If you want to know for certain where your property legally begins and ends, plus have the necessary paperwork to prove it during a legal dispute, you’ll need to know how to find property lines. Homeowners often need to know how to identify their property lines to:
Know the value of the home they are purchasing or selling
Know whether they are allowed to build something in their yard or otherwise near their home
Know whether they can make landscape modifications, such as removing a tree near a house window or planting a hedge
In other cases, you might simply be curious as to where your property ends and where your neighbor’s begins!
Not sure how to find property lines? Don’t worry – you don’t have to be a land surveying expert to find property lines. In fact, homeowners can find their property lines using 6 easy, hassle-free ways. Let’s break down these techniques one by one so you know how to identify the property lines of your home whenever you need to.
What Are Property Lines?
Put simply, a property line is a legal boundary for a piece of land that distinguishes it from other pieces. In legal terms, property lines very distinctly denote who owns which pieces of land by dividing land cleanly into parcels or plots. In some cases, property lines follow very obvious boundaries, including fences, roads, ditches, streams and rivers. But in other cases, property lines can be totally invisible. In these situations, certified legal records of property lines may be the only proof that the property lines are legitimate. For these reasons, you must understand where your property begins and ends if you are a homeowner. In doing so, you can determine exactly what kinds of home improvement projects you can undertake without encroaching on your neighbor’s property and avoid unpleasant legal disputes. In addition, you may need to have official records of your property lines if you want or need title insurance.
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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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:
Use a property line map
Review the property deed
Do a property line survey
Find an existing property line survey
Look for property line markers
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.
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Is There an App That Shows Property Lines?
Yes. In fact, there are many! Our first recommendation is LandGlide: an app that’s free for the first seven days. This mobile application uses GPS technology to determine your parcel’s unique property lines and to access over 150 million parcel records in over 3000 counties. Since this covers 95% of the US population, odds are it’ll also cover your property. You can use the app on either a smartphone or tablet. Once you have taken your property measurements, you can add notes and make plans for future improvements or landscape changes. After the free trial, you’ll need to subscribe either at a monthly rate of $9.99 or a yearly rate of $99.99. Still, if you only need to identify your property lines once, it’s relatively trivial to download this app for free, use it for a few days, then unsubscribe and never have to pay a penny.
If you review property lines on a more frequent basis, consider reviewing the Regrid App. With Regrid you can pull up property lines almost anywhere and bookmark properties. The app usage automatically syncs with your account so you can look up saved properties on a bigger screen when needed. There are even additional features available on the paid plan, which starts at $10 a month. This app is great for real estate developers or investors who are scouting new projects.
Property Survey GPS is another great recommendation for inspecting property lines. This easy-to-use app allows you to drop pins to measure and survey plots of land. The interface is fairly intuitive to navigate and use for the first time, even if you aren’t very tech-savvy. Final measurements can be stored in the app, and users get one month free when signing up. It’s more of a free form experience than the above apps, but it can be a great fit for those interested in dividing parcels of land, getting a quote for a portion of a property, and other investment needs.
Can You See Property Lines On Google Maps?
You can see some property lines on google maps if you type in an exact address. Review the map by zooming into the property and lines should appear surrounding the lot. Unfortunately, this method is not always available. While Google Maps has extensive imaging, property lines are not visible in every area. In these cases, try searching your county records or even downloading one of the apps mentioned above.
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.
What Are Boundary Line Agreements?
Without getting too technical, boundary line agreements are special legal contracts written between neighbors. They are used to settle any disputes over existing property lines are boundaries. While the exact contract requirements and inclusions will vary depending on your state, they are always used to ensure two or more property owners agree on how property lines are used and divided. Note that boundary line agreements aren’t the exact same thing as boundary line adjustments. Boundary line adjustments, instead, are created when property owners need to exchange land. This involves redefining or redrawing property lines between them. In some cases, but not all, this may involve money. For example, if you and your neighbor want to trade bits of property in your backyards for different elements, you can draw up a boundary line adjustment to make this legal.
So, what do you use boundary line agreements for? One common example occurs when one neighbor accidentally encroaches on another person’s property by planting hedges or building a structure. This may occur if the original property owner does a land survey and discovers the error. In that case, the property owner needs to create a boundary line agreement with their neighbor if they want to retain the title to that property piece. The resulting boundary line agreement will include an acknowledgment by your neighbor that they accidentally encroached on the property, as well as an acknowledgment on your end that you will let the structure remain standing. In this way, the structure builder can keep control of the building while you retain control of the actual land it is built on.
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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