Property Boundaries

Most of the country house properties have probably been surveyed at one point of time in the past. When Sandra and Mark decided to purchase their house, Claude got a licensed surveyor to obtain a copy of the recorded survey map at the county office in order to find all the boundaries. Since there was no fence or a forest line that clearly indicated where the property has its limits, the surveyor marked the existing corners with stakes and flags. Once the property was surveyed Sandra and Mark were ready to start discussing offers on their new country house.

Property boundaries between country house properties are usually outlined in the description of your access deed. If you decide to build a fence or any other structure on your land that is close or right on the property boundaries you have to be hundred per cent sure where your property lies to avoid legal problems. You may not anticipate adding a fence or other structure at the time of buying your country house, but you may want to in the future, and determining your exact boundary lines at the time of purchase will prevent any potential problems. If, by mistake, you build something on your neighbor’s property you will be responsible for trespassing and a court will order you to tear down the construction.


Some country house properties, however, do not have survey maps ready so be prepared to encounter an additional expense since you’ll have to pay the licensed surveyor to do a complete survey right from the scratch as well as mark the found corners. Real estate agents always agree that it’s a good idea to know exactly where your property boundaries are – that way you are less likely to encounter problems such as property access issues or conflicts with the county offices. It’s important to remember that even if there’s a survey it might’ve been recorded some time ago, sometimes even decades ago and that means that the property description is not accurate. The description property should be in bounds or metes – recorded by a government survey system – or it is referenced on a recorded map. Again, it may not give you the exact details about property boundaries that a requested survey will give you.

One of the first things a real estate agent does when listing a property for sale is to inspect it visually to determine its boundaries that are observable by the naked eye and also to note any potential problems or discrepancies. If the agent decides that the listing diverts from the advertised description, the agent will reference a surveyor map and the legal description of the property as well as suggest to the seller that a surveyor is summoned to establish the exact boundaries. These surveys ensure that all the issues with boundaries are clarified and if they might’ve chanced because of landscaping modifications such as added fences or nature’s occurrences such as a flood.

You Need A Survey

Until the survey of the country house land is carried out the real estate agent is not able to know the following:

· The actual value of the property and whether it can be sold without future insurance problems.

· The agent won’t know if there will be any potential challenges to the title that may arise from the owner of the property neighboring the country house property.

· The agent won’t be able to represent the actual measurements of the land to its potential buyer.

If there seems to be any problem with the property boundaries, especially if they’re drastically different from what the documents say they are, it’s also a good idea for the agent to find out more information about it, for example, was this problem caused by malicious actions of a neighbor? Is there a reason to believe that the area is flooded frequently?

It is also necessary to ensure that the seller of the country house is able to guarantee that they will fix all the problems before a purchase is finalized. Any such negotiation has to be done between the buyer and the seller with full assistance of a real estate agent. The purchase agreement should only be written if all the property boundaries requirements have been met; if the information is verifiable and acceptable. This information should have the land survey included as well as a title company interpretation. This documentation should be reviewed by another licensed surveyor such as the buyer’s hired licensed surveyor or a real estate attorney.

Another alternative is to file a title lawsuit where you would ask a judge to determine the actual boundary lines of your property. This is a more expensive procedure since there are legal filing fees included and can be perceived as aggressive. The least expensive and friendly – although not always reliable – method is to meet with your neighbor and agree on a physical object – for example a tree or a fence – that can serve as the boundary line between your properties. If you want to make this sort of agreement into a semi-legal contract by drawing a quitclaim deed -- that transfers whatever interest or title a grantor may have with no warranty – to grant the neighbor ownership to the land that is negotiable.

In case your neighbor builds on the property that you think belongs to you, your obligation is to let your neighbor know immediately. There’s a small risk that if you don’t react right away, and then decide to go to court later, your neighbor has grounds to arguing that you’ve given up your right to the disputable portion of your land.

The court can rule in your neighbor’s favor if there’s a proof that despite his or her violating of the property access rights you have not reacted properly and in a timely fashion; a procedure called prescriptive easement may be ordered. This is what happens when the court allows your neighbor to have access to your land if the property boundaries have been uncontested for a specific lengthy number of years. The court may grant prescriptive easement that in turn may be allowing your neighbor to use the land indefinitely.

In rare instances the property boundaries can’t be remedied to the exact measurements. You still might choose to buy your country house property but you can demand a decrease in its value or for the seller to make some other concession to balance out the risk.

Get A Land Survey

In most cases once you buy a country house property the land survey will be done and you will get a copy of the survey that will show the position of the acreage and its lines. Again, because the survey may not be based on a full field survey of the property, make sure you ask your agent to confirm that the area is exactly what you expect it to be as only a thorough survey can guarantee this. For example in the East, US property lines were originally figured out in colonial times when surveying equipment was not adequate; there’s an anecdote about a buyer who built a swimming pool that after a detailed land survey turned out to be on the neighbor’s property – the neighbor got to keep the pool!

Then there’s the title insurance policy. A title insurance will insure the status of the state of title to a specific area of real property in exchange for a premium paid the insurance company will assume the risk that the title to the area of the property is as it is outlined by the policy. This type of policy indemnifies the property buyer against losses suffered if title to the property is not as the policy states it to be. However, the title insurance policy does not protect you against property line disputes – it only protects the buyer from the ownership issues or liens against the property not found through the title search.

General Tips

Because this the property line disputes and property boundaries sometimes get really complicated legally here are some general tips to remember when consulting with your real estate agent before making an offer:

Ask the seller to show you exactly where all the property lines are and to give you a tour – walk around them. Request the full survey of the property and see what its results were. Talk to your future neighbors; introduce yourself to whoever borders with your property and ask the same questions you asked your seller. Make sure that what your seller told you is in agreement with what your neighbors reveal about your country home property boundaries. Do it yourself – if possible get a tape measure and measure the property. Find out where the land records are kept for the area where your country home is located – a courthouse, city hall or county office building. Buy a copy of the drawing of the property (plat) and note all the distances from the dwelling to the property lines on four sides and see if the actual measurements match. When it turns out that you need to have a complete land survey done contact the planning and zoning office of the county and get some recommendations for reliable surveyors – ask your agent to help you with this if you feel overwhelmed. Once you summon the licensed surveyor get him or her to mark the property limits with flags or metal spikes – it will make it easier to build a fence or other structure, in the future, around your country home property.