As a homeowner, you probably have a rough sense of where your land starts and finishes. You might use your garden path, the end of your grass, or a wall as markers. But are those the official boundaries? They might not be.
So, before embarking on any exterior endeavors like building an extension, changing a fence, setting up a pool, or enhancing your garden, it’s crucial first to understand your property’s limits. This ensures you can relish in your home improvements without overstepping boundaries and potentially sparking disputes with your neighbors.
What Are Property Lines?
Boundary markers are essential when you build house, during building processes by the builder, municipality, district, or region to indicate the beginning and end of a land parcel’s ownership. A surveyor sets these official limits and designates them.
When a property undergoes legal subdivision, a new survey determines the fresh boundary markers. The boundary at your home’s forefront is termed your facade, representing the span across your land’s front. The boundaries flanking your land are referred to as flanks. Local planning regulations frequently govern these measurements.
Why Is Understanding Your Property Boundaries Crucial?
Property boundaries serve as a safeguard to prevent one landowner from infringing on another’s space or jeopardizing their seclusion by constructing too near their residence.
A common infringement might be branches extending beyond your territory, casting a shadow on a neighboring lawn, or a pathway designed to overlap into a neighbor’s land. Recognizing the precise demarcation of your boundaries ensures you don’t unintentionally trespass on adjacent territory.
If you’re contemplating erecting a lasting edifice, precision is key, and commissioning a personal land assessment is the prime approach.
In numerous regions, there’s an obligation to contact a utility hotline, typically 811, to procure information on subterranean utilities prior to initiating projects like fencing, tree planting, or driveway expansion.
This procedure guarantees you’re informed about the whereabouts of concealed cables or watering systems, preventing inadvertent harm. Post a brief notification, a representative from the regional utility firm should delineate municipal cables or tubes using markers or colored sprays.
Preserving records related to property demarcation can be an asset for potential buyers. Retain duplicates of recent assessments, plot diagrams, or any data sourced from municipal or district agencies, either digitally or in print.
If you commission a fresh assessment, it might be requisite to file it with the local valuation or recording office. During property transactions, title agencies scrutinize for any territorial overlaps. They might withhold title assurance to the vendor upon detecting boundary disagreements.
Being adept at pinpointing your land boundaries offers tranquility for any endeavor nearing your property’s periphery. Demonstrating regard for neighboring occupants and their territorial entitlements can avert potential legal conflicts.
12 ways to find property lines
To avoid issues with property lines and prevent confrontation with your neighbors, here are 12 easy ways to find property lines.
1. Engage a professional land surveyor
To pinpoint the exact boundaries of your property, consider engaging a professional land surveyor. They’ll delve into county archives to trace the lineage of your plot, uncovering any easements, subdivisions, or other pivotal details that might influence your land’s use. The typical cost for such expertise ranges from $330 to $670, but depending on various factors like location and property history, it might even touch $1,000.
2. Examine your land title
The title of your land serves as a treasure map, detailing the tax description of your estate. This description paints a picture of your land’s perimeters, often citing old landmarks or subdivisions that might have vanished with time, like a once-prominent tree line. To retrieve your title, you can either browse online or visit your local county recorder’s office, usually for a nominal fee.
3. Refer to the metes and bounds description
The metes and bounds method uses specific landmarks as reference points to outline property limits. It starts with a “place of beginning” or POB, like a distinctive tree or stream. With a compass in hand, you can trace the directions given.
However, this method can be tricky, as it might refer to landmarks that have disappeared over time. For instance, the description might read “fifty meters from the towering maple,” but that maple might have long since fallen.
4. Explore the ‘plat’ or property line diagram
Upon purchasing a home, you’re often handed a ‘plat’ or a detailed map showcasing property lines. If you missed receiving one, a trip to the county clerk’s office should help. This diagram illustrates your land’s dimensions in relation to neighboring plots.
For homes on a standard residential lane, you’ll likely observe uniformly sized plots, each marked with a unique identifier. This identifier is distinct from the tax parcel number. Engaging with neighbors can be insightful too; they might possess a plat map that encompasses the entire locality.
5. Inquire about the land survey with your mortgage or title firm
Securing a home loan usually mandates a property survey. This means your mortgage institution should retain a copy from when you sealed the deal. Similarly, title agencies conduct thorough property checks and might have archived surveys or property delineations related to your estate.
6. Delve into the public property survey archives
Land surveys aren’t confidential; they’re public documents. Thus, you can solicit existing surveys from your local county or governing body. If they’ve ever conducted a survey of your property, they’ll have it on file, albeit with a replication fee attached.
7. Seek out concealed survey stakes
Builders, during the initial construction phase, often plant survey stakes to demarcate land boundaries. These are typically slender metal rods driven into the soil. If you’re uncertain about your property’s boundaries, these stakes can be a good starting point.
A metal detector can come in handy when scouting for these stakes, especially around sidewalks or property edges. However, exercise caution; these pins might have been displaced over time by utilities or other service providers.
8. Scout for boundary indicators
Apart from survey stakes, there are other markers that can help identify property lines. These markers can be fashioned from materials like metal, wood, or concrete.
If your home is relatively new, these markers might still be intact. Metal stakes and concrete markers are generally more reliable than wooden ones, which can be easily shifted. To get a clearer idea of where to search, refer to your property’s plat map.
