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  #1  
Old 03-28-2009, 08:04 PM
ManiacMan ManiacMan is offline
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Getting a Land Survey?

My wife and I want to begin the process of settling a dispute with my neighbors. We would like to go by the book on this endeavour and will begin with a land survey...one that goes by the "pins". I guess there are some pins buried somewhere on my property...everyone's property methinks.

We live in a suburb with many other homes and would like to see if anyone here has ever gone through the process of getting a survey done. Could we get some info on what is involved, maybe an idea of how much it would cost? And how "rock-solid" is the survey once it is completed? Would my neighbor be able to make a claim that my survey doesn't hold water because of x, y, or z? Or maybe be allowed to challenge my survey with a survey from some other company?

The reason we want to do this is to verify the "mortgage survey" that everyone gets when they buy a house. He (my neighbor) claims that they have about 1-foot of my property (which is part of my lawn), but the mortgage survey says right on it that it is not to be used to determine property boundaries for fences and the like. Why would a document like a mortgage survey be used when a home is bought? Seems like a pin survey should be used when a person(s) buy a home just to make it actual-factual...and settle any disputes down the road.

Thank you for your time for reading...and answering too of course .
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  #2  
Old 03-29-2009, 09:24 AM
ftg ftg is offline
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The mortgage survey's purpose is not for constuction (of course!). It's merely to determine if there are any current issues regarding the boundary. Is part of a house too close (or over) the line. Similarly the driveway, outbuildings and such. If everything looks far enough away from the line, they are happy. They really don't need to determine the exact line.

Surveys aren't perfect. If your guy screws up, of course others can challenge it. As to the pins, there's no reason to believe they are accurate. There's one on our property that's off several inches. (The original plat and the survey I had done proves it wrong.) This was used by an ex-neighbor to build a fence. But luckily the error means that one end of the fence is well inside their line.

GPS just makes things worse since people don't realize the difference between relative and absolute error. Folks, just because a number is on a computer screen doesn't make it correct.
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Old 03-29-2009, 09:35 AM
astro astro is online now
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Simple metes & bounds would be around $ 300 - $400. $ 600 - $1500 is what a more involved residential survey of the type you are indicating would cost around here. Definitely price several vendors. Costs will vary wildly depending on how busy a surveyor is and how bad they want the work. With the current economy there are deals to be had.

See Types of Land Surveys

Last edited by astro; 03-29-2009 at 09:37 AM..
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  #4  
Old 03-29-2009, 10:05 AM
bump bump is offline
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I doubt you really need a new survey done; it's done as part of the new home construction process, at least here in Texas. As a matter of fact, surveyors come out several separate times:

0. Metes & bounds of the development- they trace out the exact boundaries of the development in relation to some benchmark- this is more of a land sale thing.

1. Layout survey- when the surveyors lay out the entire development and all the lots. This is when the pins get put in, and what the plat for the development is made from (or the metes & bounds; I can't remember)

2. Form survey- (assuming you have a slab, there's probably something similar for pier & beam) which is the process of recording where the foundation form is in relation to the lot, and what exact size it is.

3. Final survey - the surveyors record the exact size of the house in relation to the lot and any easements that may pass through the property. This is cleaned up at the home office, and produced as the actual survey of the property that the homeowner(s) get.

I bought a house about a year and a half ago, and we got a copy of the original survey showing exactly where the property boundaries were, and where our house is in relation to them.

If you have that, you can probably use a 100 foot measuring tape to figure anything out that you'd ever need to know.
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  #5  
Old 03-29-2009, 12:00 PM
Xema Xema is online now
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Your first step should be to head to the county Registry of Deeds. There you'll be able to obtain copies of deeds for the relevant properties, which usually mention pins and other boundary markers, and might include reference to survey documents on file.

If a deed mentions boundary markers, it's usually possible to locate them (possibly with the help of a tape measure). If you can find those that define the boundary in question, you can probably resolve the question without the need for a survey. As ftg notes, pins are not guaranteed to be accurate - but they usually are.

