Find Your Property Lines The Easy Way
So you’re about to build a swimming pool, put up a fence, or erect an additional structure outside your house. You’re excited about it, and of course, you have every right to be. There’s only one problem, though. You can’t say for a fact that this is the exact point where your property ends.
Now you can go ahead and just build the swimming pool anyway. But what if your neighbors come around and show you evidence that the land upon which your structure is now erected isn’t actually yours?
You’re accused of encroaching, and what’s more, you have to remove your structure and count your losses. This obviously isn’t the best way to handle the situation. Instead of waiting for someone to come around and show you evidence of where your land ends, it is much wiser to first identify your property lines yourself.
This way you can not only erect as many structures as you want within those lines, but you also do it with peace of mind knowing you’re not encroaching on anybody else’s space.
So how exactly do you find your property lines? Thankfully there are a handful of ways to get this done. Our in-depth guide below on how to find property lines teaches you everything you have to know about finding property lines and more.
What Exactly Are Property Lines?
Property lines are simply boundaries that specify where your property ends and another begins. That’s it.
In practice, however, identifying and recognizing these lines can be trickier than it seems on the surface. This is obviously because there aren’t usually actual lines of demarcations on properties and identifying where your line ends can sometimes be a chore.
With new construction homes, there’s a likely chance of having a surveyor to help you understand your property lines. Some properties are also marked with wood stakes to indicate property lines.
Sadly, this isn’t the case with every house out there. In case you don’t fall into any of the categories above with an obvious property line, we have provided a few simple methods below on how to find property lines on your own.
7 Methods to Help You Find Property Lines with Ease
1. Check Your Homeowner’s Deed
A homeowner’s deed is the very first place to find your property lines. This is because a deed is generally the go-to source for information on newly acquired properties.
Some of the legal descriptions included in deeds are land measurement, shape, block, lot number, geographical features, and landmarks.
This is usually quite helpful, though sadly it can also cause a few confusions here and there. For instance, a house deed may make reference to natural structures or landmarks such as trees, or a body of water that no longer exists.
Some deeds may also contain ambiguities due to the fact that there had been, at an earlier time, a lot of homes built and grouped together as subdivisions.
Either way, if your homeowner’s deed makes references to obsolete structures or is written in ambiguous terms that you can’t quite comprehend, it is usually advisable to reach out to your lawyers or agent for further clarification.
You can obtain your homeowner’s deed from the county register’s office.
2. The Property Line Map (Plat)
Most homeowners receive a property line map after purchasing their homes. It is also referred to as a “plat” since it acts as a map outlining important structures in your new home.
Plats are especially important because they not only outline key structures in the house, but also specify elevations, bodies of water, external structures, and most importantly in their case, property lines and their measurements.
Getting your hands on your property line map automatically gives you everything you need to understand your property’s boundaries so that you can continue to erect whatever structures you desire without literally stepping out of your boundaries.
Property line maps can sometimes provide information about neighboring properties that share the same boundary lines with you. And of course, you can also use this to your advantage.
In this case, if for some reason you are unable to get your hands on your own property line map, you can make use of your neighbors to the same effect.
Plats can come in hard copy or exist as digital files online. Either way, they can be found at your local assessor’s office or even saved as downloadable files.
3. Requesting Existing Property Line Survey
Finding your property line survey is another quite simple way to determine property lines. Property line surveys are usually included with your property line map (plat), but it is of course possible for it not to be included in your plat.
For those who fall under this category, there are generally two options to consider. First, you may choose to request a survey copy from your mortgage or title company. They usually have a copy on file, seeing as they generally require new surveys to be done on properties at the point of purchase.
The second option is to obtain your property’s legal and historical records from your county office. Sometimes this can be done online, free of charge. Some, however, may require a physical visit to the local office, and maybe some accompanying fee.
4. Visual Clues
Visual clues can also be very important in your attempt to discover your property lines. How is this so? Well, it is actually quite common to find important markers such as sidewalks or street lamps, for example, erected at the points of boundaries to signify property lines.
Now obviously this method is not the best when it comes to getting a standard, legal appraisal of your boundary lines. The other methods in the list are much more suitable for that. This is great, however, for those who already have an idea as to where the property lines are and are only in need of an added confirmation.
