How to Find A Property Lines Online and Offline

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The Bottom Line

As a homeowner, it’s crucial that you’re aware of property lines so that you can respect your neighbor’s property and avoid any legal disputes. If you’re struggling to find your home’s property lines, utilize one of the strategies mentioned above, or go online to check. Remember that before you start an outdoor project such as building a fence on the property line, make sure to consult with your neighbor and a real estate agent about your property’s rules and regulations.

Are you trying to put in a new fence but aren’t sure how to pay for it? Why not apply for a cash out refinance today?

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. 

Why Is Knowing Your Property Lines Important?

Having a good understanding of your home’s property lines is a very important part of being a homeowner. Knowing where your property begins and ends can prevent potential unpleasantries or legal disputes with your neighbors. It can also ensure that you’re respecting your neighbor’s privacy and space. It’s important to note that an unknown property line encroachment could result in a title company refusing insurance.

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Visit the county recorder’s office or the assessor’s office. Ask what maps are available for public viewing that include your neighborhood and street. Request a copy of any maps that show clear dimensions of your property lines. Use the maps for reference when measuring your property’s total boundary line on each side.

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 land you’re getting when you begin the process of buying a house. Your mortgage lender and/or title insurance company will need to verify the property lines to help you qualify for a mortgage.

Knowing your property lines is also helpful when starting a home improvement or major landscaping project. You’ll want to have an understanding of where your yard ends and a neighbor’s begins. That way, you won’t end up accidentally building a new addition on your home or putting up a fence around your yard that encroaches on your neighbor’s property.

Finally, being aware of your property lines shows that you’re respectful of the neighboring premises. Knowing the boundaries of your property can help you avoid disagreements with your surrounding neighbors, especially ones that could lead to legal disputes.

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.

When Would I Need to Know My Property Boundaries?

Homeowners don’t always think about the importance of knowing their property lines. But there are multiple scenarios where you should know your property boundaries.

When Transferring Property Ownership

You will need to know your property’s dimensions when applying for a mortgage or transferring title ownership. To complete this, you may need to hire a professional to conduct an ALTA survey. These are specific types of land surveys that meet requirements from the American Land Title Association (ALTA).

When a Property Line Dispute Occurs 

Property line dispute lawsuits frequently happen throughout New York. These can be a chore to deal with, especially if you have an extremely aggressive neighbor. The best way to settle a property line dispute is to know precisely where your property boundaries begin and end. 

With firmly defined boundaries, these disputes can get resolved quickly. And by staking property lines, you can prevent new conflicts from arising in the future.

When You Want to Buy or Sell Your Property 

If you have a home or land, you want to sell or purchase, it’s best to define the property boundaries. Knowing the boundaries of the land you’re buying will help you know exactly what you’re purchasing and where its location is. In addition, providing potential buyers with a map of the property boundaries can help entice them to make a sound purchase. 

When Doing Any Construction Work 

If you’re trying to renovate your property with additions or construct new buildings, you’ll need to know where your property boundaries are. This is so you can avoid any encroachment issues. The last thing you want is to invest time and money into building a new addition to your home only to realize that it will encroach on someone else’s property line. 

How to Find Property Lines for Free

Homeowner’s Deed

A homeowner’s deed should include a legal description of the plot of land, including its measurements, shape, block and lot number, and other identifiers such as landmarks and geographical features. If the language is tricky, reach out to your real estate lawyer or agent for help in deciphering it.

A Tape Measure

If you want to visually confirm your property lines, you can use a tape measure to determine the boundaries. From a known point detailed in the deed’s description, measure to the property’s edge and place a stake at that point as a marker.

After all the edges have been determined, measure the distance between the stakes. Compare the results to make sure they match the corresponding deed or plat.

Existing Property Survey from Mortgage or Title Company

Most mortgage lenders require prospective homeowners to have a current survey, and your title insurance also depends on it. If you bought your home recently but don’t have the survey, contact either company to see if they have a copy on file.

Existing Property Survey from County or Local Municipality

A property’s history and legalrecords are generally kept in the municipality or county’s tax assessor’s office or in its land records or building department. You can usually begin your search by going online to access the relevant property records. Most municipalities offer this information for free, but some offices may require a small fee or ask that you access the records in person.

Buried Pins

At the corners of your property, you may be able to find steel bars that have been buried, sometimes still visible, with a marked cap on the top end. These were likely placed on your land when a survey was completed. If you can’t readily see the pins (they may have been buried over time), use a metal detector to help you locate them.

While this isn’t a legally binding way to determine your property lines, it will give you a good idea of the boundaries. Warning: Before you start digging, call 811, the national call-before-you-dig hotline, to request the location of buried utilities you don’t want to inadvertently dig into an underground utility line.

Use an App

Download an app like LandGlide that uses GPS to determine a parcel’s property lines. LandGlide is free for the first seven days.

What Happens With Encroachment of Property Lines?

When buying and selling homes, there are times when the encroachment of lot lines is discovered. What this means is the neighbor has built a structure that violates local zoning laws. One of the more common examples is when a neighbor builds a fence onto the neighbor’s property.

There are a few things to consider when you discover an encroachment. If a neighbor has built something onto your lot and something terrible such as an injury, happens in that structure, you could be partially liable and have a claim against your home insurance. Even if there was never a claim, you might end up paying higher insurance premiums.

It is also vital to think about the property’s resale value when it comes time to sell. You may be fine with the situation now, but what if future buyers don’t feel the same way? Typically, in situations like this, it will cause title insurance to be more expensive.

What Can You Do About Property Line Disputes With Neighbors?

A property line problem with a neighbor is not that unusual. They happen all the time. Property line issues can happen in several different ways. Sometimes incorrect assumptions are made about where a lot line exists. Other times a deed description might not be accurate.

There are also cases where one neighbor has been using a portion of land for a long time and claims ownership by adverse possession. How to resolve property disputes boils down to the situation.

The vast majority of the time, it is better to work out the dispute amicably with your neighbor. Legal battles over minor lot property line issues can become very costly. The easiest way to settle is to prove to your neighbor by a professional survey that their assumptions about the property line location are incorrect.

If this doesn’t work and the neighbor won’t cooperate, your last resort may include offering to divide the property at issue or request some form of monetary compensation.

Going to court over a minor lot line issue could cost far more money than the amount of land it is worth.

Defining Property Lines

Property lines are where your ownership of the land starts and finishes. These lines will have been used when you’re home was constructed and will continue to be important at any point after that when additions have been made to your property.

Understanding boundary lines can be crucial when fences are put up, installing swimming pools, and constructing home additions.

The front property line is your frontage or the length of the amount of land you own in front of your property.

The boundaries on the side of your property are known as sidelines. Local zoning laws often dictate these distances.

For example, you may live in an area where you must have 150 feet of frontage. For the land to be considered a building lot, there is a minimum amount of frontage required. There are also what’s known as sideline setbacks where a permanent structure cannot be built.

So, if you want to build a garage addition on your property, you must meet the sideline property line distance requirement. Zoning laws also have land square footage requirements. For example, you might need an acre of land to build a home if local zoning requires it.

Zoning Laws Matter For Lot Lines

Likewise, if you value your privacy, you may not want your neighbor building right up to the property line. Zoning laws are put in place for a reason, and this is one of them.

Understanding where the property boundary is located helps you avoid disputes or issues that can lead to living in your home not being as pleasant as possible.

It will ensure that you don’t encroach on your neighbor’s property by mistake or compromise their privacy. Another potential issue from not understanding where the property lines are could be the title company refusing insurance.

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.

Why you might want to locate property lines before you purchase a house

As a homebuyer, exercise caution regarding property lines as you move through the purchase process. The previous owners may have failed to account for property lines before they started various home improvements and could have encroached on a neighbor’s property. Ask your lender for a copy of the completed survey – you may learn that the property is smaller than you expected. Or, an encroachment issue could prompt you to renegotiate the deal or walk away altogether. 

If you love the home, a suitable compromise could involve a boundary line agreement after the purchase. A boundary line agreement is a legal contract to settle disputes between neighbors over property boundaries and provides an agreement on property line usage without going to court.

There are fast, easy, precise, and cost-effective ways to find property lines, whether it’s for a property you own or one you plan to purchase. Make sure to gather accurate information when buying a home or starting any construction or landscaping project.

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