You recently bought a new house in a lovely neighborhood. You’re excited to start on the renovations: redo the lawn, repave the driveway, and repaint the exteriors. But before you hire contractors and buy construction materials, one important task you shouldn’t overlook is determining your property’s boundary lines.
The first step in dealing with property boundaries is to compare deed copies with your neighbor. You can usually find your property’s legal boundaries on the deed, but there are a few ways the description can be written. The deed can either say the property’s exact location based on the plat map or describe the precise measurements that allow you to walk along the property lines from a reference point.
But deeds are not always accurate. If that is the case for you and your neighbor, you can check the plat map of the neighborhood, which should be one of the documents you receive upon purchasing your new home. Otherwise, plat maps are available through online portals or through your local assessor’s office or planning office.
Read the Plat Map
A plat map or a survey map is a blueprint that contains detailed property information and outlines the entire area or neighborhood to scale. This should show boundary lines of the property, designations of roads and public and private rights-of-way, land size, flood zones, and other details. Usually, civil engineers draw survey maps after the home’s initial construction. Land surveyors then maintain the maps and real estate agents refer to these in transactions as part of title searches.
On a standard residential street, you should see rectangles of about similar sizes lined up on each side of the street. These represent each privately owned or unowned property. Each rectangle should correspond to a parcel number, which is the assigned number when the land developer plans the lots for individual sales. The parcel numbers follow a numerical order so they should be easy to follow.
Looking at your lot on the map and the corresponding parcel number, you should be able to pinpoint which one is yours. Your deed should also note your parcel number, so you wouldn’t have a hard time looking for it on the map. Once you know your number, you can gather all the relevant information regarding your property, including boundary lines.
Hire a Land Surveyor
Despite the straightforward method of reading plat maps, they may still be hard to comprehend. When you encounter that problem, it’s time to hire a residential land surveyor. Surveyors need a degree in civil engineering or surveying technology before they can sign legal documents.
Licensed land surveyors specialize in making precise measurements to determine the legal boundaries of a property, including any and all features, such as the driveway, swimming pool, garage, or backyard shed.
They take the details from the plat map and your deed to carefully pinpoint the property lines. Apart from the legal documents, land surveyors also use high-tech tools, such as theodolites, 3D scanning, and GPS devices to more accurately measure the property boundaries.
Knowing a property’s boundaries is a crucial step in owning a home, but it is often the most overlooked detail. This is one of your responsibilities as a homeowner. Don’t neglect it, especially since it can help you avoid ugly property disputes with your neighbors in the future.