Content of the material
- Why Are Property Lines Important?
- Can My Neighbor Build A Fence On The Property Line?
- Why is it important to know the location of your property lines?
- Retrace the Surveyors Steps
- Boundary Line Agreements
- Consider the Metes and Bounds Survey
- How to Find Property Lines for Free
- Homeowner’s Deed
- A Tape Measure
- Existing Property Survey from Mortgage or Title Company
- Existing Property Survey from County or Local Municipality
- Buried Pins
- Use an App
- Additional Considerations
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.
Why Are Property Lines Important?
Property lines are important because they eliminate gray areas when it comes to property ownership. Because of property lines, you know exactly what you’re getting when you begin the process of buying a house. Property lines help you share information with your mortgage lender and/or title insurance company, who will often need to know the property lines as they’re setting the terms of your agreements with them.
Being aware of your property lines also makes you a good neighbor. By knowing the boundaries of your property, you can avoid disagreements with your surrounding neighbors, especially ones that could lead to legal disputes. The last thing you want is to sink a bunch of money into an addition on your home, only to find out you built part of it on your neighbor’s land.
Can My Neighbor Build A Fence On The Property Line?
If your neighbor is thinking about building a fence on the property line between your two homes, it’s important that they are aware of all necessary laws and regulations. Where a neighbor can build a fence on the property is dependent on jurisdiction laws, as well as any deed restrictions on either of your homes. As a general rule, laws typically state that a fence must be built at least 2 – 8 inches from a neighbor’s property line. A fence built directly on a property line may result in a joint responsibility of the fence between the neighbors, including maintenance and costs. Just as a precaution, if you or a neighbor are thinking of building a fence on or near one of your home’s property lines, make sure to consult your real estate agent on any rules and regulations.
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.
Why is it important to know the location of your property lines?
Property lines are in place to keep one property owner from encroaching on another owner’s land or compromising their privacy by building too close to their house. A typical encroachment might be tree limbs that grow past your property and overhang into a neighbor’s yard or a driveway poured to extend onto a neighbor’s property. When you know exactly where your property lines fall, you’ll avoid accidentally encroaching on your neighbor’s land.
If you plan to build a permanent structure, you’ll want to be as accurate as possible, and ordering your own land survey is the best option. In most states, you are required to call a diggers hotline 811 to request buried utility information before you build a fence, plant a tree, or extend your driveway. This call ensures you know the location of any buried wires or irrigation systems to avoid causing damage. Within a few days’ notice, someone from your local utility company should be able to mark county wires or pipes with spray paint or flags.
Since property line information can be valuable to someone you may sell your house to, you will want to keep all records. Keep a copy of a new survey you’ve completed, a plat map, or any information from the city or county offices in digital or hard copy format. If you do a new survey, you may also need to register it with your county assessor or recorder. During the sale of a property, the title company will search for encroachment of one property into another. They may refuse title insurance to the seller if they find a property line dispute.
When you know how to find your property lines, you’ll gain peace of mind for any project that could come close to the edge of the property. Showing respect for your neighbor and their property rights can help you avoid a lawsuit.
Retrace the Surveyors Steps
When the surveyors were laying out the original plat, they determined a starting point for all the lots on your block. You can retrace the original steps of the property lines survey by finding the starting point, which will be labeled on the plat as either the “common point” or the “point of beginning” (POB). It is often the center point of a side street. The original surveyor’s measurements will all be listed on the plat. With a long measuring tape or digital tape measure, follow the plat as you would a treasure map, measuring your physical property as you go. Your measurements should correspond with the ones on the plat.
Boundary Line Agreements
Boundary line agreements are written legal contracts between neighbors made to settle disputes over property boundaries. They vary slightly by state, but the point is to have a way where property owners can agree on property line usage outside of going to court.
Boundary line agreements are not the same as boundary line adjustments. Boundary line adjustments are made when property owners want to exchange land, redefining the property line between them, typically done without involving money. Boundary line agreements are specifically used when there is a dispute over land and its use.
One of the most common reasons for a boundary line agreement is when a neighbor has encroached on your property by building a structure on it. Often, this issue is only made known because you did a land survey for another project and discovered your neighbor built on your land.
In order to retain the title to that piece of property, you can create a boundary line agreement with your neighbor. In this agreement, your neighbor acknowledges their mistake in encroaching on your property and you allow the structure to remain standing. This allows you to retain legal ownership, your neighbor to use what they built and for you both to stay out of court. You retain the right to the property and if the structure is torn down or destroyed, the neighbor must rebuild it on their property.
