Locating the edges of your property is critical before doing any project on the lot. Usually, you can draw these lines using the markers placed at each corner of the property. But in some cases, these markers might be missing. So you should find other ways to locate the property lines to know where your property sits. We will list the steps to finding property lines with GPS and other methods if GPS fails to work. Read on to learn more!
Table of Contents
- What Are Property Lines?
- Why Locate Property Lines?
- How To Find Property Lines Using GPS
- Can You Find Property Lines on Google Maps?
- Other Ways To Find Property Lines
- Wrap Up
What Are Property Lines?
Property lines are the boundary lines that connect the property markers on the corners of your lot. Property markers are usually 2-3 feet long iron rods with plastic caps. During the initial land survey, surveyors place these caps at ground level. However, dirt, mud, and other environmental factors can cover them, so you might need to find them when you want to do some activity on the land.
Property line markers with pink ribbons
Why Locate Property Lines?
Whether hidden or visible, you need to find the markers that define the property lines before doing any activity on the land. These activities include building a house, installing a perimeter fence/wall, widening your driveway, etc.
Property lines with two lots sold.
The intention is to avoid disputes with neighbors because your property’s legal boundaries might not be as straightforward as you think. You might be mowing a section of the lawn that is not on your property, which is not an issue until you decide to build something there.
How To Find Property Lines Using GPS
The process requires the following steps.
- Purchase and upload GPS mapping software to your GPS device. Regular GPS consumer devices are usually inaccurate, so they might not display the exact property line location. GPS mapping software applications can come with limited free trials with full, premium versions costing up to $500.
- Visit the local zoning department in the municipal office to obtain the plat map. A plat map shows land division, including the precise dimensions of your lot plus other lot lines for your neighbors in your block. Alternatively, you can get the mortgage map, legal survey review, or legal land map from your mortgage service provider or county clerk’s office.
An aerial view of the property lines on a subdivided piece of land
- Go through the map to check and determine the basis of bearing explained on the document. After that, set the reference points on the GPS mapping software as described on the survey map to get precise readings (magnetic north, geodetic north, etc.).
- Input the coordinates of the property corners separately or as several coordinates, depending on the GPS application.
- Identify the first pin logged into the GPS software and tap/click “go to” or pick a similar option on your specific device.
- Place a property marker on the ground when you get to the property corner.
- If your software did not allow you to place all marker coordinates at once, upload the coordinates of the next point, then select “go to” or a similar option on your device. After that, go to the next waypoint.
- Repeat the process to place boundary markers on all corners.
Can You Find Property Lines on Google Maps?
You might not have to go through the hassle of using expensive GPS software. It is possible to use Google Maps on your mobile device to find the legal property lines by typing your address into the application’s search bar. And since you can layer GPS data on the Google Maps canvas, it is possible to get the precise locations using your iOS or Android device. However, property lines are not available online for all areas. So this method might not work for everyone.
A person using a map application on a tablet to identify property lines
Fortunately, there are other GPS property line apps in the market. Although not as accurate as professional surveyors, they can work. They include the following.
This app lets you view land parcel property data across the country and features a survey editor to help you create your survey. Additionally, it includes some preloaded surveys accessible via a paid subscription.
The LandGlide app uses GPS data to pinpoint property location and includes parcel records in several counties, covering 95% of the US.
Property Survey GPS
This app enables users to find property lines and record measurements. So it can survey and explore your property while providing estimated property line markers.
Other Ways To Find Property Lines
If you can’t access GPS devices, there are other ways to find property lines. They include:
Checking The Plat Map
Plat maps are civil-engineer-created maps that get approved by the county planning department after subdividing land. So they are accurate and show directional orientations with the parcel number in the middle of the lot. Additionally, they indicate the property directions alongside the property lines.
A plat/cadastral map
Using a Metal Detector
Since property markers contain buried iron rods, you can use a metal detector to find them. These devices can detect metal up to 12 inches deep. But you can’t go looking for the metal in random places. Use the plat map as a guide, then search along that area. The detector will beep when it senses something, then dig to uncover the marker. However, the device might detect utility lines, so dig carefully to avoid costly damages.
A man using a metal detector
Checking The Title Deed
Title deeds also contain information about the property, including reference points about its location on the plat map. The metes and bounds survey also shows the property’s corner starting point with detailed instructions to get to the other corners. The method is not as accurate as a map, but it can work.
A real-estate deed
Hiring a Surveyor
If you can’t find the lines by yourself, consider employing the services of a surveyor, who will mark the corners using tiny flags or wooden stakes. Hiring a surveyor costs an average of about $500. But it can be higher or lower depending on the complexity of the task. Flat land with no trees is easier and cheaper to survey, but trees and hilly terrain will demand more work and money.
A land surveyor with his equipment at work
Using a Compass
A directional compass can only work if the wooden stakes left by the surveyor are still visible. So the tool cannot help you locate the pins. Instead, it enables you to navigate to the other pins after finding the first one.
A wood survey stake
Survey maps usually show the north direction, so you can measure the angle from north to the property line, then use the compass to locate the next marker.
Using Measuring Tape
With a measuring tape, you can find the property line adjacent to the road, which should be 33 feet from the street’s center. Alternatively, measure about 14-14.5 feet from the curb to locate the first marker. Once identified, use the survey plan to find the distance to the next pin, then use the tape to find the corners.
Asking The Neighbors
Your adjacent neighbors might know where their land markers lie, and you can use them as reference points to locate yours using the plat map. Also, meeting and discussing with your neighbors can help you agree on how to set up a shared perimeter or build projects along the border. For instance, you can decide where to install the fence and which type of fence.
Checking Street Lights and Sidewalks
Contractors who build sidewalks pour the concrete from the property line on the edge of your lot. Also, they position street lights along the boundary, creating visual cues that show where your property starts. But you will need additional checks to ensure these projects didn’t eat into your land.
Residential houses along a street. Note the street light and sidewalk
In conclusion, locating property lines using GPS is more of a DIY project that can help you determine your lot’s location without hiring a licensed land surveyor. And the process is simple. You only need a few items, then follow the steps listed above. That’s it for today. Contact us if you still encounter challenges, and we’ll guide you through the process.