If a dispute still exists after these steps, it's time to consider a survey. But your neighbor will not (and need not) necessarily accept that as the absolute truth.
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  #6  
Old 03-29-2009, 12:59 PM
chappachula chappachula is online now
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Originally Posted by ManiacMan View Post
My wife and I want to begin the process of settling a dispute with my neighbors. We would like to go by the book on this endeavour .
If you want a tight case, call a professional land surveyor, and pay for a certified and signed map of your property lines. If your neighbors are bugging you, waving an official document -- signed by a licensed professional and admissible as evidence in court--is a good way to tell them to shut up.

Quote:
how "rock-solid" is the survey? Would my neighbor be able to make a claim that my survey doesn't hold water because of x, y, or z? Or maybe be allowed to challenge my survey with a survey from some other company?
Be aware that land surveyors are like doctors,--they often disagree on the diagnosis. And then the lawyers have a lot of fun (expensive fun), till a judge decides who was right.

If you live in a modern subdivision built in say, the last 10-20 years with lots of documentation, and lots of survey markers still in place, then it should be a pretty simple issue. Call several surveyors from the phone book--if you find one who has recently worked in your neighborhood, he'll be cheaper than somebody who has to start from scratch.

If you live in an older neighborhood , there may be a legitimate reason for surveyors to disagree over where a boundary runs, since there may be surveying documents that contradict each other.
(Any survey of a boundary affects not just the owner's lot, but also the neighbor's-- so there can be a domino effect. One bad fence line (even if you can't see it from your property) can affect everybody else on the block.

Last edited by chappachula; 03-29-2009 at 01:01 PM..
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  #7  
Old 03-29-2009, 01:59 PM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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Laws and prices vary hugely from state to state, even from county to county. The only really good advice you've gotten so far is to call several local surveyors. Most will be very happy to answer any and all questions you may have. If not, move on to another.

signed,
A surveyor
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  #8  
Old 03-29-2009, 07:13 PM
Xema Xema is online now
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Originally Posted by Mister Owl View Post
The only really good advice you've gotten so far is to call several local surveyors.
So you disapprove of even a limited do-it-yourself approach?
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  #9  
Old 03-29-2009, 07:17 PM
astro astro is online now
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Originally Posted by Xema View Post
So you disapprove of even a limited do-it-yourself approach?

Per the OP he's looking to put an authoritative smackdown on an encroaching neighbor. Telling the neighbour you pulled the courthouse survey and used a measuring tape to confirm his metes and bounds survey is wrong is not likely to have much traction.
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  #10  
Old 03-29-2009, 07:31 PM
robby robby is offline
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Here in Connecticut, what is usually definitive is an "A2" property survey with a raised stamp from a licensed surveyor. This is the gold standard for settling property line disputes.
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  #11  
Old 03-29-2009, 09:52 PM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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Originally Posted by Xema View Post
So you disapprove of even a limited do-it-yourself approach?
Practising land surveying in a "limited, do-it-yourself" fashion is akin to practising law or medicine in a "limited, do-it-yourself" fashion (and in most instances instances is illegal.) You'll get back exactly the value you paid.

Honestly, the first and foremost advice is to get with your neighbor and try to come to a mutually agreeable solution if you can. The next step is to call in the professionals, either legal or practical, id est a lawyer and/or a land surveyor. For what it is worth only the courts can determine what an actual, legal property boundary is. However, only a licensed land surveyor (and in some instances other licensed professionals) can afix that legal description to the ground.
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  #12  
Old 03-29-2009, 11:10 PM
Xema Xema is online now
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Originally Posted by astro View Post
Telling the neighbour you pulled the courthouse survey and used a measuring tape to confirm his metes and bounds survey is wrong is not likely to have much traction.
True. But locating the pins that define the boundary and pointing them out to a neighbor has at least a decent chance of avoiding the expense of surveys and lawyers - which can readily be called in should this simple approach fail.
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  #13  
Old 03-29-2009, 11:12 PM
Xema Xema is online now
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Originally Posted by Mister Owl View Post
Practising land surveying in a "limited, do-it-yourself" fashion is akin to practising law or medicine in a "limited, do-it-yourself" fashion (and in most instances instances is illegal.)
You're saying it's illegal to try to locate pins ??
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  #14  
Old 03-29-2009, 11:32 PM
ManiacMan ManiacMan is offline
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Thank you for the replies all...very helpful.