If you wish to cede the property to your neighbor, you can file a boundary line adjustment, though you’ll need to pay review fees, and the process takes longer than an agreement. Regardless of your decision, you need to do something if you ever intend to sell or transfer the property. A neighbor’s structure on your property may make things more complicated the longer it goes unaddressed.
Consider the Metes and Bounds Survey
If your deed features a metes and bounds survey—a survey that describes the exact distances and directions from one established point on your property line to the next—you’ll have all the information you need to find property lines. Unfortunately, this type of legal description is notoriously difficult to comprehend unless you’re a surveyor.
The metes and bounds survey cites a starting point, located at one of corners of your property. From there, the survey will give you detailed directions and distances to help you locate the rest of the corners and boundary lines of your property. It’s similar to a connect-the-dots game, except you do it on foot, not on paper. You’ll need a long measuring tape as well as a good-quality directional compass so you can move systematically from point to point.
But egad! You’ll find that a metes and bounds survey reads like a Shakespearean play. A typical survey may tell you to “commence” from the point of beginning (POB), “running thence westerly 100 feet, thence southerly at an interior angle of 55 degrees to a point,” and so on until it brings you back to the original starting point.
How to Find Property Lines for Free
A homeowner’s deed should include a legal description of the plot of land, including its measurements, shape, block and lot number, and other identifiers such as landmarks and geographical features. If the language is tricky, reach out to your real estate lawyer or agent for help in deciphering it.
A Tape Measure
If you want to visually confirm your property lines, you can use a tape measure to determine the boundaries. From a known point detailed in the deed’s description, measure to the property’s edge and place a stake at that point as a marker.
After all the edges have been determined, measure the distance between the stakes. Compare the results to make sure they match the corresponding deed or plat.
Existing Property Survey from Mortgage or Title Company
Most mortgage lenders require prospective homeowners to have a current survey, and your title insurance also depends on it. If you bought your home recently but don’t have the survey, contact either company to see if they have a copy on file.
Existing Property Survey from County or Local Municipality
A property’s history and legalrecords are generally kept in the municipality or county’s tax assessor’s office or in its land records or building department. You can usually begin your search by going online to access the relevant property records. Most municipalities offer this information for free, but some offices may require a small fee or ask that you access the records in person.
At the corners of your property, you may be able to find steel bars that have been buried, sometimes still visible, with a marked cap on the top end. These were likely placed on your land when a survey was completed. If you can’t readily see the pins (they may have been buried over time), use a metal detector to help you locate them.
While this isn’t a legally binding way to determine your property lines, it will give you a good idea of the boundaries. Warning: Before you start digging, call 811, the national call-before-you-dig hotline, to request the location of buried utilities you don’t want to inadvertently dig into an underground utility line.
Use an App
Download an app like LandGlide that uses GPS to determine a parcel’s property lines. LandGlide is free for the first seven days.
Keep in mind, however, that there is a chance the Google Maps technique outlined above won’t necessarily be as accurate as finding your property lines through other methods.
By far, the most accurate way to find out where your property begins and ends is by reviewing the property survey. If you didn’t receive this information when you originally purchased your home, the chances are high that you can find it by checking your local clerk’s office. You could also have a survey conducted on your own, although this can be quite expensive and depending on your needs may not be worth it.
If you do decide to have a professional survey conducted, make sure to find someone who is licensed in the state you actually live in. They’ll use GPS technology, CAD tools and other solutions to come up with an accurate and precise indication of where your property begins and ends.
You can also check what is called your plat, which is a map that shows a property’s exact measurements. This document will also have an overview of the property lines. Again, in the event that you didn’t receive one when you originally bought your home, you can likely find it by making a visit to your local zoning department.
If your home is older than 100 years old, they may not be able to find the plat. But it’s still worth a try – especially if you’re getting ready for a big backyard project like putting in a new fence.
Finally, you can examine the exterior of your property for what are called survey pins – essentially markers in the ground that were used to determine the exact property lines the last time a survey was conducted.
This also comes with a bit of a caveat, as depending on the age of your home the pins could have been moved over time. Sometimes utility workers may have needed to get them out of the way to perform a certain task, or a pin that was by a tree that has since been removed may have been misplaced.
Having said that, if you combine this technique with some of the other methods outlined above, you will likely come away with a pretty accurate indication of where your property lines begin and end.
If you’re interested in finding out more information about how to make Google Maps show the property lines in your area, or to speak to someone about your own home buying or selling needs in a bit more detail, please don’t hesitate to contact AmeriMac today.