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How Land Surveyors Can Help Determine Property Lines for Fences

There’s an old adage that “good fences make good neighbors.” Before you set about establishing a fence between you and your neighbor, however, you’d be smart to have your land surveyed. That way, you don’t accidentally put your fence in the wrong spot – which can cause some serious damage to your neighborhood relationships. In fact, getting your land surveyed is important if you plan on any improvements to your property, to avoid having a nasty surprise down the line.

Why Are Land Surveys So Important?

There are only two times people tend to think about getting their land surveyed: before they buy or start building on a piece of property and after they’ve already run into a problem with a boundary dispute, because they didn’t survey the land prior to buying or building on it.

It’s much smarter to fall into the first group of people and not the second.

Having a piece of property surveyed will help you avoid a number of common problems, and provide answers to questions that you may have about your use (or intended use) of the land, including:

  • boundary lines, which are smart to know before you build a fence, or seek a permit for something like a swimming pool in your backyard. 
  • easements or rights-of-way: to learn about legal impositions on the property. For example, your neighbor may have an easement granting him the right to cross your property with his car that you cannot legally block.
  • encroachments, which occur when one property owner builds something that is partially over another person’s property line. An encroachment can be something as complicated as a new addition to a house or as simple as a flower bed.

Can’t You Just Rely On Old Markers?

If you can locate old survey markers you might be tempted to rely on them without further inspection. However, unless you know when and how those markers came into being, it may be wise to get a new survey done anyhow.

The problem with old survey markers is that they are usually nothing more complicated than pins placed in the ground. While it’s a crime to move survey markers, it does happen, especially on property that isn’t well-developed or in rural areas (where it’s less likely the person moving the marker will get caught). 

You also have to be cautious about relying on old survey markers because you don’t know how well researched the old survey was, or even how it accurately it was performed. 

Modern methods include a combination of title research, a comparison with any existing legal descriptions, a comparison against old surveys for accuracy, and measurement of man-made structures on the property (including driveways and drainage ditches). 

Nobody wants to get into a property dispute with a neighbor, so don’t guess about the property lines when you’re getting ready to build that fence! Often, the best way to avoid getting into a dispute is to clearly identify the boundaries of a property before you make any changes, and a land surveyor, such as DC Gohn Associates Inc Surveyors & Engineers, is the right person to call.

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