How Can I Find Out What My Property Boundaries Are?

Why Are Property Boundaries Important?

Property boundaries are what separate your property from others around you. They are legal boundaries and can prevent any disputes from arising. Despite their importance, many people don’t know what their property boundaries are. There are several instances where knowing your property boundaries is essential. 

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Can My Neighbor and I Simply Agree Where the Boundary Should Be?

If you and your neighbor have agreed where you both want the property boundaries to be, then you can make a "lot line agreement," also called a "lot line adjustment agreement." These agreements are official and binding by making and signing deeds that describe in detail the agreed upon property line.

Before you proceed, check your local zoning and subdivision ordinances to make sure your new lot will be in compliance. Some communities require lots of a certain size before they allow animals or extra buildings. Even a small loss of property could create an unanticipated problem. You may need to appear before your town’s planning commission or governing board to get your lot line adjustment approved.

If you or your neighbor are still both paying off mortgages on your properties, you will probably need to consult with an attorney before making a lot line agreement. Your mortgage is signed with a description of the property. If you execute a deed without the bank’s approval, you are in breach of your mortgage. You will need a loan modification. You will be responsible for any costs associated with the modification.

After signing the deed, you will need to file it with the county land records office. This office, which is sometimes known by names such as the County Recorder’s Office, or the Land Registry Office, will file the deed and make it available for public viewing upon request. This gives notice to any future purchaser of the land of the new, agreed-upon property boundaries.

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.

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.

How to Find Property Lines in 6 Ways

If you’re on a tight budget, don’t worry – you don’t necessarily need to spend a small fortune to find property lines for a home you already own. In fact, there are six distinct ways in which you can find property lines either for free or without spending much cash. These ways include:

  1. Use a property line map

  2. Review the property deed

  3. Do a property line survey

  4. Find an existing property line survey

  5. Look for property line markers

  6. Do a DIY property line measurement

Let’s break down each of these techniques one by one.

1. Use a Property Line Map

A “plat” is simply a property line map. This drawing details the boundary lines of your property and usually includes a variety of environmental features that may affect those lines. These include structures, elevations, or distinctive bodies of water. In some cases, the plat will include maps of neighboring properties if the property lines between you are shared. Fortunately, plats are almost always included with your property’s basic paperwork. If you don’t have a copy of this already, you can get a copy of the plat at the local assessor’s office. Or you can sometimes access the plat for your property online.

2. Review the Property Deed

Next, you can review the deed to your property. The deed is the basic legal document for your property, including a description of the land’s legal boundaries, what’s included in the property, and so on. Even though a description of the land’s boundaries is a default inclusion, some property deeds do not include this information. If this is the case, the deed should refer you to an older deed for the same property that does include the property lines. But be aware: just because an older property deed includes the property lines doesn’t mean they are necessarily relevant or accurate. For example, out-of-date property deeds could reference landmarks or features that no longer exist or were changed. If you’ve retrieved your property lines from an out-of-date deed, do a tour of your property and make sure that the property lines seem to be accurate and relevant before using them for any legal proceedings or future developments.

3. Do a Property Line Survey

Alternatively, you could do a thorough property line survey. Property line surveys take precise measurements of a piece of land’s legal boundaries. In some cases, a property line survey and its information may be included with your property deed or plat. But if you don’t have a property line survey record on hand, you can hire a professional surveyor to do one for you now. Professional and qualified land surveyors can measure where your property legally ends with exacting specificity. Land surveyors can also perform additional tasks, such as researching the property’s history regarding ecological restrictions or subdivisions. But be aware that you should only hire a worthwhile and qualified land surveyor to do the job, as only these individuals have the expertise needed to provide accurate information. If you’re a new homeowner, be aware that mortgage lenders usually need new surveys to be completed before you can fully purchase a piece of property.

4. Find an Existing Property Line Survey

If you’re fortunate, a property line survey will already have been completed and be stored either in local or county records offices or with your mortgage or title companies. That’s because most mortgage lenders require any prospective homeowners to have or complete a current survey of the land. You’ll also need a current survey of land you purchase if you want title insurance. So if you don’t have the survey but bought a home recently, you can contact your mortgage or title company and request a copy. Sometimes the copies are out of date and must be renewed, but not always. Similarly, you can contact your county or municipality’s tax assessor’s office and ask about existing property line records. These organizations may have copies of property line surveys in their building or land records departments. You don’t even always have to contact them by phone; many of these organizations have search functions you can find online at their websites. Even better, the majority of municipalities will offer property line records for free (although some may require a small fee, or otherwise force you to retrieve the records in person rather than download them over the Internet). Your mileage may vary with this technique because it’s all dependent on the unique rules of your county or municipality.

