How to Find Out Where the Property Lines Are for Your House

How to Find Out Where the Property Lines Are for Your House

What Are Property Lines?

Property lines, or boundary lines, define the points where properties begin and end. These boundaries are used when installing features such as fences, pools and home additions.

Having a good understanding of your home’s property lines is a very important part of being a homeowner. Knowing where your property begins and ends can prevent potential unpleasantries or legal disputes with your neighbors. It can also ensure that you’re respecting your neighbor’s privacy and space. It’s important to note that an unknown property line encroachment could result in a title company refusing insurance.

Finding Your Property Lines Online

Many people wonder how to find property lines online.

If you check the county or assessor’s website, you might find that they provide you with local maps. Failing that, you could also try searching for geographical information system maps.

These GIS maps can be searched for using Google, and you might also find other types of maps that give you a good idea of where your boundaries lie if you do some research.

Looking at maps online may give you a general idea of where your property lines are located, by they should not be used to pinpoint an exact location.

APPS For Property Line Locations

Every now and then, a techy will ask me if there is an app to find property lines. Believe it or not, there are apps for finding your property lines!

Besides Google Maps, other GPS apps will provide property line info. The apps, however, are not going to give you anywhere near the accuracy that a property surveyor would. These apps should only be used for ballpark estimates of your boundary locations.

They are another way of finding your property lines online in a pinch.

  • Landgrid App – the Landgrid app allows you to view properties throughout the US. It is has a survey function that will provide you the ability to create your own survey. Some surveys can be accessed with a paid subscription.
  • LandGlide app – the LanGlide app provides GPS technology to locate your property. It has parcel records for about 95 percent of the US.
  • Property Survey GPS – like the other property line apps, The Property Survey GPS apps allow users to locate property lines. The app explores your property, helping to provide estimated land markers.

Never Rely on a Real Estate Agent For Property Lines

A real estate agent has no idea where a property lOne of the golden rules in real estate is not to answer them when someone asks an agent where the property line is located. Unless, of course, you don’t mind getting sued.

A real estate agent has no idea where a property line is located unless they have done the engineering on the property themselves (fat chance).

A real estate agent would be relying on a third party telling them where the property line is located. Who knows if that party is wrong?

As a buyer, you should never accept a real estate agent’s answer of where the property line is located to be accurate. If you are a real estate agent reading this, then smarten up! Never show someone where a property line is located.

Are Your Neighbors Allowed to Build Fences on the Property Line?

If you have a neighbor who plans on constructing a fence on the dividing line between your two properties, you need to understand the rules.

Specific local regulations or laws guide how a fence should be constructed concerning the property boundary.

They could also be some restrictions about building on the property line in the deeds of your home or that of your neighbor’s.

Common rules might suggest that any fence is built more than a few inches away from a neighbor’s property boundary, but restrictions could require a greater distance.

If a fence is built directly on the property line, it could mean that the responsibility will be between both homeowners. This can lead to many problems when maintenance needs to be performed on the fence or requires replacement.

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How to Find Property Lines for Free

Homeowner’s Deed

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.

Buried Pins

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.

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.

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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.

Check Sidewalks and Street Lights

Examine the lines that are cut in the sidewalk in front of your house. Often, the contractor who poured the sidewalk started and stopped on the property lines, so those cut lines may coincide with the edges of your property. As well, the appearance of the concrete on your side of the property may be slightly different from that on your neighbor’s side. Streetlights, too, are often placed on property lines. While these visual clues are good indications of property lines, if you intend to build or install something on your land, you’ll need additional verification.

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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. 

How Property Lines Are Calculated

We know that fences don’t line every landowner’s plot, so how do we define where one yard ends and the neighbor’s begins? It’s a little less than precise, but to help make things more standardized, nearly the entire country has adopted a protocol called the Rectangular Survey System (RSS).

If you’re thinking RSS as in email, think again. Land surveyors use RSS to develop a system of rectangular parcels of land that can be added and measured to create an outline of the property. RSS works by dividing all land parcels into roughly 1-mile sections. The word “roughly” is used because these sections are hardly ever perfect. Roads, creeks, rivers, lakes and tree lines often get in the way of the perfect mile. The lines are then separated into two types: meridians and baselines. Meridians run north and south, baselines run east and west.

The RSS system was first used in eastern Ohio in an area called the Seven Ranges. The epicenter of the system is on the Ohio – Pennsylvania border near Pittsburgh. County lines regularly follow this survey, and the creation of it in the Midwest explains why many counties are rectangular shaped. This system has since become the nationwide standard of how we calculate property lines today.

So, what does this mean for appraisers? While conducting an appraisal of a given property, the appraiser will visit the county assessor’s office in the local municipality to acquire property records. They will look at the parcel ID and legal description to verify the basic description of the property location.

If the property is in a subdivision, then it will most likely be measured by RSS, and property lines can oftentimes be identified on the associated plat map. If the appraiser cannot verify the property boundaries, they will have to request a copy of a survey that would have to be performed by a licensed surveyor.

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Hire a surveyor if you do not have a survey. A surveyor is a professional who can measure and map the property lines for you. The surveyor will mark the lines at the corners with stakes. Be present when the surveyor comes to measure your property, so he can point out where the property lines are. The cost of a survey varies depending on your location, property value and lot size.

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