How to Find Property Lines: Finding House Boundaries

Things You Should Know About Property Lines

How Do You Find Property Lines

Are you wondering how property lines work? Maybe you are trying to figure out exactly where your property line is located. You’re not alone if you nod yes to these questions.

Understanding how to find property lines are vital, especially after buying a home.

Lots of folks try to research how to find their lot lines. The most common problems regarding property boundaries are fences a neighbor wants to construct.

When fences are built between properties, where exactly is the right place to construct them? Getting house boundary locations wrong can lead to an unpleasant dispute between neighbors. It can quickly become a legal dispute where the costs begin to mount.

The positioning of fences between homes will typically come down to where the property lines are. Knowing where the property line is will be crucial if you want to put up barriers, and it can even be an issue if there are already fences on your property.

Perhaps your neighbor plans to put something near the suspected border. Either way, knowing where the property boundary is located is essential.

We’ll be taking an in-depth look at how to find your property lines so that you don’t find yourself in an unnecessary neighbor dispute.

Defining Property Lines and House Boundaries

Property lines are where your ownership of the land starts and finishes. These lines will have been used when your home was constructed and will continue to be necessary at any point 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. A minimum amount of frontage is required for the land to be considered a building lot. 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 you don’t infringe on your neighbor’s property by mistake or compromise their privacy. Another potential issue from not understanding where the house boundary lines are could be the title company refusing insurance.

How Property Lines Are Marked

How Are Property Lines Marked

When developers construct homes, they typically have the property lines marked.

How property lines are marked can vary. The boundary is usually done in one of a few different ways, including:

  • Wooden stakes
  • Concrete markers
  • Metal markers

Over time these markers tend to disappear, which can cause homeowners to wonder where the property lines are located.

As a homeowner, you can have your property lines marked if this becomes important to you. We will be getting into this momentarily.

How to Find Property Lines For Your Home

Fortunately, there are a few ways to learn where the property line is for your home. Some of these will be very easy and cost you nothing, but that isn’t always the case.

Property lines are public records, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to locate unless you’re a land engineer.

Let’s look at the standard methods of finding your property lines.

Finding Property Line Markers

If your home is relatively new, the property boundary markers might still be present. There could still be stakes in the ground when the lots were initially divided before your home was constructed.

If you walk along where you believe your property lines to be, you could still find these stakes either slightly above or flush with the ground.

You could also find concrete boundary markers that tend to be more accurate, as stakes are more easily moved.

The use of metal survey pins is also possible as well. If you suspect metal pins were used, you should be able to find them with a metal detector.

These property pins are thin iron or steel bars and sometimes have plastic caps. These kinds of property markers are usually 2-3 feet long.

Checking the Property Line Map at The Local Zoning Department

A property line map could show your lot’s boundaries and other details like elevation, structures, and any water features.

These are sometimes referred to as a plat map and are often included with your property’s documentation. It can also be found through your local assessor’s office and might also be available online. Usually, the local city hall will have detailed maps with property lines.  It is typically as easy as making an appointment to see maps for property lines.

A local clerk should be able to help as more than a few folks will try to locate their legal boundary.

If you can’t get hold of the plat for your property, you might be able to find them for neighboring homes.

Checking the Property Deeds

Dig out the copy of your deed and look at the deed’s description. It will be a good reference point to start out with.

The deed to the property should give you another way to find your home’s boundary. It should contain a legal description of your boundary line, though the older your home is, the less likely that this will be helpful.

However, since the features in a property deed may have changed or been removed, it might not help you with the location of your property lines.

Have Your House Boundaries Surveyed

Get a Land Survey to Find Property Lines

The most accurate way to find your home’s property lines is to get a land survey done by a professional land surveyor.

If checking the previous options hasn’t led to you learning enough or anything about your property lines, a survey might be your best option.

A survey for property lines certainly won’t be the cheapest option. The average cost for a property line survey is around $500 for a quarter of an acre lot.

Choosing this option will mean hiring a local licensed land surveyor to accurately measure where your land begins and ends.

The surveyor will also do some research checking the records to understand the history of the lot. They will find out about subdivisions, easements, and other important factors relating to your land.

New surveys are typically carried out when a mortgage lender is involved in purchasing a property, so you might be able to find details of this in your property’s documentation. These are what’s referred to as a mortgage plot plan.

When real estate agents market homes, they typically ask the seller for the mortgage plot plan to give buyers an understanding of property line locations.

When getting a land loan or construction loan from a bank or other lending institution will require a land survey as they will want to know the exact property lines to grant a mortgage.

Mortgage lenders will hire a licensed surveyor to create a new survey.

Finding Your Property Lines Online

Many people wonder how to find property lines online. It could be the best way to find your property line for free when you can’t make it into city hall.

If you check the county or assessor’s website, you might find that they provide you with local maps. Failing that, you could also try searching for geographical information system maps.

These GIS maps can be searched for using Google, and you might also find other types of maps that give you a good idea of where your boundaries lie if you do some research.

Looking at maps online may give you a general idea of where your property lines are located, but they should not be used to pinpoint an exact location.