5. Look for Property Line Markers

If you’re purchasing a relatively new property, you might get lucky and find property line markers already scattered throughout the parcel. These can take the form of flags, stakes, or even light fences. These are holdovers from when the land was initially divided for sale. If that’s the case, you’re in luck! The property line markers were likely placed by a professional land surveyor or surveying company, so they should be accurate and up-to-date. Furthermore, you probably don’t have many or any neighbors to compete with if you have property line markers. In that case, you can feel free to use those markers as indicators of where your property begins and ends. Note that while this method is convenient, you may still need to acquire more detailed property line information or legal documentation if you want to make a major expansion to your land without encroaching on your neighbor’s.

6. Do a DIY Property Line Measurement

If you’re a homeowner more used to getting your hands dirty and doing things yourself, you can also take your property line measurements yourself. This can also be handy even if you have official records on hand, as you can then visually confirm the property lines and plan out any developments or projects you want to complete. What do you need? Just a tape measure. To begin, find a point that is clearly detailed in your deed’s description and start there. Then measure the distance to the property’s edge and put a stake at that point. This serves as a beginning marker. Repeat this process with several other notable points in your deed’s property description. With a little luck, you’ll identify all the edges and corners of your property. Next, take your tape measure and measure the distance between individual stakes. Compare the measurements you take and ensure that they match the plat or deed that you have on hand. Again, this may not hold up in court if there is ever any future legal trouble, but it can be useful for planning out property developments like planting hedges or removing trees.

The Bottom Line

As a homeowner, it’s crucial that you’re aware of property lines so that you can respect your neighbor’s property and avoid any legal disputes. If you’re struggling to find your home’s property lines, utilize one of the strategies mentioned above, or go online to check. Remember that before you start an outdoor project such as building a fence on the property line, make sure to consult with your neighbor and a real estate agent about your property’s rules and regulations.

Are you trying to put in a new fence but aren’t sure how to pay for it? Why not apply for a cash out refinance today?

What Are Some Ways I Can Find Out My Property Boundaries?

If you’re engaged in a dispute, want to build on your lot, or are preparing to buy or sell real estate, you have options for discovering your property lines. You can find out your property boundaries in one of three ways: 

Go to Your County Recorder’s Office 

Your local county recorder’s office should have all of the public records regarding your property. You can access maps, reports, and other documents that help you define where your property boundaries are. 

These days, many county recorders allow for access to this information online. So instead of going to the office or making an appointment, you can get them quickly and easily. You should be able to find all the information you need. 

Contact the Previous Property Owner or Construction Company 

If you purchased or inherited property and there are no public records, ask to see if the previous owner or builder has any information on the property boundaries. Most of the time, they may have a copy of a map or report outlining where the property lines are. 

Get a Boundary Survey Done

A boundary survey is performed by a land surveyor. These types of professionals measure out your property and determine the location of your boundary lines. This is the best method to determining the scope of your plot.

If you need more specific information about your property, there are other types of surveys available. For example, a subdivision survey maps out a commercial property before dividing it into individual plots, and a topo survey defines your plot’s elevation levels. 

If you are unsure of what type of land survey you need, reach out to a member of our team.

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, they must be aware of all necessary laws and regulations. Where a neighbor can build a fence on the property depends on jurisdiction laws and 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.

Important Things to Remember about Your Property Line:

It is always important to know your rights as a homeowner, especially when it comes to property lines. These disputes are the cause of many neighborhood arguments and can be easily stopped with some knowledge. Below are a few reminders:

  • Leaves, pods, acorns, etc. falling onto your property are considered a natural occurrence and are the property owner’s responsibility to clear away.
  • If branches fall and cause damage on your property for any reason other than a storm, your neighbor is responsible for the cleanup and damage.
  • If you and your neighbor compare deeds and the property lines do not match up, you will need to agree to pay for a survey. You have to agree to split the survey, one person cannot bully the other into paying for the survey.

Always check with your local laws before getting into a dispute. Property laws change drastically from state to state.

Get up to speed on your new home with these 12 tips.

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