When you are buying or selling a property, it is important to understand the property lines. Knowing your lot lines will help ensure that the transaction goes smoothly.
As a homebuyer, you’re probably going to be interested in knowing the location of your boundary lines for more than one reason.
Of course, you might want to know exactly what you’re buying, but also not want to disturb the neighbor’s land.
Understanding how to find your property lines should be a key consideration for any buyer before moving forward. Let’s have a look.
What is a property line?
Property lines are imaginary boundaries that divide one property from another. Property lines are the boundary between your land and anyone else’s.
Sometimes they are clearly obvious and other times they are not. On occasion they are marked by a boundary stone or a rod that has been placed into the ground.
The zoning of your home is important at any point after it is constructed, as any additions or changes to the property will need to comply with the zoning regulations.
Understanding property lines can be essential when fences are erected, swimming pools are installed or home additions are built.
When there is a serious zoning violation with an encumbrance onto an adjoining property, title insurance may need to be used. You’ll want to avoid this for sure.
Never rely on a real estate agent for lot lines
A homebuyer should never take the property line pointed out by a real estate agent as being accurate. Real estate agents should also never answer this question when asked.
It is a very easy way to get sued when the information is wrong. Many sellers will point out their property boundaries to real estate agents thinking the information is accurate. A significant percentage of the time it is not.
How to find accurate property lines?
The best way of understanding the boundary lines for any property is to have a professional land survey completed. A property survey is completed by a licensed engineer engaged in the business of surveying land.
Not only will a survey show boundary lines, but also the size and dimensions of any other structure located on the property.
A licensed surveyor will use land surveying equipment as a key part of their work.
A professional land surveyor will be responsible for locating landmarks on the property being surveyed. This includes anything from historical markers to natural features.
The front property line is the length of the land you own in front of your property – also called your frontage. The lot lines on the side of your property are called sidelines. The zoning in the community will determine these distances.
For example, you could live in a town where there must be 200 feet of frontage. To be considered for zoning as a building lot, the property must have at least a certain amount of frontage.
There are also permanent setbacks where a permanent structure cannot be built.
So, if you would like to add a garage to your property, you must meet the sideline property line zoning requirement.
To be approved for zoning in a certain area, a proposed land use must meet the requirements of that zone. These requirements may include minimum square footage measurements, such as having an acre of land.
Before making an offer, it is always wise to do some due diligence on the lot.
A mortgage plot plan is not the same as a land survey
When you are getting financing to purchase a home, a lender will provide what’s called a mortgage plot plan. The cost of this plot plan will be part of a buyer’s closing costs.
The drawing will locate the house and any other structures within the four corners of the lot. It should not be relied upon for making any kind of improvements.
For example, if you want to install a fence, the bank plot plan should not be used as it is not accurate enough. Always get a land survey when making significant changes. See land survey vs. plot plan for a detailed explanation.
It is always essential to seek out at least a solid understanding of the property lines before committing to a purchase. It makes your life easier when making improvements in the future.
Bill Gassett is a nationally recognized real estate leader who has been helping people buy and sell MetroWest Massachusetts real estate for the past 35 years. Bill is the owner and founder of Maximum Real Estate Exposure. For the past decade, he has been one of the top RE/MAX REALTORS® in New England.