As far as getting with the neighbors and trying to settle the dispute amicably...I just don't think that it would be worthwile. It has been an ongoing feud that has wasted a lot of time and energy, and really needs to be settled once and for all. I just want exactly what astro said...a legal smackdown on these people to get them to cease and desist. However, when I brought the issue up again with the husband he mentioned his mortgage survey.

To be honest I am aghast at having to even go through all this trouble, and it looks like expense too because these people refuse to stop driving on what I believe to be my lawn. It is a mere foot of lawn that I am talking about, and every Spring I get yet another ugly mud slide, and yet another repair job to do yet again. The polite thing to do on their part would be to be careful, but i guess it is just too much to ask.

Of course the survey could go either way, but at the end of the day I would like to know if they are right of if I am right...
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  #15  
Old 03-30-2009, 01:45 AM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
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One party can get a survay, but that does not make it so. It can be contested and now you need a lawyer.

Funny story. Until the 1970's the last time the ranch had a survay was in the 1800's. the place next door had a different survay. When the place next door was sold to get a clear title the property had to be survayed. We got a notice of the new bouondry lines between the two properties, and we could protest if we wanted to. If we did not protest in 60 days the neew boundry became permanite. It left the back corner with the two property lines not meeting. The 1893 deed was in degrees and tenths of degrees. the new line was in degrees, minutes, seconds, and tenths of seconds. That is like move the line one inch.
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  #16  
Old 03-30-2009, 08:47 AM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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Originally Posted by Xema View Post
You're saying it's illegal to try to locate pins ??
Not illegal to try and locate them. However, they may in fact, not be the actual property line. If you and your neighbor can agree to accept them as such that is fine, but that is not necessarily binding on the person who might buy your neighbor's property. There are other circumstances that affect their true placement, circumstances the layman, even an informed layman won't know and isn't equiped to deal with. Most of the time, especially in modern subdivisions there are no problems and the preceived boundary is located where the true line is, but even that isn't always the case. For certainty, seek out a professional.
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  #17  
Old 03-30-2009, 10:52 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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The deeds to most property -- not the mortgage document, but the actual deed passing title to the house and land -- contain metes-and-bounds description of exactly what land is included in the transaction. Both you and the neighbor who is disputing the property line should have such deeds.

Note that in many jurisdictions, especially if the property financing is done not by a mortgage lien but by a deed of trust, title may be in someone other that the occupant/mortgagor/beneficiary of the deed of trust. For example, here in North Carolina, if you buy a house under a deed of trust arrangement, during the period you're paying off the financing, title to the property is held by a trustee in a fiduciary relationship to you and your financing body (bank, finance company, or whatever) -- you get to live there as if you owned it, but he holds title to it for you. His job is threefold: to sign it over to you when the financing is paid off; to sell it at auction when the financer pronounces a default and you don't correct it; and to transfer it to the next owner if you sell the property and the buyer pays off your financing by his own financing.

Anyway, if you hold the deed, you can look up precisely what it is you own on it -- and if you don't, either your finance company or the property trustee does, and he'll be able to provide you with that description.
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Old 03-30-2009, 12:04 PM
GusNSpot GusNSpot is offline
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If you are where there are "God Rocks" You can win the fight.
How it works:
Your surveyor starts from a known and accepted section corner, say, N/E of you and works into your line. He is accurate.
The other guy's surveyor comes from the S/W and his survey is accurate also. But the boundary line is different. Happens all the time because when, how, and from what direction the section corners were set.

Now the odds that in a single subdivision, two different surveys were used on adjacent lots is pretty small. So, getting the maps or descriptions as Polycarp suggests will settle it. But...... if you are really lucky ( joke ) and there were two different surveys from different directions, see if your surveyor can find the "Center Stone" that was set in the original survey of the land. ( The original surveys in Okla. for instance did not set section corners but center of sections. )

In Oklahoma, there are still a lot of those stones. They are "GOD"... No matter what the best GPS says, if you come off one of those, even if it is off by a bunch, it is still the "GOD" rock.
Now I have seen that only ever make a 18 inch change in a property line at the most but when that stone was found and used, the other side folded their total station, fired their lawyers and went home. You do not argue with "GOD" rocks....

