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If you’re building a new structure, like a shed or a fence, it’s important to have an accurate idea of where your property lines are to be sure you’re in bounds of local ordinances and building codes. You might also need this information if you’re planning on selling your home, or if you want to do some major landscaping work. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to find your property line and it’s even easier than it used to be.
The simplest way to locate your property lines is available on your smartphone. You can often find this information on Google Maps by navigating to the satellite view and then pressing the button that says “layers” to get to the satellite view. Then, use the plus sign on the lower left hand side of the screen or use your fingers to zoom in until you see the light gray lines appear on the screen. While this is the simplest way to go about it, Google doesn’t always have access to all of the information they need to provide this service everywhere. If you don’t see these lines or if these lines go through existing structures, you’ll need to use a different method to find the edges of your property.
Look up your deed online
Looking up your property deed is another easy way to find your property lines. In many municipalities, your deed will be available online through your public records office. Once you find the deed, you can locate the description of the property boundaries included in the deed for tax purposes. If not much has changed to the surrounding landscape in a while, you might be able to determine the location of your property lines from this description. Keep in mind that deeds often include descriptions from the original sale of the property or the first recorded property line when your area was incorporated. This means that visual cues used to locate certain elements of the property line might not exist anymore or might be obscured by overgrowth or the addition of new structures to the area.
Find your “plat map”
When you bought your home, you may have received a document known as a “plat map.” This will show on a map where your property lines are. If you don’t have a copy of your plat map, you can request one from your county clerk’s office. You can often find these online, saving yourself a trip to the clerk’s office. The map will show where your property boundary is in relation to other local reference points like roads, utility poles, or natural landmarks like creeks. You might also find markers left by utility and other infrastructure workers on sidewalks, curbs, or telephone poles that can help you orient your map.
Look for survey pins and markers
Looking for survey pins, added by builders who worked on the property at some point, is a good way to find your property line if you have some idea of where it could be near. Looking for a piece of rebar or a smaller strip of iron that’s driven into the soil nearby where you think the property line is can give you an exact location of the boundary. On a newer property, you might still be able to find other markers that delineate the property line. These can be stakes made from metal or wood, or can even be small spikes with a colorful piece of vinyl tape or a flag attached to it. If you find these arranged in a row, you can deduce the property line from there.
Request a survey or commission one
If all else fails, you can request a survey from your mortgage company or you can hire a professional surveyor to do a new one. Having a professional come and review your property lines is a good way to avoid costly corrections after the fact if you’re planning on doing any construction. Using one of the official documents available where possible will help to ensure an accurate result. Getting the most recent map possible can be important if there’s been lots of construction in your area since your home was built or if lots in the area have been subdivided over the years. Since the markers used to measure the property lines from might have changed since the property was originally recorded, the POB (or “place of beginning”)—also known as a common point—might have changed. Using something as current as possible to determine where to measure from when you look for your boundary is the best practice.