How to Make Google Maps Show Property Lines

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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 Are Property Lines Important?

Property lines are important because they eliminate gray areas when it comes to property ownership. Because of property lines, you know exactly what you’re getting when you begin the process of buying a house. Property lines help you share information with your mortgage lender and/or title insurance company, who will often need to know the property lines as they’re setting the terms of your agreements with them.

Being aware of your property lines also makes you a good neighbor. By knowing the boundaries of your property, you can avoid disagreements with your surrounding neighbors, especially ones that could lead to legal disputes. The last thing you want is to sink a bunch of money into an addition on your home, only to find out you built part of it on your neighbor’s land.

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.

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.

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.

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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Related Resources

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Property Line Disputes: What They Are And How To Resolve Them Refinancing – 4-minute read Andrew Dehan – May 23, 2022 Disputes over boundaries between properties can sometimes pop up among homeowners. Learn more about types of property line disputes and how to settle them here. Read More

Land Survey: What It Is, Types And Cost Home Buying – 5-minute read May 23, 2022 Need a land survey but aren’t sure which type? Here’s a guide on the types of land surveys you may need and their costs to determine which one is right for you. Read More

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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.

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. 

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Check your deed. The deed contains a description of your property’s measurements and boundaries in words. Measure from the landmarks in the description to the property lines. Mark each corner with a stake or other marker. Measure from each stake to the next all the way around your property to ensure the measured lines match the deed. Physically measuring the boundaries will allow you to visually determine where the lines are and avoid encroaching on your neighbor’s land.

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.

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Look at your property survey. The survey is a document with a rendering of the property lines and measurements, and should have been given to you when you bought your home. The distance from your house to the property line and the street should be shown on the survey. Use the measurements and details about surrounding landmarks to visually determine the property lines and avoid land disputes with neighbors.

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 Much Does It Cost to Hire a Land Surveyor?

How much it costs to hire a land surveyor to do a boundary survey depends on how big your property is and how much time it takes to compile all of the data recorded. Generally, boundary surveys aren’t that expensive because they’re the most basic survey to conduct. 

You should expect to spend anywhere between $100 to $500 for a boundary survey on an average-sized property. There’s no real way to tell how much your survey will cost exactly until you first speak to an experienced land surveyor. 

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.

Summary

In the end, knowing how to find property lines on your land is supremely important as a homeowner, particularly if you have lots of neighbors close by and you like to do projects on your property that stand the risk of accidentally encroaching on another person’s land. By the same token, knowing how to find property lines will let you prevent your property from being encroached upon over and over. Fortunately, you can use the above six techniques to find the legal property lines for your land in no time.

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