Hot Topics: Property Boundary Lines

A wood fence.

Here on we enjoy providing a place where home improvement novices and experts can come together to share ideas and advice. Inside our Forums, users can browse threads to see what exchanges are taking place on a topic of interest or start their own dialogue by posting something for the community to take part in. With over 250,000 members and counting, this resource is quite active so each week we highlight one of the conversations that may just help you with that next DIY project.

Original post: Trying to approximate property boundary line

Bluesbreaker Member

I'm trying to determine my residential property line without hiring a surveyor. I did some research and I was able to look at a plat map and deed. Didn't help too much. The only way might be locating the property pins under the soil. I can try this.

But if I am unable to locate the exact boundary line, can I at least narrow down the area where the property line is from the attached photo? If you look just over the top of the blue recycling container, you can see the top of a phone co. utility box with an orange sticker. That white stucco wall edge closest to the blue car should be the area of the property line. I live at the left side house.

By the way, that phone co. utility box has my house number on it. The phone utility box is almost surely on my property. Do you agree?

A rainy scape.

Marksr Forum Topic Moderator

The only way to know for sure would be to locate the pins. A metal detector should be helpful. Is there a fence between the properties?

Aka pedro Member

I would not count on any utilities being indicators. Personally, I would not post it online, but, in general, how detailed is your legal description? Is it a paragraph, with a description of locating the POB (point of beginning), such as so many degrees and so many feet from point X, and then so many degrees and so many feet to the next point, and so on around the property? Or is it shorter, like "lot 37 of Pine Woods Subdivision?" If the former, you may find verbiage in the description like "set IP (set iron pin or pipe)," so with a compass, long tape, and a few rudimentary skills you might have success locating some markers. If the latter, you would need to obtain a detailed plot map for the subdivision from your local clerk, but even it may not provide enough for us laymen to work with.

Vermont Member

The phone utility box is almost surely on my property. Do you agree?

The telephone company is only concerned that they keep their equipment within the limits of the legal easement, which probably parallels the entire length of the street regardless of the lines between individual property owners.

That someone painted your street address on the switching box doesn't really indicate anything about it being on your property. That same multiplex box is probably used for handling the calls for hundreds of its customers in your neighborhood; not just yours.

Some prior owner just thought it was a convenient place to locate his/her address and no one complained.

Bud9051 Member

Many of the towns around me have updated their tax maps to a GIS (geographic information system). It probably isn't accurate enough but one more tool to help narrow down the approximate pin location.

You can also check your registry of deeds for adjacent properties to see how they describe the boundary between your properties. Even locating a pin on the opposite side will give you a good reference.

Your own building application might have included the setbacks when built.


Bluesbreaker Member

Unfortunately, the plat map and deed don't have any of the details Pedro mentioned. I was looking for those. Only a compass bearing. There is no survey on file with the city or county that I know of. That number on the utility box is more permanent. No previous owner. So utility company, city, or county put it on there.

Bud suggested checking the deeds of adjacent properties. That's a good idea.

I'll look for the pins also when I have time. Thanks.

Marksr Forum Topic Moderator

You can go to the courthouse and buy a copy of your deed or anyone else's. Uncertified copies are fairly cheap. The deed always gives a description of where the pins are: the starting point, distance, and direction to the next pin.

Bud9051 Member

There are also online programs, maybe trial versions, where you can plug in whatever language is used on a deed description and it will draw a map with feet and inches as needed.


Bluesbreaker Member

I already looked at my deed. It contains nothing about survey information or pins.

The plat map has little circle symbols for pins in the far corners of the property.

Doughess Member

From the photo, it looks like building code requires buildings be at least 10 feet away from the property line.

It might be interesting to see if Bluesbreaker's house is 20 feet or whatever from neighbor's. Also the distances from each house to where the different types of fences meet.

Chances are whoever put up the fences had some reference point to the property line.

Of course, given the financial incentive, the developer of the area might have put houses closer and paid off the building inspector. We have 20-foot code and neighbor's mortgage survey shows 19.55 feet, This is New York, a "pay to play state."

Vermont Member

What problem are we trying to overcome here; or is that confidential?

Marksr Forum Topic Moderator

I already looked at my deed. It contains nothing about survey information or pins

How does it describe the property? Every deed I've ever had or looked at has a long paragraph stating the length and direction between pins.

