might be surprised how much you can observe from the land directly. Metal survey markers are often placed at the corners of property boundaries. One parcel I owned had markers on a few corners, a lakefront on another side, and a clear natural boundary (a stream) on the other. This made the boundaries pretty evident without the need of a survey.

Nova Scotia Land Survey

Facilitating Real Estate Transactions

When it comes to buying or selling property in Nova Scotia, having a land survey can give the buyer some assurance that there are no discrepancies with the boundaries of the lot as seen on sites like Viewpoint or Property Online. A professionally created survey gives everyone involved a clear picture of what’s being dealt with, which can really speed things up and boost confidence in the deal.

I have had buyers include different price points in their offers to buy land. For one 30-acre lot, there was an as-is offer, and an offer with an extra $5,000 if the land had a survey. The buyer can also offer to complete the survey at their own expense, with a provision to buy the land if the survey proves true to the description provided. 

Most banks and lenders want to see a recent land survey before they’ll hand over any cash, to ensure that there are no legal issues with the boundaries that could mess things up later. 


Development and Land Use Planning

When you’re looking to develop or use land in Nova Scotia, a land survey is like having a roadmap that not only guides you through the local zoning laws but also helps you protect the environment and plan for the future. Let’s break it down:

First up, zoning compliance with Nova Scotia Land Use Bylaws. Nova Scotia’s got its own set of rules about what you can and can’t do on a piece of land, depending on where it’s located. Want to build a new coffee shop or a cozy cottage? You’ll need to check that your plans align with local zoning regulations. A land survey provides important details to make sure your project doesn’t turn into a zoning nightmare.

A land survey can also point out sensitive areas like wetlands or wildlife habitats on your property that need to be protected. By knowing this upfront, you can plan your developments around these areas, ensuring you’re doing your part to keep the local ecosystem thriving. 

Lastly, thinking about the future is key. Whether you’re planning a commercial development or a residential neighborhood, a land survey lays the groundwork for what’s possible. It can help you visualize the space, plan out utilities, and see potential obstacles before they become expensive problems. This foresight can save you time, money, and headaches down the road, making sure your development is practical and sustainable.

In the case of subdividing land, a surveyor will typically provide a complete solution that involves obtaining permits from the municipality and coordinating the review and approval of the application for subdivision. A Nova Scotia real estate lawyer is required as well for registering the new parcel. Another tip: if you need to have the land migrated, do that first! By migrating the full parcel first, you will not need to spend more money to migrate subdivided properties later.

The Cost of A Land Survey in Nova Scotia

Brace yourself – surveys don’t come cheap. Here are some quotes I’ve received:

  • $1,500 for surveying a 16-acre property
  • $11,000 for surveying and subdividing a 100-acre property with very steep peaks and valleys
  • $20,000 for surveying a 30-acre property that was flat and grassy

My best advice is don’t get just one quote. You will find a surprising range of variation from one provider to another. Another important point: get in the queue early. Not much surveying happens in the winter months, so surveyors typically start off in the Spring with a huge backlog of projects that can sometimes extend well into the summer. For one of the quotes above I was told in April I’d have to wait until next year. 

Generally your spot is held by placing a deposit, such as 10% of the estimated price.  

Find a Nova Scotia Surveyor

The best source I have found for locating surveyors in Nova Scotia is the Association of Nova Scotia Land Surveyors, which has a Find by Location page that includes listings for each region of Nova Scotia. 

Nova Scotia Zoning Maps

One of the challenges of buying land in Nova Scotia is determining what the potential uses of that land may be. Each municipality maintains their own zoning maps and land use bylaws. Nova Scotia zoning codes, bylaws and maps are useful to pinpoint a particular plot of land and determine its what type of zone it is in. With that established, the land use bylaw contains the details on the permitted and restricted uses (e.g. agriculture, commercial, residential, etc.) of each particular zone. Sounds like fun, right?

Well, here’s some good news. In this post, we’ve created the first all-in-one reference for Nova Scotia zoning maps and land use bylaws. We THINK we’ve found them all, but if something is missing or inaccurate please let us know. Of course, zoning is important to consider when buying land, but so are 1,000 other things. Be sure to check out our guide to buying land in Nova Scotia

So, without further ado, here is our list of Nova Scotia zoning maps, updated for 2024:

Cape Breton Zoning Map – CBRM zoning map

Cape Breton Land Zoning Map – CBRM zoning map: https://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=34b5e62a2a7f4904bde0b56a9e27df05

Cape Breton Land Use Bylaw – CBRM land use bylaw: https://www.cbrm.ns.ca/municipal-planning.html

Halifax Zoning Map – HRM zoning map

Halifax Land Zoning Maps – HRM zoning map:  https://www.halifax.ca/about-halifax/regional-community-planning/community-plan-areas/halifax-plan-area

Halifax Land Use Bylaws: There are 22 different land use bylaws for Halifax Regional Municipality. You can find them all here.  

