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I'm looking to install a fence on the property line, and I was wondering who do I speak to about having it marked? Thanks!

  • Just an aside, usually, you aren't allowed to install a fence right on the property line. It typically needs to be at least 1 foot inside your property. – fixer1234 Mar 6 '18 at 22:47
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The official answer is find a local land surveyor and hire them to do a property survey.

However, you can do a bit of research on your own, and may be able to figure out where the property lines are well enough to get by without hiring a surveyor, which can cost $250-1,000+, depending on the size of your property and how complicated the boundaries are. Note that you and you alone will be responsible for the cost of moving your fence if you get it wrong though.

Property corners are usually marked by a piece of rebar driven vertically into the ground. There's often a brightly colored plastic cap on top as well. If you're lucky, the text description may even be legible.

enter image description here

You can get a good idea of where to start looking by getting a copy of your plat at your local courthouse.

Tools you'll need:

  • metal detector (or a very strong magnet on a stick, as DMoore suggests)
  • shovel (I'd recommend a drain spade, but you can get by with most any shovel)
  • compass
  • 100' tape measure

Then go about finding your property corners. They should be fairly easy to pick up with even a cheap metal detector, as they usually aren't buried very deep, and are made of a giant metal bar. Try triangulating off of known features, like curb or street corners. Roads often have centerline markers embedded in them as well that you can reference.

To keep from having a bunch of obvious holes in your yard, cut a plug of soil around the suspected marker location by digging the shovel in a circle to cut the sod.

Source: I used to be a land survey technician for a few summers in college.

  • 2
    Yes. I use a stud finder magnet taped to a stick. Sounds ghetto but find the bars in a few minutes. – DMoore May 12 '15 at 18:08
  • @DMoore That's a genius solution! Sure beats buying a $50+ metal detector. – Doresoom May 12 '15 at 18:17
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Depends how obvious it is.

If there are clear markers (stone bounds, iron pipes, etc) just walk out and pull a string between them. Your deed should describe the corner markers, though they can be tricky to find if you don't know what you are looking for. A stone bound, incidentally, is usually about a 3x3 or 4x4 inch square(-ish) chunk of stone - it may have a hole drilled in the top surface for fancier jobs to mark the precise corner. It may be down at ground level and covered with grass, or it may stick up a few inches or a few feet. In cities and suburbs it may be incorporated in or next to the curb or sidewalk.

Another type of marker sometimes seen is a "PK" nail or more generically a surveyors nail - but the ones I've met normally do have "PK" inside a rectangle on the head - this it usually driven into a hole in a rock, though in more unfortunate cases it may have been driven into a tree (those often turn out to be troublesomely impermanent.)

enter image description here

If the line is murky, you may need to hire (usually you can split the cost with your neighbor if the line is actually unclear) a licensed surveyor. Try to make sure that at the end of that you have clear markers so you don't have to do it over.

If you are not in dispute or otherwise actively hostile with your neighbors, it's often a good idea to discuss the project with them anyway - and they may be aware of boundary markers that you are not, if they exist but are not obvious. If you both agree on where the boundary is you generally don't really need a surveyor, but a surveyor will help to make sure that everything is on the up and up if there is any room for dispute.

One final suggestion (even though you are putting in a fence) - plant something that lasts a long time (in the Northeastern USA, plain yellow daffodils are a good choice) near each boundary marker and/or along the line. They'll give you a clue every spring as to where the corners (and lines if you plant along them) are. This is a whole lot easier to spot than a rusty iron pipe in brown leaves. A fresh coat of paint on the markers themselves every couple of years can also be helpful.

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    Even if you're on very good terms with your neighbor now, you still should get the property line properly determined if they're not able to point you to the markers. A fence that straddles the property line is a ticking timebomb that can detonate at any point in the future; most commonly when you and your neighbor have a falling out or one of your homes goes up for sale. – Dan is Fiddling by Firelight May 13 '15 at 2:05
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Your town/city/county should have that information on file, as it's likely that a survey was required for the sale of the property. Depending on where you are, you might have gotten a copy of the survey when you bought the property.

  • The survey is only of use in this case if you can tie it into the physical corners. Everything in the survey is normally also in the deed - the process of surveying is largely that of connecting the deed description to the dirt (and the finer/more subtle points, at least out east where the original property description might be a tad vague or inaccurate by current standards) have to do with resolving "as described" and reality. – Ecnerwal May 12 '15 at 20:48
  • @Ecnerwal The survey should tell you exactly where to look for the irons (or at least one iron), which mark the property. – Tester101 May 12 '15 at 21:01
  • Which may be several houses away from yours. – bmargulies May 13 '15 at 0:37

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