How to Find Property Lines Pins

Marking Property Corners

Want to know how to find property lines?  Find your property corners.  Most land developers and home builders mark property corners at some point during the development of a piece of land.  Many municipalities require builders to relocate the property corners at the time of final inspection.  Typically, the corners are marked with a 2-3 foot long piece of steel rebar (rebar comes in different diameters and lengths and is used to reinforce concrete).  The builder’s surveyor drives the rebar into the ground at the exact property corner and a cap is placed on top (as shown in the picture above).  Why is this done?  These steel property corners (or property pins as they are sometimes calledare installed so they can be found in the future with a metal detector after final grading and landscaping covers them up.

How to Find Property Lines with a Plot Plan

How to Find Property Lines with a Plot Plan

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.

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Bring in a Professional Surveyor

Before you drive yourself too crazy with the metes and bounds survey, know that the only legally binding method to determine exact property lines—essential, for example, if you intend to build an addition to your house—is to have a professional survey. Local building codes will determine how close to your property line you can legally build. A professional survey could cost from a few hundred to more than a thousand dollars, depending on the size of your property and the complexity of the survey. Costly, perhaps, but adding to your dream house while keeping in your neighbors’ good graces is priceless.

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RELATED: How Much Does a Land Survey Cost?

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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.

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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.

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Additional Builder Tip

You can use this steel rebar method in all kinds of ways to help you locate buried items for your future construction projects.  Let’s say you decide to put PVC conduit under your driveway for a future irrigation line.  By taping a piece of steel to the PVC just below the ground surface, you can bury the PVC so it’s not an eyesore.  Then, when you decide to run the electric line in a year or two, you can easily find it with a metal detector.  One more tip…you can rent metal detectors at most rental centers by the hour if your retired friend is using his.

Hopefully we’ve cleared up any confusion on how to find property lines without having to pay the cost of a surveyor.  For more information about engineered plot plans and what they can do for you check out this video titled, Build Your Own House:  The Civil Engineer.  And if you have a more complicated building project coming up, be sure to stop by our ESTORE for some one-of-a-kind resources to help you save money and build a quality project.

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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.

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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.

Finding Legal Property Lines

For purposes of building fences, roads, listing a property with precise acreage, or litigation purposes, it may be necessary to determine legal property lines. In most cases, this will require using a licensed land surveyor. 

The maps and land descriptions created by a land surveyor are usually considered legally binding. A surveyor will produce plats of surveys and describe the property and its boundaries. Remember, most states require the licensure of land surveyors, so it’s important to check your state’s requirements.

Surveying land uses a system based on the Rectangular Survey System (RSS). Another name for the system is the Public Land Survey System (PLSS). The entire country uses this system, which was developed and adopted in 1785. The concept for the system was to divide all land parcels into roughly one-mile sections so a network of meridians and baselines was established. Meridians run north and south, and baselines run east and west. Of course, roads, creeks, rivers, lakes, and tree lines often got in the way, preventing the creation of a perfect rectangular mile. 

Some land surveyors rely on GPS data to gather information and prepare their surveys. Hiring a surveyor will cost anywhere from several hundred to over $1,000 depending on the size of your property. 

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