Finding Property Lines With Google Earth

One of the more simple ways to find house boundaries is with Google Earth. You can look at the maps for property lines by visiting Google Maps. At the top of the screen, you will see a search bar where you’ll enter your home’s address.

What you will first see is a standard GPS grid. Click on the “layers” button, and you’ll be taken to a satellite view. There will be a red pin to center your property. If you click the plus button in the lower right corner, it will zoom into your property.

When Google has the information on your property, you should be able to see your property boundaries.

APPS to Find Property Line Locations

Now and then, a techy will ask me if there is an app to find property lines. Believe it or not, there are apps you can use to pinpoint house boundaries!

Besides Google Maps, other GPS apps will provide property line info. The apps, however, will not give you anywhere near the accuracy that a property surveyor would. These apps should only be used for ballpark estimates of your boundary locations.

These mapping tools are another way of finding your property lines online in a pinch.

  • Landgrid App – the Landgrid app allows you to view properties throughout the US. It has a function that will enable you to create your survey. Some surveys can be accessed with a paid subscription.
  • LandGlide app – the LanGlide app provides GPS technology to locate your property. It has parcel records for about 95 percent of the US.
  • Property Survey GPS – like the other property line apps, The Property Survey GPS apps allow users to locate property lines. The app explores your property, helping to provide estimated land markers.

Never Rely on a Real Estate Agent For Property Line Locations

Don

One of the golden rules in real estate is not to answer them when someone asks an agent where the property line is located. Unless, of course, you don’t mind getting sued.

A real estate agent has no idea where a property line is located unless they have done the engineering on the property themselves (fat chance).

A real estate agent would rely on a third party to tell them where the property line is located. Who knows if that party is wrong?

As a buyer, you should never accept a real estate agent’s answer of where the property line is located to be accurate. If you are a real estate agent reading this, then smarten up! Never show someone where a property line is located.

Are Your Neighbors Allowed to Build Fences on the Property Line?

If you have a neighbor who plans on constructing a fence on the dividing line between your two properties, you need to understand the rules.

Specific local regulations or laws guide how a fence should be constructed concerning the property boundary.

There could also be some restrictions about building on the property line in your home or your neighbor’s deeds.

Standard rules might suggest that any fence is built more than a few inches away from a neighbor’s property boundary, but restrictions could require a greater distance.

If a fence is built directly on the property line, it could mean that the responsibility will be between both homeowners. This can lead to many problems when maintenance needs to be performed on the fence or requires replacement.

What Happens With Encroachment of Property Lines?

When buying and selling homes, there are times when the encroachment of lot lines is discovered. This means the neighbor has built a structure that violates local zoning laws. One of the more common examples is when a neighbor constructs 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 pay higher insurance premiums.

It is also vital to consider the property’s resale value when selling. You may be okay with the situation now, but what if future buyers don’t feel the same way? Typically, in cases 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. A property line dispute is fairly common. Property line issues can happen in several different ways. Sometimes incorrect assumptions are made about where a boundary 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.

Most 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 requesting 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.

Can Property Lines Be Moved?

Can a Property Line Be Moved

Property lines can be moved in some circumstances, and in others, they can’t. To move a property line, you must confirm according to local zoning laws.

For example, you could not change a lot line to reduce your land below the required square footage requirement or remove the minimum amount of square footage for a legal lot.

If you conform to zoning laws, a property line change is possible.

Why Would You Change a Property Line?

There could be any number of reasons why you would agree to a property line change. There could be an opportunity to create an additional lot by moving the boundary line.

Your neighbor may need a certain amount of land to do an addition. You might want to have more privacy. There could be an encroachment by the neighbor that is stopping the sale of a home.

Typically, when property lines are changed for the benefit of one party, there is some form of monetary compensation.

Why is it Important to Know How to Find Your Property Lines

As you can see, property lines become far more critical when buying or selling a home. You need to know precisely where the property lines are for any major project, such as adding a new fence, a garage, a pool, a new driveway, irrigation systems, or another structure.

Other improvements, such as installing a septic system, must also be a certain distance from the property line.

It is easy to see why lenders require having a mortgage plot plan done when financing a home.

Final Thoughts on Property Lines

there might be more options than you initially imagined when finding your property lines. You might be able to avoid getting an expensive property line survey when you need to define your home’s boundaries clearly.

Even if you think you fully understand where your boundary lines are, checking the official documentation might surprise you.

For this reason, you need to make sure you are very clear on where the boundaries lie before you have a fence constructed or do anything that could potentially encroach on your neighbor’s property. This will save you from expensive legal costs if you get it wrong, and you could find out these details through a simple online search.

Hopefully, you have enjoyed this guide on finding your lot lines and can put it to good use.

 


About the author: The above Real Estate information on how to find property lines was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 35+ years.

Are you thinking of selling your home? I am passionate about real estate and love sharing my marketing expertise!

I service Real Estate Sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton, and Uxbridge MA.

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How to Find Property Lines: Finding House Boundaries

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How to Find Property Lines: Finding House Boundaries

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What you need to know about property lines including how to find them, disputes with neighbors over a property line, and more.

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Bill Gassett

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Maximum Real Estate Exposure

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