Vermont Member

Here in Vermont, many deeds are written by attorneys who simply say that the purchase is for something like:

"The same property as was previously purchased by party X from Y in 1980; it being all and the same property as was previously purchased by Y from Z in 1950; and it being all and the same property as was previously purchased by Z in 1920."

By doing this, they limit their costs and their liability for making typographical errors in reciting the detailed metes and bounds of the parcel. And as a practical matter, these people didn't have typewriters, word processors, or photocopy machines to accurately carry detailed verbiage forward from document to document.

That often makes it necessary for current owners, attorneys, and real estate practitioners to read all of the intervening transfers and go back to when the parcel's metes and bounds were actually defined in detail.

It also explains why title searches and abstracts can become quite expensive and why the people who perform them typically wear glasses from going blind trying to read varying longhand penmanship from days gone by.

Marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Thanks for the explanation Vermont! I guess they do things differently up there as I've never seen a title or land description like that. Some of the old titles around here will use trees, even dead/fallen ones, or rocks instead of pins for the boundary markers as described in the title.

Vermont Member

Yeah, the original metes and bounds will often make reference to old stone walls and fences or stream beds (which shift) or long living trees or say follow that line all the way to the property now or previously owned by "Smith" (whoever s/he was).

My favorite was a deed that used old truck axles and leaf springs as the corner monuments.

Bud9051 Member

There should also be a common setback from the road. Knowing that narrows down the search for the front pins. I have driven up and down roads in an area of interest to find an exposed pin, often flagged from a previous survey. But it provides a setback from the center of the road. The closer it is to your house the more likely yours will be similar.


Marksr Forum Topic Moderator

My favorite was a deed that used old truck axles and leaf springs as the corner monuments

A truck axle shaft is one of my boundary pins.

Vermont Member

Not to belabor the point, but a truck axle seems to make a fine marker; much better than some old Dogwood, and more durable than the typical Rebar.

Marksr Forum Topic Moderator

I agree, and along the road frontage, the county isn't going to snag the top and pull it out like they have the rebar pins.

Hal_S Member

I already looked at my deed. It contains nothing about survey information or pins

Most East Coast deeds are metes and bounds (aka treasure map) which lead you to the boundary markers.

For new homes in subdivisions, it is becoming common to skip the individual metes and bounds in each deed and just refer to a recorded master plat, e.g. you own lot #10 of Sunny Acres subdivision, to get the boundaries you need to go look a the measurements on the Sunny Acres subdivision master map.

YaddaYadda Member

OP, Post 11 asked a question. Did you want to reply?

We marked a wood stake "APPROX" in the area I thought the metal pipe should be when we sold our rural home in 2006. Big mistake.

If you need accurate information, hire a surveyor or contact a fence builder and ask for a bid to replace your fence. You are not sure where the boundaries are. Or, be honest and ask him to come over for an agreed fee, and find them for you. They use a "pin locator" which is more accurate than a metal detector

Ukrbyk Member

Surveyors are expensive.

I use King County Parcel Viewer. Same or similar is all over the U.S. It gives me not just a plat map but, with some digging, actual property line dimensions.

There are code setbacks to the property line. 6, 8, whatever the code is. It varies from code to code. Nothing is legally allowed to be built on the property line. I had to cut the roof overhang on my shed as it was violating code setback to the fence.

Bluesbreaker Member

To answer the question on Post 11, just in case I have a problem with a neighbor. Can't go into details. There is absolutely nothing useful on the 2-page deed. But I looked at the plat map again. Not sure if this helps.

My property is 100 ft long and 60 ft wide from east to west. The west property line has coordinates with degrees and minutes only (no seconds) But all the houses on the street have those same coordinates on their west boundaries.


I just located a brass survey monument embedded in the pavement at the end of my street, with the abbreviation RLS (Registered Land Surveyor). This marker is on my plat map which also shows measurements in feet to my east property line. I'll see if I can borrow an electronic device or use a smartphone app to count down the distance.

I am also waiting on an answer from the city/county to see if I can access more detailed information. I still plan to dig for the pins. We're getting hit with the leftovers from these tropical storms off the Pacific right now.

I'll do some more research on this.

Sidny Member

If there is a sidewalk or a curb by your house, some surveyors will scribe or chisel a mark at the line for future reference, for themselves.


To read the rest of the thread, look here: