Understanding Property Lines Is Essential for Your Fence Installation

Why Understanding Property Lines Is Essential for Your Fence Installation

When getting new fence installed, it can be tricky to determine the exact spot where your property ends. In fact, you’d be surprised at how many homeowners have an incorrect understanding of where their yard’s boundaries lie. If you are in the process of installing a new fence, staking property lines is a requirement. 

Thankfully, the staff of Paramount Fencing understands that regardless if you want a white vinyl fence for your Phoenixville, PA home, or any other type of fencing, it’s critical to know where your property lines are. In fact, we’re happy to help our clients find their property pins and ensure that their fences are installed correctly and accurately.

Let’s take a look at why this is such an important part of our installation process here at Paramount Fencing:

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Dig Out Your Deed for Additional Info

In older neighborhoods, property owners may have purchased or sold off portions of their yards. Locating a survey pin won’t give you this information, but the most recent legal description recorded on your deed will list any such changes. If you don’t have a copy of your deed filed with your homeowner records, get one at the register of deeds office, often located within your county courthouse.

Final Thoughts

Before building a new structure or installing a driveway, it’s vital to have a professional come out and mark the property lines. Property pins can be moved over the years, and in some cases, the boundary may extend past a property boundary marker if a previous owner bought or sold land to a neighbor. In a best case scenario, you may have more land than you thought you did. In a worst case scenario, you may have poured the driveway on the neighbors’ land, and they can make you tear it out.

How Property Lines Are Determined

We know that fences don’t line every landowner’s plot, so how do we define where one yard ends and the neighbor’s begins? It’s a little less than precise, but to help make things more standardized, nearly the entire country has adopted a protocol called the Rectangular Survey System (RSS).

Land surveyors use RSS to develop a system of rectangular parcels of land that can be added and measured to create an outline of the property. RSS works by dividing all land parcels into roughly 1-mile sections. The word “roughly” is used because these sections are hardly ever perfect.

Roads, creeks, rivers, lakes and tree lines often get in the way of the perfect mile. The lines are then separated into two types: meridians and baselines. Meridians run north and south, baselines run east and west.

The RSS system was first used in eastern Ohio in an area called the Seven Ranges. The epicenter of the system is on the Ohio – Pennsylvania border near Pittsburgh. County lines regularly follow this survey, and the creation of it in the Midwest explains why many counties are rectangular in shape. This system has since become the nationwide standard of how we calculate property lines today.

Property Lines And Home Appraisals

So, what does this mean for home appraisers? While conducting an appraisal of a given property, the appraiser will visit the county assessor’s office in the local municipality to acquire property records. They will look at the parcel ID and legal description to verify the basic description of the property location.

If the property is in a subdivision, then it will most likely be measured by RSS, and property lines can often be identified on the associated plat map. If the appraiser cannot verify the property boundaries, they will have to request a copy of a survey that would have to be performed by a licensed surveyor.

2. Check your deed

The deed contains a description of your property’s measurements and boundaries in words. Measure from the landmarks in the description to the property lines. Mark each corner with a stake or other marker. Measure from each stake to the next all the way around your property to ensure 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.

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.

Step 4: Conduct a Basic Survey

Armed with the information we’ve already covered, you’re in a good position to conduct a basic survey. This can be an interesting exercise, and you might even be surprised at what you find.

The equipment you’ll need is a compass, a calculator and the documents you’ve been able to collect in the previous steps.

 Always start from a fixed, known point that appea

Always start from a fixed, known point that appears in your deed or plat. Then it’s a matter of measuring the angles and distances as laid down in your documents and recording the results.

You may want to place markers for future reference, and you’ll want to sketch your findings to compare with the official documents.

This method can give you a reasonable confirmation of your property lines. In a lot of cases, it’s obvious that everything is in order and your property lines make sense.

Remember, only a properly licensed surveyor can adjust incorrectly positioned property lines. And, of course, there’s a cost involved ranging from a few hundred dollars to a thousand dollars or more to employ his services.

TIP: If you’re planning to put up a fence, it’s a good idea to involve your neighbors in the process. It may not always be practical, but there’s less chance of a problem arising if everyone affected is consulted.

You may even be able to split some of the costs. Learn more about the cost to build a fence before starting. It might also be useful to consult your neighbor’s deeds and plats for confirmation of mutual property lines.

Pro Tip

We suggest that you mark out your fence line as early as possible after you buy.  That way your neighbours can see where the fence is going and there is ample time to resolve disputes that have the potential to frustrate everyone on installation day. Be friendly and proactive with your neighbours, especially if there’s been conflict in the past.

How To Find Your Property Stake:

It is much more common for the stakes to be several inches underground. Not so deep that they match up with the frost line, but deep enough that some digging is necessary. In that case, your best bet is to buy or rent a metal detector (inexpensive ones cost less than $50). When you’ve found your target, dig down to make sure that it’s really a stake and not just a lost quarter.

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After you have found the iron property stake, replace the dirt and hammer in a small piece of wood as a visible marker.

Note: If locating your property lines precisely—in a legal dispute, for example—we strongly recommend that you hire a professional surveyor.

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