By checking the alignments of these visual markers, you can have an idea of where your property lines are. It is also worth repeating that this method should not be used in erecting permanent structures of any kind, as it is merely speculative.
5. Buried Survey Pins
Survey pins are usually buried to indicate property lines. These are thin steel bars that have been buried along with a marked cap at their top end. This is usually done when a surveyor completes a land survey.
Some of these pins may sometimes still be visible above ground, but mostly they are usually buried over time. In this case, it may be helpful to use a metal detector to discover their locations.
Survey pins are usually buried close to a sidewalk or property curbs, so this should typically be the first place you look.
Another point of importance to note is that survey pins are generally not classified as accurate ways to determine property lines. Again, like the visual clues and markers, survey pins are mostly used to form an educated opinion of where your property line is most likely to be.
6. Hiring a Licensed Surveyor
The next option, and possibly the best in terms of accuracy, legality, and timeliness, is hiring your own licensed surveyor. It must be a licensed surveyor because most states will not recognize surveys carried out by those without licenses.
Hiring a licensed surveyor will ensure you get an accurate result that can hold up to any scrutiny by individuals and even by the state.
Another advantage of hiring a surveyor for yourself is the timeliness. You don’t have to worry about outdated records and references. With this, you can have peace of mind and complete assurance in whatever line the surveyor marks as your boundary lines.
Hiring a surveyor can sometimes be costly, however. Most licensed surveyors will set you back by several hundred dollars, and some may even be as high as thousands of dollars depending on property sizes
So if you happen to have a detailed deed or property line map with timely information on everything you need to know about your property line, you don’t necessarily have to hire a surveyor.
7. Google Maps & Government Sites
As alluded to earlier, some government websites offer free information on property lines. All you have to do is visit the website and you will find everything you have to know on the website.
It is also possible to make use of Google Maps to the same end. Although this is not true for most houses, Google Maps tends to have information regarding property lines already in their database, and this is reflected in the actual maps accessible online.
How exactly do you make use of Google Maps to find property lines? Well, you can do this easily using the three simple steps below:
– Input “search Google maps” into your search engine
– Follow the link and enter your property’s address
– Zoom in on the location until you see the boundary lines clearly defined on the map.
8. Applications & GPS
Lastly, it is also possible to use GPS mapping software to find your property lines. Despite how technical it sounds, the steps involved are actually quite simple and easy for anyone to follow.
How to Find Your Property Lines for Free
Below is a brief outline of how to carry out the process with little to no hassle:
Step 1: Upload GPS mapping software onto your GPS device. Note that you may have to purchase mapping software, and this could cost anything from $400 to $500. Some may offer a free trial.
Step 2: Get your plat map or legal mortgage map from your county office.
Step 3: Review your survey document to identify what is known as the basis of bearing. This will guide you with regard to the appropriate reference method to get the best reading. Your basis of bearing is always explained in the survey document.
Step 4: Input the coordinates of your property’s corners. With some GPS mapping software, you may be able to enter multiple coordinates at once. Some, though, require uploading coordinates separately.
Step 5: Enter the first point logged into the mapping program. You should see an option on the software that says go to or enter or any similar command.
Step 6: Upon entering the first property corner inside a boundary marker on the ground.
Step 7: Repeat the above process for each point of your boundaries. That is, enter the points you logged in one after the other, and place boundary markers upon each point.
Step 8: Once you’re done placing all the markers, you should have a clear idea of where your property lines are.
It is again worth noting that there is no method as certain and legally binding as hiring a licensed surveyor. All other methods, no matter how elaborate, vary in accuracy and legitimacy.
Finding Your Property Lines – FAQ
As you can see above, finding property lines can be quite simple or a little tasking. It all depends on how lucky you are with existing deeds, property survey maps, and visual clues among others.
In case you’re still not completely clear on finding property lines, feel free to go through our collection of frequently asked questions below.
Here we have outlined a handful of further concerns that most people express about property lines and have subsequently provided simple answers to make the topic even clearer.
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 over time, 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. 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 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, or 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 the home, the size of the land, and the 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 surrounding trees, 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 a 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 that 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 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 wants 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.