YMMV
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Old 03-30-2009, 12:33 PM
Xema Xema is online now
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Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
...if you don't, either your finance company or the property trustee does, and he'll be able to provide you with that description.
But probably not the description from the neighbor's deed. Whereas a short visit to the Registry of Deeds will produce both.

If they are mutually consistent (as is likely in a suburban development) and especially if they make reference to pins that can be located, the OP will know himself to be on solid ground in this dispute - or, possibly, learn that the neighbor's notion may be correct.

If they are inconsistent, the need for a professional survey is probably compelling.
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  #20  
Old 03-30-2009, 03:07 PM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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First lesson to be taken from this thread, never, ever buy property that doesn't already have a legally recorded and monumented survey on it. Second lesson, deeds don't always tell the full story.* If land surveying was cut and dry there would be no need for land surveyors. Third lesson, lots of people have a transit or total station (or steel tape) and no license, but think it a simple matter to lay out boundaries. Some of those people will cheat you, most are breaking the law. Fourth lesson to take from this, always consult with and hire only a legally licensed land surveyor and make certain that he or she conforms with everything your state requires regarding a land survey. In my state California, that would mean filing a Record of Survey or Corner Record with the County Surveyor as well as setting fixed, durable monuments. Contact your state board for referrals. Or like other referrals, ask your friends. Perhaps one of those have already worked with a land surveyor.

*Xema, let's say you have both deeds in your hands, but they are not in agreement as to where the disputed property line should be. By the way, this situation happens all the time. Do you know which one takes precedence? One of them does. Now let's take this hypothetical situation one step further. Let's say you are in a different subdivision from your adjoining neighbor with whom you have this dispute. This happens all the time as well. What steps do you take then to determine where the boundary falls upon the ground? One subdivision will have precedence. Or, let's cause yet a different problem in a single subdivision, another one that is all too frequent in this profession. The subdivision in which this dispute is taking place is found to have errors in the original survey that set the monumentation establishing it. Even a metes and bounds description (assuming your deeds have this, not all do) isn't going to reveal that, only a retracement of the original establishing survey will. As a result of this new survey the block you and your difficult neighbor live on is found to be 1 and 1/2 feet short of the length shown in the tract map. Your deed says you have 50 feet of frontage. How much frontage do you actually have, less? More? Those are just three of a myriad of potential situations that surveyors run into day in and day out. Problems can be encountered singly or in combination. The professional surveyor will know how to approach and solve these problems. Hire a good one and you can be more assured of the final results.

If anyone wants a little levity now I can share an amusing anecdote about George Washington when he was working as a land surveyor.

GusNSpot, I used to fly mapping as a photog, that's how I got into the surveying business. And the company I work for now still does photogrammetry.

Last edited by Mister Owl; 03-30-2009 at 03:10 PM.. Reason: I hate spelling errors. Which means that there are probably still more.
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Old 03-30-2009, 06:45 PM
Xema Xema is online now
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Originally Posted by Mister Owl View Post
Xema, let's say you have both deeds in your hands, but they are not in agreement as to where the disputed property line should be.
Then (as I indicated above) you have a good indication it may be worth hiring a professional to sort things out. But in the tolerably common case where they do agree (and especially when you find the pins), you can have some confidence that you now know where the line really is. By presenting this evidence you might even be able to convince a cantankerous neighbor (provided he's less than 100% bloody-minded).

It's hard for me to see why it would be a bad idea to obtain the deeds and see what they say, especially when this is nearly always inexpensive and easy to do. Indeed, I'd say it's kind of basic to have copies not only of the deeds to property you own, but to all adjacent parcels as well, and to be aware of where these do and don't agree.


Quote:
By the way, this situation happens all the time.
I know that it happened with a piece of property I bought about a year ago. I was able to resolve the issue by obtaining all the old deeds (back to 1855, when all property near me was part of a very large farm), including those of the adjacent parcels. The description had been mis-transcribed when the property was sold around 1920, and the error was copied verbatim into three subsequent deeds. I'm happy to say that it has now been corrected.

