What You Need to Know About Property Lines

By
Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Executive Realty 91362

Things to Know About Property Lines Including How to Find Them

Neighbor disputes can happen if you add to your home, build a fence, or even do some planting in the wrong place. While you might think you know where your lot begins and ends, you could be wrong.

One of the most asked questions real estate agents get is how to find your property lines. It is not uncommon for a prospective buyer to ask an agent to point out the location of a property line. Doing so, however, is foolish and an easy way to get sued when you're wrong.

Of course, knowing where your property lines are located becomes vital when making any improvement. It also makes for better relationships with your neighbors.

You can avoid angering your neighbors if you understand where the property lines when you first move into a home. By learning about how you find property lines, you won’t make a mistake that could ruin your relationship with your neighbors or lead to legal action.

Checking the Sidewalk

When the sidewalk was constructed, it might have started and finished at the property line. Check the sidewalk outside your home to see if there is an indication of the property boundary line. It might be obvious where the concrete was poured, with slightly different colors showing construction at different times.

Streetlights can often be positioned on property lines too. These things can give you some indication of the boundary, but if you are planning construction, you’ll need more confirmation.

Zoning

Your local zoning department should hold maps that reveal how the land is divided. These maps are known as plats and should give you the information you need as long as your home was built in the last 100 years. You might need to pay a small fee to get the plat, but it should show the dimensions of your lot and that of your neighbors.

Finding lot lines can be easier when all the lots in a particular neighborhood are similar. For example, you might have a subdivision where all of the lots are an acre.

Using the Surveyor’s Measurements

Once you have the plat, you can use this information to measure from the original property surveyor’s starting point. It will be labeled on the plat as either the “Point of Beginning” or the “Common Point,” and is where the measurements begin.

To check that all the measurements are correct, you can begin from the same starting point and follow the same route the surveyor did. You can check that the measurements match up along the way to ensure that the property lines are correct.

Finding Hidden Survey Pins

When the original survey was completed, pins will have been placed in the ground marking the property lines. These pins might still be located on the property, and you might find them with the help of a metal detector if they aren't visible above ground.

Run a metal detector over the ground beside the sidewalk to find the pin. The survey pin might be just below the surface, or it could be as much as a foot under your yard.

Before you start digging, however, you need to make sure you aren’t digging up any important lines to the home. If you call 811, your local utility company can come out for free to mark buried lines on your property. This will help you avoid making a very costly mistake by putting your digging shovel through pipes or cables.

The Problems With Survey Pins

Even if you find your survey pins, they might have moved since they were originally planted in the ground. The longer they have been in the ground, the greater the chance that someone has moved them.

The survey pin could have been dug up by the utility company, a previous homeowner, or someone else. They may have reburied it in a slightly different position that isn’t exactly where it was originally. No matter where you find the survey pin, it doesn’t change where the property line is.

If you have two survey pins that mark the width of your lot, and they are nearer than they should be as shown on the plat, one or both of them will have been moved. This doesn’t mean that your boundary lines are actually narrower than you expected. Your property is the same size as is shown on the plat.

Checking the Deeds

It might be the case that a previous owner sold off some of the lots, and even if you do find a survey pin, it won’t provide this information. The deed for the property should have details of any changes like this that have been made. If you don’t already have access to a copy of your property deeds, they can be obtained from the deeds office in the county courthouse.

Metes and Bounds

If you check your deeds, you might find a metes and bounds survey. This is a survey that gives distances from one point of the property. This established point on the property line will give you the exact dimensions of the lot but can be difficult to follow when you’re not a surveyor.

This type of survey will give you a starting point, likely one of the corners of the lot. Directions and distances will be given from the starting point to find the other corners and property lines. To measure accurately, you will need a good compass and tape measure. If you follow the directions, you should get the exact dimensions of the lot.

The way the directions are described might not seem very easy to understand. It might use some unusual words that could lead to confusion. This is fine if you are familiar with the terms used, as surveyors are, but could end in mistakes if you aren’t. You will need to take accurate compass bearings and distance measurements to get the right results.

Hiring a Professional Land Surveyor

If the prospect of getting to grips with a metes and bounds survey, seems daunting you can always get a surveyor to measure your lot. This will be absolutely required if you are having an addition added to your home.

Boundary discovery is important as there will be local building codes that you will need to follow to stay legal. Building codes will have restrictions on how close you can construct additions to your boundary line.

Hiring a professional surveyor could cost you more than a thousand dollars in some cases, but average costs are lower. The price you will pay depends partly on the amount of work the surveyor needs to do and the size of the lot.

While this can seem like a high cost, it could save you a lot if you avoid a dispute with your neighbor that could end in legal action.

Final Thoughts

When you need to find your property lines, the most accurate way to do it is to hire a professional land surveyor. Hopefully, you have enjoyed these tips that have been provided on what you need to know about finding lot lines.

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With three decades of experience, Bill Gassett is an authority in the real estate sector. Bill writes informative articles for numerous prestigious real estate sites to help buyers, sellers, and fellow real estate agents. His work has been featured on RIS Media, the National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Placester, Realty Biz News, Credit Sesame, and his own authority resource, Maximum Real Estate Exposure. Reach out to Bill Gassett for his real estate, mortgage, and financial expertise.

Comments (1)

Karen Climer
Demetree School of Real Estate - Orlando, FL
Teaching people to pass the real estate exam

Great article.  Useful information for agents ane homeowners.

May 09, 2021 02:27 PM
Bill Gassett

Thanks for the comps on finding property lines Karen Climer 

May 13, 2021 04:22 AM