The boundaries, a.k.a property lines that define the space of your property, are among the most crucial things any future homeowner should know.
Table of Contents
- What Are Property Lines in Real Estate?
- How to Find Property Lines?
- Property Line Dispute: Encroachment
- Tips on Finding a Profitable Investment Property
- How Can Mashvisor Help?
- Final Thoughts
In essence, the lines of the property represent the limits to which your real estate investment extends. They’re visible to the naked eye (often in the form of a fence) and carry a dose of importance when it comes to the law and respect for another’s property.
What every real estate investor, and future homeowner, should know here are the real estate basics of property lines. And by that, we mean who is responsible for determining them and how to find them on your soon-to-be-bought or sold property.
Because even the smallest discrepancies regarding boundary lines could quickly grow into costly mistakes. They are some of the basic issues that we will address today, so make sure to stay until the end of this article.
What Are Property Lines in Real Estate?
First, we should take a moment to define property lines.
In real estate, there are many different definitions that explain the core—and importance—of property lines, also known as boundary lines. However, it’s essential to note that the meaning is pretty much the same.
Here’s one definition that sums it up nicely:
Property lines represent the real or imaginary line that denotes the legal limits of property, marking where it begins and ends. It applies to homes, apartments, condos, or any other dwelling units that are either leased or owned by an individual, business, or institution.
And in the case of a property located in the immediate vicinity of a public street, the lines will be located as close as possible to the public right of way.
Sometimes, property lines are obvious and clearly visible—highlighted by roads, fencing, or a ditch—but other times, they’re invisible. But either way, you must know where your property boundaries are.
Why Is It Important to Know the Property Lines?
Well, knowing the lines of your property is important for several reasons.
For one, you should know the boundaries of your home—whether leased or purchased—to avoid potential legal disputes concerning common land or issues with next-door neighbors. You should learn to respect your neighbor’s private space—and, hopefully, they will respect yours in return.
The second reason would be planning and completing projects.
Often, new property owners would want to build something in their front or backyard. And it’s important to know to what extent you can plan to build, for example, a swimming pool, balcony, or anything else that comes to mind.
Not to mention, your mortgage lender and the insurance company will ask for insights into your property lines as part of setting the terms of your agreement.
Who Is Responsible for Determining the Property Lines?
You’re now familiar with the background story of boundary lines and why they matter for your property. So, let’s see who’s in charge of creating and marking them.
The lines that denote one’s property depend on a few different factors.
One of them is related to how and when that part of the neighborhood came into being. More specifically, it’s about whether the same boundaries apply as when it was first founded—or if something’s changed along the way.
That said, when it comes to a specific person in charge of determining the property lines, we mostly mean surveyors. They are accredited professionals who are in charge of identifying the formal and legal boundaries of a given property and marking them.
Surveyors are also in charge of developing a plot map—a detailed land map that exhibits the structures, rights of ways, as well as setbacks lines that exist within a property.
It’s worth adding that you and your next-door neighbors could reach a mutual agreement to alter property lines—if necessary. It involves putting the changes in measurements down on paper and changing the legal description of property.
Related: 4 Types of Real Estate Contracts: A Beginner’s Guide
How to Find Property Lines?
We will now switch our focus to how to locate boundary lines—whether you’re buying or selling property. In theory, there are a few ways to do it, including the following:
1. Check the “Plat”
The first option is to check out the plat, i.e., the property line map. In the US, the “plat” is a detailed map drawing that clearly delineates the boundaries of your investment property, for example.
In addition to the boundaries, the map shows details and measures regarding any kind of evaluations, structures, and water present on the property. The neighbors’ boundaries can also be included in the map—if you happen to share a line, for instance.
You can view the “plat” at a local assessor’s office, where the document is an integral part of your property-related paperwork.
2. Look Into the Deed
Another way of accessing information regarding your property lines is by looking into a legal document known as the deed to the property. The deed of the property—much like the plat map—must contain a written description of the boundaries regarding the property in question.
Remember that it is a legal document that signifies the transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer. Therefore, property boundaries are an inevitable part.
If, by any chance, in the latest deed, the property lines are not clearly outlined, your agent or the seller themself will refer you to an older version, where they must be indicated.
3. Obtain a Property Line Survey
On account of the already mentioned methods of drawing the property boundaries, another option involves acquiring a property survey.
A property line survey is a document containing precise and legal measurements of the property’s space. As a general rule, the measurements should be included in the plat or property deed. However, if that’s not the case, you can hire a professional—that is, a surveyor.
As we’ve already indicated, the surveyor is in charge of accurately measuring and establishing the lines of your property. They will ensure that you know where the lines of your neighbor’s lot—which should not be crossed—begin.
Professional surveyors will subsequently do research on the property. It is very important, especially when buying a property. Mortgage lenders will require a new detailed survey to be attached before closing the deal.
4. Search for Property Line Markers
If you are interested in a newer property, you will likely come across “property line markers” while researching.
They are used to mark and delineate boundaries on any property. The markers are mostly placed there when the properties are first divided. They’re either in the form of small pins that stick out from the ground or stripes with eye-catching colors.
Still, it’s essential to reflect on one issue that keeps recurring.
Although it is not allowed, some neighbors still choose to move the pins around, and they can sometimes be found in the wrong place. Therefore, you should rely on the written document when looking for property lines.
Can You Find Property Lines for Free?
What is undoubtedly a curiosity for many real estate investors (and future homeowners) is whether they can check the boundaries for free—and without having to take a trip to the assessor’s office. They can—but the accuracy will not be at an enviable level.
Having said that, there’s a site that’s familiar to everyone and can be used as a free version for your search. Yes, we’re referring to Google Maps.
Google Maps property lines are available to anyone who wants to check out a property. All you need is the exact address of the property in question.
You should bear in mind that the app provides only a general picture of the property—as in, a general idea of the lines and where they are. They are nowhere near survey accurate and should not be taken as official property lines.
Even though Google Maps is a free alternative, it’s not an accurate satellite map that shows property lines. It has its own limitations. For example, some areas that are located in remote or less-known regions may not even be shown on the map.
Other alternatives for looking into the lines include property lines map Zillow, LandGlide mobile app, and Regrid, to name a few.
Related: Should You Look for Zillow Homes for Sale for Your Next Investment Property?
Property Line Dispute: Encroachment
The real estate investing business comes with quite a handful of responsibilities. And in the case of property lines, one of them is having a complete understanding of encroachment.
In the most basic sense, “encroachment” refers to any situation where one property owner is actively violating their neighbor’s property by building a feature and, in literal terms, crossing the line. Granted, it may be unintentional—but in most cases, the opposite is the case.
It’s referred to as structural encroachment—as in, your neighbor building or extending a feature located in an area they do not legally own, or in other words, your property.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Trespassing without receiving permission
- Building a fence that passes the property line
- Extending a structure that stretches onto another property or the public domain (sidewalk)
- A tree whose branches pass the hedge
Although it seems harmless and negligible, encroachments can lead to property damage and legal dispute. It’s a rather unpleasant situation to be in, but there are, luckily, solutions for smoothing things out and avoiding unnecessary conflict.
The best advice would be:
Talk to the property owner and try to reach an agreement when it comes to the structure or feature that extends over the boundary lines and enters your property. If it fails, consider selling the encroached area to the neighbors.
And if none of the above works, the only other option is going to court.
Tips on Finding a Profitable Investment Property
It is time to draw your attention to specific tips that will help you be one step closer to finding “a good deal” in terms of investment property.
If it sounds like something on your agenda, here are some helpful tips:
1. Know Your Budget
Before you set your eye on a potentially lucrative investment—Airbnb or traditional—take the time to reflect on your current financial situation. It means being fully aware of your budget plans and how much you might be willing to set aside if (or when) you find the perfect property.
Of course, finding a profitable investment property is not just about how much you are willing to pay. Rather, it also involves taking into account factors such as upfront costs, repairs, and furnishing, among other things.
If a mortgage is your primary means of financing, you should take this opportunity to put the features of Mashvisor’s mortgage calculator to use—and get a more realistic assessment.
Related: Investment Mortgage Calculator: How to Calculate Your Monthly Mortgage Payment as an Investor
2. Narrow Down the Location
The US real estate market is vast—and researching it in the traditional way would take ages.
Here’s the good news:
The technology behind investment tools is now advanced enough to allow real estate investors to research entire areas and perform a thorough property owner search in mere minutes.
Whether you opt for an Airbnb or traditional rental property, you should narrow your choice to the ten places in the US that offer the highest ROI. It will help you immediately remove places that may seem attractive at first glance but are not ideal for short or long-term renting.
On a related note, in some cities, there will undoubtedly be properties that aren’t listed on the MLS—but you can still access them.
For an efficient search of off-market properties, use Mashvisor Property Marketplace.
3. Calculate the Cap Rate
Before officially purchasing the investment property, you’ll need to calculate the capitalization rate. It will show how much time it could take to recover your initial investment—and start seeing some real returns.
The cap rate’s based on the net income your property is expected to earn. It basically tells you whether your investment will be worth it or not.
It’s essential to note that there are no set rules here; it generally depends on the demands of the housing market at the moment.
How Can Mashvisor Help?
Using Mashvisor’s tools and features will be of immense help to real estate agents interested in locating a suitable investment property and expanding their investment portfolios.
Mashvisor offers everything you’ll need to conduct thorough research and build—and improve—your investment strategy so that you can maximize your returns.
If you’re currently in the process of finding a new property, the following tools can help:
1. Real Estate Heatmap
Mashvisor’s Real Estate Heatmap tool allows the investor to view a visual, color-coded representation of the current situation in the housing market. It basically shows how the real estate market that you’ve chosen is performing at the moment.
2. Neighborhood Analytics Page
Sometimes, locating a potential area is not enough.
Mashvisor allows you to dig even deeper into the real estate market and research potentially lucrative neighborhoods. Neighborhood Analytics enables you to look into different metrics, such as cap rate, cash on cash return, median property prices, etc.
3. Comps and Reports
Now, what if you, as an investor, happen to find multiple properties—and they all spark your interest? What do you do?
Well, the best course of action in such a scenario would be to compare the profitability of each one and see which property suits your investment strategy, budget, and goals the best. And Mashvisor can help with it, too.
Mashvisor’s rental property calculator allows you to access and analyze both traditional and Airbnb rental comps. In addition, you can export Excel reports and compare the data.
We’ve successfully concluded the topic regarding property lines and how to find them. So, let’s reflect on the major points we’ve discussed so far.
By definition, property lines—or boundary lines as they are called—represent the imaginary, visible, and legal boundaries that separate your property from your neighbor’s. They can be found by checking the property lines map, looking into the deed, or even relying on Google Earth property lines.
Trespassing and building any features that extend to another’s property represent structural encroachment, which can bring about legal consequences. And they’re obviously something you should avoid.
Here’s one final piece of advice:
Real estate investors must be aware of their budget, narrow down the location, and calculate the capitalization rate before finding the perfect investment property.
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