Last edited by Xema; 03-30-2009 at 06:46 PM..
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Old 03-30-2009, 09:10 PM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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Originally Posted by Xema View Post
It's hard for me to see why it would be a bad idea to obtain the deeds and see what they say, especially when this is nearly always inexpensive and easy to do. Indeed, I'd say it's kind of basic to have copies not only of the deeds to property you own, but to all adjacent parcels as well, and to be aware of where these do and don't agree.
Actually, that's a very good idea, but once more, sometimes even deeds that are seemingly in agreement may have errors that are not readily apparent to the lay person as illustrated in my third example which I'll repost below. Furthermore, encroachments and dealing with them can be very costly. A cinderblock wall for instance is going to likely cost more than a legal survey. (Hell, you paid your real estate agent more than you'll likely pay a surveyor and their liability doesn't continue much beyond the finalization of the transaction.) Your neighbor or possibly the party that someday buys your neighbor's property may or may not be able to force you to move your wall when it is discovered to be several inches over the property line into their property. I haven't even mentioned any other possible improvements or set back requirements. I guess it all comes down to what you consider acceptable risk. Ya payz yer moneyz (or not) and ya takez yer chancez.

Frankly, I'd like to see laws making a legal, recorded survey be required any time any improvement is made to a piece of property, even for something as simple as fence or wall lines. This would forestall many potential problems, but isn't likely to happen anytime soon.

The subdivision in which this dispute is taking place is found to have errors in the original survey that set the monumentation establishing it. Even a metes and bounds description (assuming your deeds have this, not all do) isn't going to reveal that, only a retracement of the original establishing survey will. As a result of this new survey the block you and your difficult neighbor live on is found to be 1 and 1/2 feet short of the length shown in the tract map. Your deed says you have 50 feet of frontage. How much frontage do you actually have, less? More?
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Old 03-30-2009, 09:20 PM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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Another way to look at it, a legal, recorded and monumented survey is like insurance. When everything is fat and happy and you are getting along with your neighbor, it seems useless and hardly worth the price and effort. However, when the need arises I guarantee you'll be glad you had it done. 'Nuff said.
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Old 03-30-2009, 10:30 PM
Xema Xema is online now
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Originally Posted by Mister Owl View Post
Frankly, I'd like to see laws making a legal, recorded survey be required any time any improvement is made to a piece of property, even for something as simple as fence or wall lines.
No doubt many surveyors would agree. But there are some obvious drawbacks to a scheme that effectively imposes a surcharge of $800 or so whenever anyone wants to put up a fence.

The more common approach of resorting to surveys only when necessary will leave some residual problems, but on balance looks to be much less costly.


Quote:
Another way to look at it, a legal, recorded and monumented survey is like insurance.
True. And it's wise to consider both the risk of a loss and its cost when deciding what insurance to buy. Putting up a $1000 fence, you'd be rather foolish to spend $800 to avoid a 5% chance that you'd later have to move it. Putting up a $50k building, you'd be foolish not to.
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Old 03-31-2009, 12:08 AM
Lok Lok is offline
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Originally Posted by Xema View Post
Then (as I indicated above) you have a good indication it may be worth hiring a professional to sort things out. But in the tolerably common case where they do agree (and especially when you find the pins), you can have some confidence that you now know where the line really is. By presenting this evidence you might even be able to convince a cantankerous neighbor (provided he's less than 100% bloody-minded).

It's hard for me to see why it would be a bad idea to obtain the deeds and see what they say, especially when this is nearly always inexpensive and easy to do. Indeed, I'd say it's kind of basic to have copies not only of the deeds to property you own, but to all adjacent parcels as well, and to be aware of where these do and don't agree.
Glad that worked out for you, but deeds do not always help. A neighbor told me that the old alleyway between my place and 2nd neighbor had been vacated to my property and I was paying taxes on it, but the 2nd neighbor had put up a fence taking it. I went and checked the county engineer. The plat map showed that there was no alley there. Ever.

