Point of Beginning

Editor's Note: Do-It-Yourself-ers and disclaimers.

November 21, 2003
An advertisement dubbed "How to survey your own property," caught my attention.

In October, a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) video advertisement was brought to my attention. The advertisement for the video, dubbed "How to survey your own property," called for potential buyers and viewers to learn the mystery of "how land surveyors do it." What came with the lead were less than complimentary opinions of the video idea. One of the main factors causing upset was that the idea for the video-proposed to be the first of a series-was conjured up and created by a land surveyor.

Those upset about the video need not worry, at least for now. Mike Feldbusch, PLS, president of Evansville, Ind.-based U.S. Surveyor, a national land surveying and appraisal firm, and inventor of the How-To video idea, says plans for the video have been postponed.

Within a week of the video advertisement, Feldbusch said an uproar ensued in which surveyors sent messages to him through the Surveyor Forum section of the U.S. Surveyor website, standard E-mail and via phone indicating their opposition to the video's topic.

So for now, Feldbusch has pulled the video advertisement from the U.S. Surveyor website and is not offering the video. Once the onslaught of correspondence reached a surprising level, Feldbush did a concrete review of the video with legal counsel in Indiana, the main state in which he practices and the original state of his professional registration. The video is now back in post-production, and he proposes the video to be ready for another legal review by mid-January 2004.

"I feel fortunate that I posted the advertisement before I released the video," Feldbusch said in a phone interview, indicating his second-chance of sorts to provide a video later with legal backing.

So, what's in the brief eight-minute video? "It shows the property element of how to take a metal detector and a shovel and a 200-ft tape to recover iron monuments in and around their [property owners'] lots," Feldbusch said.

As you all know, many objects can be mistaken for survey markers. Is this explained on the video? Feldbusch says yes. Does it show the property owner how to set monuments on his or her property? Feldbusch assured me it does not and will not. It further notes that finding pins is only part of a full survey and that a licensed land surveyor should be consulted for a proper and complete legal survey-U.S. Surveyor is suggested, of course, whose surveying offering Feldbusch says accounts for 90-95 percent of business. You have to admit, in some way, it is good marketing.

"It's also explained that (on a typical rectangular lot in a typical subdivision) only about 60 percent of the time do you find any monuments," Feldbusch said.

What then? Does the land owner get reimbursed for the video purchase? No, just as an exercise video manufacturer wouldn't compensate a buyer for a lack of weight loss. A disclaimer prevents most legal ramifications to U.S. Surveyor, and further, subsequent advice to contact a licensed land surveyor is provided to the viewer.

So why did Feldbusch, a surveyor in several states with almost 25 years' experience, concoct this idea anyway?

"I have always been concerned about how the public has perceived our profession," he said. "This is a marketing tool for the surveyor to make the public know more of what surveying is about."

My concern weighs in, in part, on the title itself, "How to Survey Your Own Property." If the eight-minute video explains how to find monuments on a typical lot, that isn't surveying. Feldbusch says he agrees and is reconsidering, along with Randall Miller of the Indiana Board, a change to the title.

And how does he think the video will affect the surveying profession and the public?

"It's my belief that the video will give the professional surveyor more exposure to the public-and essentially there are no tools that do that"¦ I'm hoping, in a small way, that [the video will help] the public to become more aware of what surveyors do."

Perhaps Feldbusch is onto something. His idea will, indeed, get the word out to the general public more, especially if he extends his marketing arm to realtors and specific consumer magazines. What's to lose? If this target market messes up the lesson, you might be called. So prepare yourself; it could mean business from typical lot owners.

And in another year, you may get more calls. Feldbusch says he's tossing around the idea for another part of the DIY video series: "surveying" on an atypical lot or a lot with cul-de-sacs.