How to Find Property Lines [2022 Guide]

How to Find Property Lines [2022 Guide]

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.

Dig Out Your Deed for Additional Info

In older neighborhoods, property owners may have purchased or sold off portions of their yards. Locating a survey pin won’t give you this information, but the most recent legal description recorded on your deed will list any such changes. If you don’t have a copy of your deed filed with your homeowner records, get one at the register of deeds office, often located within your county courthouse.


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.

Why You Might Need to Know Your Property Lines

You will need to know your property lines if you are planning to build an addition to your home, add a deck to the back, or if you want to do any major landscaping changes. Even if you want to build a fence, you will need to know your property lines. 

Knowing property lines is also important if you are buying or selling real estate. If you are the seller, you will need to let potential buyers know exactly what they are paying for. And if you are buying a property, you want to be sure of the boundaries of the property you make an offer on it. Your mortgage and title companies will likely require your property lines, too, as they prepare your paperwork. 

And lastly, knowing your property lines can help you avoid disputes with your neighbors. Having clearly defined boundaries makes it easier to know who is responsible for tree removal, for example. It will also help you avoid any issues of encroachment: when one neighbor builds something that sits on the other’s property. 

There are many reasons you might want (or need) to know property lines. Once you decide you want to know your property lines, the next step is to figure out how to find property lines.

How Are Property Lines Calculated?

Property lines are almost always calculated using a shared protocol called the RSS or Rectangular Survey System. Professional land surveyors use the RSS to create roughly equal rectangular parcels of land, which can eventually be added and measured to create a total property outline. Through the RSS, all land parcels are divided into sections measuring about 1 mile across. However, the land parcel divisions are usually not perfect because of environmental factors like lakes, tree lines, rivers, and roads. Parcel lines are also separated into meridians and baselines, which run north to south or east to west.

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.

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!

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Why Are Survey Pins Not Considered Accurate?

Why Are Survey Pins Not Considered Accurate?

The survey pins method of finding property lines is not considered accurate for a number of reasons, the most important of which is the fact that survey pins are not as static and immovable as their presence might suggest. 

They are known to change locations overtime, with more regularity than you may think. This can happen for a number of reasons.

Utility crews may have found them and moved them. Men working on tree removals may have also done the same. And of course digging properties can also be a tricky affair.

All of these are why officials and even homeowners are usually tentative about using survey pins as a factual method of finding property lines.

It is worth mentioning that survey pins can still perform the function of giving you a good idea of where your property lines are. Even if one has moved, several pins still tend to remain in alignment.

My Survey Pins May Have Moved, Has My Property Line Done the Same?

As mentioned earlier, survey pins tend to move. So if you find that your survey pins have indeed moved farther than the spot specified in your property line map, it is only natural to wonder whether or not your property lines have also legally moved.

We’re going to have to tell you to stop the celebration, though, because sadly the fact that your survey pins moved does NOT indicate that your actual property lines have.

Pins are just pins. And again, this is one of the reasons survey pins are not considered legally binding in determining property lines.

Do I Need to Acquire Digging Permission?

Yes, you will definitely have to dial 811 prior to digging. It is important that you do not hit irrigation systems or buried wires in your attempt to find a buried survey pin.

So firstly before you begin any actual digging process, dial 811 and acquire important utility information that will either confirm that there isn’t any important utility line buried on your property, or guide you on how to carry out the digging without damaging these essential utilities.

Is it Really Worth it to Hire a Professional Surveyor? 

Yes, it is worth it to hire a professional surveyor, especially when you’re finding it hard to find your property lines through the homeowner’s deed and the property lines map.

Hiring a professional surveyor may be expensive but it is worth it in the end. You get the timeliest reading and can proceed with your projects without fear.

Also, depending on the size and surroundings, hiring a licensed surveyor may not even be as expensive as many consider it to be.

How Can I Find the Best Surveyor?

Firstly it is important you go for licensed surveyors as licensing is required in most states. Furthermore, you can always compare between surveyors to determine which is the best for you.

Another important practice involved in choosing a surveyor is to ask around for recommendations, either from close friends, agents you’ve worked with in the past, and anyone with experience in that area. 

You can also ask questions such as what equipment they are going to be making use of, which, for example, should be GPS or CAD for higher accuracy.

Lastly it is also important that you confirm that your surveyor provides professional liability insurance, which covers you in case of accidents or mistakes.

How Long Does it Take For a Surveyor to Find My Property Lines?

This generally depends on the size of home, size of land, and terrain. For instance small homes built on small plots without much surrounding trees can be surveyed in thirty minutes or one hour at the latest.

On the other hand, homes that are much larger on rough terrain with surrounded trees and woods and fences can take several hours to be surveyed successfully.

The price of hiring a licensed surveyor also directly depends on these things. A surveyor will obviously charge more for a big house with complex surrounding terrain than a small house on simple, small land.

Are There Other Specific GPS Applications for Finding Property Lines?

Yes, you can make use of certain GPS applications to find an accurate description of your property lines with ease. Some of these include:

LandGlide App – This application uses GPS technology to give a concise description of your property lines. The app is well-reviewed and boasts of having property records spanning more than 95 percent of the United States.

Property Survey GPS – You can also make use of the property survey app to access records, find property lines and store your own measurements.

Landgrid Map – Making use of the same GPS technology, Landgrid gives you access to property data for parcels all over the US. For those who aren’t interested in accessing existing surveys, the app also possesses a survey editor which allows users to create their own unique surveys.

Are Property Surveys Public Record?

Yes, property surveys can be public records, but only in certain states. It is advisable to first visit your county website to get familiar with your state’s laws regarding accessing survey records.

It is also worth mentioning that, unlike property survey records, property line maps themselves are generally available to the public, no matter the state.

This is why the latter can usually be found and accessed easily at local county offices. 

Finding property lines can be tricky and choosing a method with which to carry out the process can also be just as tricky as the thing itself.

Above we have listed 7 simple methods through which you can carry out the process, each with varying levels of accuracy and legitimacy. 

The first step involves making use of your homeowner’s deed, while the second involves reading your property line maps. Both may be subject to varying physical changes that may have made them less accurate and easy to follow over time.

Other methods such as visual clues, digging for buried survey pins, and using a GPS mapping software all offer a varying level of dependency. Their best use is to get a general idea of where your property line falls, and they are not to be used in making irreversible or costly decisions.

In the end, the best method without a doubt is to hire a licensed surveyor. This not only gives you a high level of confidence and peace of mind, but it is also completely legitimate and safe from scrutiny. The expense associated with hiring a surveyor, though, may mean one has to resort to some of the other techniques if the objective is just to get an idea or confirm where your property line falls.

This helpful info is brought to you by: Jerry Pinkas Real Estate Experts – 843-839-9870 – Our team of experts want to help you avoid those mistakes that can be costly and extremely frustrating when you are buying or selling real estate in the Coastal Carolinas.


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