9. Observe sidewalks and lampposts
Sidewalks and lampposts can serve as handy visual cues when trying to discern property lines. While they aren’t foolproof indicators, there’s a chance they were aligned with property boundaries during installation. A good place to start is by examining the grooves on the sidewalk in front of your residence.
Sometimes, contractors might have etched lines corresponding to property edges or used varying concrete shades to demarcate different properties. While this method offers a preliminary insight, always cross-reference with a survey or plat map for precision.
10. Drop by the municipal zoning office
The local zoning office is a treasure trove of information, housing detailed plats that depict land divisions. These maps, meticulously scaled, provide insights into your property’s dimensions.
Unless your dwelling dates back a century or more, you can procure a copy of the plat showcasing your locality and specific lot, usually for a nominal charge. These records offer a comprehensive view of your property’s exact dimensions.
11. Dive into digital platforms for property boundaries
In today’s digital age, a quick online search can swiftly provide insights into your property boundaries. Numerous counties and cities have integrated their plat maps into their Geographical Information System (GIS), which can be accessed via the official county or assessor’s portal.
By simply entering your address, you can pull up a detailed map showcasing your residence, any auxiliary structures, and the defining property lines.
There are also specialized GPS applications that offer precise plat maps. Two of the most popular among homeowners are LandGlide and Landgrid:
- LandGlide App – This application harnesses the power of GPS to accurately locate your property. With parcel records spanning 3,000 counties, it covers an impressive 95% of the U.S. Available on both IOS and Android platforms, LandGlide offers a complimentary trial, post which a subscription fee applies.
- Landgrid Map – Landgrid not only lets you view a staggering 149 million properties across the nation but also provides ownership details and addresses. Its unique survey editor feature empowers you to craft your survey. The premium version unlocks additional functionalities, including bookmarking properties, conducting surveys, and accessing a plethora of web features.
12. Take matters into your own hands
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can embark on a DIY mission to measure your property. Arm yourself with a lengthy measuring tape, a reliable compass, and possibly a helping hand.
Begin by identifying the starting point or the “common point” (POB) as indicated on the plat. With the starting point as your anchor, use the measuring tape to trace the property’s boundaries, noting down measurements along the way. Ideally, the dimensions you jot down should mirror those on the plat.
Property Lines: A Crucial Step Before Home Purchase
Venturing into the realm of homeownership? One crucial aspect you shouldn’t overlook is the property lines. Here’s why:
1. Past Oversights
The former homeowners might not have been as meticulous about property lines as you’d hope. They might have embarked on home enhancements without proper consideration, inadvertently encroaching on the neighboring plot. Such oversights can lead to disputes and legal complications down the line.
2. Surprises in Surveys
Always request a comprehensive survey from your lender. You might be in for a surprise – perhaps the property isn’t as expansive as advertised. Or worse, there might be encroachment issues that could either make you reconsider the purchase price or abandon the deal entirely.
3. The Power of Compromise
Let’s say the house has won your heart, but there’s a minor boundary hiccup. Don’t fret! Solutions like a boundary line agreement can come to the rescue. This legal document serves as a peace treaty of sorts, resolving property line disagreements without the drama of courtroom battles. It’s a testament to mutual understanding and coexistence between neighbors.
4. Precision is Paramount
Whether you’re eyeing a new property or planning to revamp your current one, accurate knowledge of property boundaries is essential. From construction projects to landscaping endeavors, knowing where your land starts and ends can save you from potential disputes, unexpected costs, and legal headaches.
What is the best app for finding property lines?
There are several apps available for finding property lines, with LandGlide and Landgrid being among the most popular. The best app often depends on your specific needs and the region you are in.
Can I use my iPhone to find property lines?
Yes, you can use your iPhone to find property lines. Apps like LandGlide are available on the App Store and use GPS to help identify property boundaries.
How do I find my property lines for free in Ontario?
In Ontario, you can access the Ontario Land Registry Office’s online portal to view property boundaries and related information. Some municipalities may also have GIS systems that provide this information for free.
Are surveying apps accurate?
Surveying apps provide a general idea of property boundaries and are useful for reference. However, they may not be as accurate as a professional land survey. Always consult with a licensed surveyor for precise measurements.
Is GPS Surveying accurate?
GPS surveying, especially when using high-end equipment, can be very accurate. However, its accuracy can be influenced by factors like satellite visibility, atmospheric conditions, and the quality of the GPS device used.
Can I survey with my phone?
While smartphones have advanced GPS capabilities, they are not a replacement for professional surveying equipment. You can get a general idea using certain apps, but for precise measurements, professional tools and expertise are required.
What is the most accurate land survey?
The most accurate land survey is typically conducted by licensed land surveyors using professional-grade equipment, including total stations, high-precision GPS, and other specialized tools. These surveys adhere to strict standards and regulations to ensure accuracy.
Understanding and respecting property boundaries is more than just a legal necessity; it’s a gesture of goodwill towards your neighbors and the community at large.
With the advent of technology, determining these boundaries has become more accessible than ever. However, while apps and online tools offer convenience, they should be used as preliminary guides.
For definitive answers and peace of mind, especially in significant undertakings like home purchases or construction projects, always turn to professional surveyors. Their expertise ensures accuracy, clarity, and helps foster harmonious neighborly relations. Remember, a well-defined boundary is the first step to a well-maintained relationship.