As a landowner, knowing the location of your property boundaries is one of the best ways to avoid disputes with your neighbors.
Property lines, or boundary lines, are the defined points where one owner’s land ends and neighboring property begins. A property owner uses boundary lines to determine where they can legally place items like fences, driveways, outbuildings like pole barns, or anything else. Erecting a structure on or partially on someone else’s land can lead to lawsuits and unpleasant situations with neighbors.
1. Check your writing. The deed contains the legal description of your property, which is basically the measurements and limits of the property in words. For most people, the property description can be difficult to interpret, so it may not be useful to you. However, sometimes the legal description uses benchmarks and measurements that you can interpret. If that’s the case, measure from the landmarks in the description to the property boundaries. Mark each corner with a stake or other marker. Measure from each stake to the next around your property to make sure 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. Just be careful: an old description may depend on the location of a tree that no longer exists or a stream that has dried up.
2. Check the official website of the appraiser’s office in your municipality. Some advisers have mapping tools available online for all real estate in the area. You can use maps to find your property boundaries and determine where nearby landmarks are, such as the east line of your street. You can use these reference points as fixed points to measure. Using a tape measure or measuring wheel, measure the distance from each of the landmarks to your property line as shown on the maps.
3. If you don’t have a copy and nothing is available online, visit the county recorder’s office or the assessor’s office. When you purchased your property, you may have received a floor plan map showing the property’s lines and measurements. If it was not included with your documentation, check with your local secretary or surveyor’s office. Ask if there are maps available for public viewing that include your neighborhood and street. Some of these maps may be available online, while others will be hard copies or microfiche copies. Even neighboring property maps can be valuable if they show shared property lines.
4. Last but not least, hire a surveyor. The surest way to determine legal property limits is to hire a professional. The surveyor can measure and map the property and will usually mark the corners of the property with stakes as well. It is always a good recommendation to be present when the surveyor comes to measure your property, so that they can review the property boundaries with you. The cost of a survey will vary based on your location, lot size, and other variables. The surveyor must be licensed by your state and must have professional liability insurance, which can cover you if the surveyor makes a mistake in the survey.