Things You Should Know About Property Lines

Understanding how to find property lines are vitalAre you wondering how property lines work? Maybe you are trying to figure out exactly where your property line is located? If you are nodding your head yes to these questions, you’re not alone.

Understanding how to find property lines are vital, especially after buying a home.

Lots of folks try to research how to find their lot lines. Some of the most common problems regarding property boundaries are fences a neighbor wants to construct.

When fences are built between properties, where exactly is the right place to construct them? Getting this wrong can lead to an unpleasant dispute between neighbors, turning into a legal dispute when the costs will really begin to mount up.

The positioning of fences between homes will normally come down to where the property lines are. Knowing where the property line is will be crucial if you want to have fences put up, and it can even be an issue if there are already fences on your property.

Perhaps your neighbor plans to put something near the suspected border, but either way, knowing where the property boundary is located is important.

We’ll be taking an in-depth look at how to find property lines so that you don’t find yourself in an unnecessary neighbor dispute.

How to Legally Determine Property Lines

Hire a Licensed Land Surveyor

To get an accurate determination of property lines that will stand up to legal scrutiny, you’ll need to hire a professional surveyor. (Note that most states require licensure of land surveyors; check your state’s requirements.)

While a professional survey may cost a a few to several hundred dollars—or more, depending on property location, size, shape, and terrain—it’s money well spent since property disputes cost a lot more in time, potential hefty legal fees, and neighborly goodwill.

Video

Locate Hidden Property Pins

Survey pins are thin iron bars, 2 or 3 feet long and sometimes capped with plastic, which the original survey crew inserted on the property lines. If you have access to a metal detector, move the device over the ground along the sidewalk to the curb to locate the survey pin. Pins may be buried just under the surface, or up to a foot below. A few days before you dig, however, you must call 811, the free, federally designated number that will route you to your local utility company. Ask the utility company to come out and mark any buried lines so you don’t unintentionally hit one. There’s no charge for this service, but if you damage a buried utility line, you could end up having to pay to repair it.

Advertisement

How To Find Property Lines

Find your property line by visiting your local county recorder or assessor’s office. You can access public maps of your street and locate your boundaries.

Many counties also let you access property lines online. If your property is on platted land, you may be able to access the plat maps online. (A plat map is that of a town, section, or subdivision that indicates the location and boundaries of individual properties.) These maps show aerial views of your property, as well as detailed measurements of its dimensions.

Why is it Important to Find Property Lines?

Property lines are important since they clear up any confusion or arguments regarding where someone’s property begins and where another person’s property ends. Imagine, for example, that you want to plant a new row of hedges in your backyard to increase privacy and to change the aesthetic of your backyard space. However, you don’t have any fences between your property and your neighbor’s. How can you know where you should plant your hedges without technically invading your neighbor’s space? The answer, of course, is property lines. By finding the property lines, you can plant the hedges in a specific spot or row and avoid any legal trouble later down the road.

There are plenty of other examples besides this, as well. For example, if you know the property lines for a given piece of property, you’ll know exactly what land you purchase when you buy a house. Knowing property lines lets you share the information with your mortgage lender or title insurance company. These can help you get faster and even more attractive mortgage or insurance terms. As you can see, it’s important to find property lines for more reasons than just one. Luckily, there are multiple ways in which you can do so!

[ Rental property investor, rehabber or wholesaler? Get to know which investing strategy is the best fit for YOU by attending our FREE online real estate class. ]

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.

Advertisement

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.

istockphoto.com

Can I Find My Property Line Online?

Yes, you can find your property lines online. Your county may have online maps for all of the real estate in your area, accessible through the official county or assessor’s website. Property lines can also be found through any online search engine on Geographical Information System (GIS) maps. Another way to view property lines online is on interactive online maps.

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. 

What Happens With Encroachment of Property Lines?

When buying and selling homes, there are times when the encroachment of lot lines is discovered. What this means is the neighbor has built a structure that violates local zoning laws. One of the more common examples is when a neighbor builds a fence onto the neighbor’s property.

There are a few things to consider when you discover an encroachment. If a neighbor has built something onto your lot and something terrible such as an injury, happens in that structure, you could be partially liable and have a claim against your home insurance. Even if there was never a claim, you might end up paying higher insurance premiums.

It is also vital to think about the property’s resale value when it comes time to sell. You may be fine with the situation now, but what if future buyers don’t feel the same way? Typically, in situations like this, it will cause title insurance to be more expensive.

What Can You Do About Property Line Disputes With Neighbors?

A property line problem with a neighbor is not that unusual. They happen all the time. Property line issues can happen in several different ways. Sometimes incorrect assumptions are made about where a lot line exists. Other times a deed description might not be accurate.

There are also cases where one neighbor has been using a portion of land for a long time and claims ownership by adverse possession. How to resolve property disputes boils down to the situation.

The vast majority of the time, it is better to work out the dispute amicably with your neighbor. Legal battles over minor lot property line issues can become very costly. The easiest way to settle is to prove to your neighbor by a professional survey that their assumptions about the property line location are incorrect.

If this doesn’t work and the neighbor won’t cooperate, your last resort may include offering to divide the property at issue or request some form of monetary compensation.

Going to court over a minor lot line issue could cost far more money than the amount of land it is worth.

What exactly is a property line?

Property lines are the legal boundaries to your property. They will tell you exactly where your property begins and ends, officially, so there is no question.

Sometimes property lines are very obvious. For example, your backyard might end in a lake, so there is no question as to where it ends. But other times, for instance, if your yard runs into your neighbor’s yard without any change in landscaping or elevation, they might be impossible to determine without an official property survey.

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.

How To Find Your Property Stake:

It is much more common for the stakes to be several inches underground. Not so deep that they match up with the frost line, but deep enough that some digging is necessary. In that case, your best bet is to buy or rent a metal detector (inexpensive ones cost less than $50). When you’ve found your target, dig down to make sure that it’s really a stake and not just a lost quarter.

Shop Now

After you have found the iron property stake, replace the dirt and hammer in a small piece of wood as a visible marker.

Note: If locating your property lines precisely—in a legal dispute, for example—we strongly recommend that you hire a professional surveyor.

Summary

In the end, knowing how to find property lines on your land is supremely important as a homeowner, particularly if you have lots of neighbors close by and you like to do projects on your property that stand the risk of accidentally encroaching on another person’s land. By the same token, knowing how to find property lines will let you prevent your property from being encroached upon over and over. Fortunately, you can use the above six techniques to find the legal property lines for your land in no time.

Tags

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.