Queens County Zoning Map – Queens NS zoning map

Region of Queens Municipality land zoning maps and land use bylaws: https://www.regionofqueens.com/municipal-services/planning/land-use-planning

East Hants Zoning Map – East Hants ns zoning map

East Hants land zoning map: https://www.easthants.ca/government/municipal-departments/planning-development/interactive-east-hants/

East Hants land use Bylaw: https://www.easthants.ca/wp-content/uploads/easthants-occ/agendas/40094/attachments/23201/PAC_Plan%20Update_LUB_March2023.pdf

West Hants Zoning Map – West Hants ns zoning map

West Hants land zoning map: https://www.westhants.ca/planning/planning-documents/3122-mps-map-1-generalized-future-land-use-map/file.html See additional documents here: https://www.westhants.ca/planning-documents.html

West Hants land use Bylaw: https://www.westhants.ca/planning-documents.html

Annapolis County Zoning Map – Annapolis zoning map

Annapolis County land zoning map: https://annapoliscounty.ca/Documents/1EzFolderList/CommunityDev/MunicipalPlanningStrategyLandUseBy-law/AnnapolisCounty/Future%20Land%20Use%20Map.jpg

Annapolis County land use bylaw: https://annapoliscounty.ca/community-development/zoning-development-control/291-municipal-planning-strategies-land-use-bylaws

Antigonish County Zoning Map – Antigonish ns zoning map

Town of Antigonish land use zoning map: https://www.townofantigonish.ca/news/757-toa-zoning-map/file.html

Town of Antigonish land use bylaw: https://www.townofantigonish.ca/departments/planning-building-services/834-town-of-antigonish-lub-final/file.html

Antigonish County land use zoning maps: https://edpc.ca/plan-documents-and-maps/

Antigonish County land use bylaws: https://edpc.ca/plan-documents-and-maps/

Colchester County Zoning Map – Colchester NS zoning map

Colchester County land zoning map: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/510215b0a4384cbfaf901dac8b25347a

Colchester County land use bylaw: https://colchester.ca/3494-central-colchester-land-use-by-law-chapter-40/file

Cumberland County Zoning Map – Cumberland NS zoning map

Cumberland County land zoning map: https://www.plancumberland.ca/zoning-map

Cumberland County land use bylaw: https://www.plancumberland.ca/documents

Inverness Zoning Map – Inverness NS zoning map

Inverness County land zoning maps: https://edpc.ca/plan-documents-and-maps/

Inverness County land use bylaw: https://edpc.ca/plan-documents-and-maps/

Kings County Zoning Map – Kings County ns zoning map

County of Kings land zoning map: https://www.countyofkings.ca/residents/services/planning/Land-Use-Bylaw

County of Kings land use bylaw: https://www.countyofkings.ca/residents/services/planning/Land-Use-Bylaw

Pictou County Zoning Map – Pictou ns zoning map

Town of Pictou land zoning map: https://www.townofpictou.ca/planning-by-laws-and-documents

Town of Pictou land use bylaw: https://www.townofpictou.ca/planning-by-laws-and-documents

Pictou County land use bylaw: I would expect to find zoning maps and land use bylaws on the municipality website, but I’m having no luck locating them. If someone finds it, please send me a link. 

Richmond County Zoning Map – Richmond ns zoning map

Richmond County land zoning maps: https://edpc.ca/plan-documents-and-maps/

Richmond County land use bylaw: https://edpc.ca/plan-documents-and-maps/

Victoria County Zoning Map – Victoria ns zoning map

Victoria County land zoning maps: https://edpc.ca/plan-documents-and-maps/

Victoria County land use bylaw: https://edpc.ca/plan-documents-and-maps/

Yarmouth Zoning Map – Yarmouth NS zoning map

Yarmouth municipality land use bylaw and zoning maps: https://www.district.yarmouth.ns.ca/index.php/municipal-operations/development-inspection/land-development-zoning

Zoning map and land use bylaw for the town of Yarmouth: https://www.townofyarmouth.ca/departments/planning-development/planning.html

Shelburne County Zoning Map – Shelburne NS zoning map

Shelburne County land zoning map (see page 27) and land use bylaw: https://www.municipalityofshelburne.ca/land-development-zoning/

Lunenburg Zoning Map – Lunenburg ns zoning map

Lunenburg County land zoning map: https://www.modl.ca/zoningmap.html

Lunenburg County land use bylaw: https://www.modl.ca/zoning.html

Digby County Zoning Map – Digby ns zoning map

Digby County zoning map (see page 13) and land use bylaw: https://digbymun.ca/3026-land-use-by-law/file.html

Town of Digby zoning map: https://www.digby.ca/planning-and-development/71-town-of-digby-zoning-map/file.html

Guysborough County Zoning Map – Guysborough ns zoning map

District of Guysborough land zoning map: https://modg.ca/sites/default/files/pdfs/Existing%20Land%20Use%20By-law%20Zoning%20Map.pdf

District of Guysborough land use bylaw: https://modg.ca/sites/default/files/pdfs/DRAFT%20New%20Land%20Use%20By-law.pdf

In Conclusion…

We hope you found the Nova Scotia zoning code you were looking for. We’re continuing to create resources to help people with buying land in Nova Scotia. That includes publishing Nova Scotia vacant land statistics, legislative updates for foreign buyers of vacant land, good (and bad) questions to ask when buying land, and of course, land for sale in Nova Scotia. Are we missing something? Let us know!