The plat map also showd that the 2nd neighbor owned 164 ft. from the road at the north end of his property to my property line. And my property goes 150 ft. further south to the next road. The two plots right next to us to the west start and stop at the same roads, but their properties are each 148 ft. Straight roads, straight property lines, 16 ft difference.

The county engineer started looking at older plat books. All of them showed the same thing, back to the earliest he had, 1886 I think. So he pulled the actual deed to my place. Which said that my property lines were as shown for my plat number in the plat book.

I guess I should go back up to the engineers office sometime and see if they have figured things out yet.
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Old 03-31-2009, 02:29 AM
Green Cymbeline Green Cymbeline is offline
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I just want to say that this thread is really interesting!

A question, though. These pins - what exactly ate they? Metal spikes driven into the ground around the property boundaries?
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  #27  
Old 03-31-2009, 08:01 AM
Xema Xema is online now
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Originally Posted by nyctea scandiaca View Post
These pins - what exactly ate they?
I think the generic term is "monument," as Mr. Owl has indicated. They are often steel or iron pins, sometimes anchored in concrete. Stone posts seem to have been popular in the past in some areas. Certain old surveys will make reference to such things as the stumps of old trees (of limited value 100 years later).

A typical line might be described as "Beginning at an iron pin near Valley Road and adjacent to lands now or formerly of Fred Smith, thence North 40.5 degrees West 12 rods to an iron pin."

An interesting thing I've noted is that the alignment of these lines is always off by a certain amount. The reason is the movement of the earth's magnetic pole - they are referenced to magnetic north, which changes over time. You can estimate the age of a survey by measuring the current error and checking the rate of magnetic drift in your area (though if you live in an area where it's really slow, accuracy may not be great).
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Old 03-31-2009, 08:45 AM
Lok Lok is offline
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The pins here at my place are small metal spikes buried in the ground at the corners of the property.
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  #29  
Old 03-31-2009, 08:52 AM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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Originally Posted by nyctea scandiaca View Post
I just want to say that this thread is really interesting!

A question, though. These pins - what exactly ate they? Metal spikes driven into the ground around the property boundaries?
It's going to depend upon the requirements that the state, county or sometimes municipality have or had in place at the time the survey was conducted. In California we don't even refer to pins, but more often talk about property or lot corners. Currently, the law here requires the setting of "durable monuments." I'm skipping over some of the minutia, but my company satisfies that requirement by one or a combination of the following, driving into the ground a length of iron pipe and then cementing into it a brass tag engraved with the surveyor's license number, affixing that same tag unto concrete sidewalks, curbs or walls, or driving a length of rebar into the ground and affixing a metal cap engraved with the surveyor's license number.

As I referenced above, the requirements over the years have changed. Also a surveyor's interpretation of the requirements can be lacking. When surveying a lot in an older subdivision sometimes the only physical evidence we will find is a buried piece of lumber often deteriorated to the point of being nearly unrecognizable as such. However, it can still be considered confirming evidence. I wouldn't build a fence or wall based on it, but I guess there are others who would.



Okay, joke time.

George Washington after finishing the survey for a farmer's piece of land presented his bill for $100. The farmer became instantly irate over a price he thought outrageous for the short time he saw the survey party working to set four pins. Washington, took back the bill and rewrote it. He then presented the following. Cost to set four pins @ $0.25 each... $1.00. Cost of knowledge as to where to set four pins... $99.00.


Q: What do surveyors call Mt. Rushmore?
A: Three surveyors and the other guy.
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Old 03-31-2009, 10:03 AM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is offline
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TR being the other guy?
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  #31  
Old 03-31-2009, 09:39 PM
ManiacMan ManiacMan is offline
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Thanks again for the all the replies...I had no idea that surveying was so complicated. You guys must make good money...at least you should imo.

Let me describe my neighborhood more because I have a question that I want to ask so as to compare your answer to what the local survey gods here will tell me. I just want to have a check against what they say and also so that I will have a little knowledge myself.

Ok so my 'hood was built around the early 1950s. On my block and all the blocks around me the houses are oriented north-south. I have a neighbor directly to the East and directly to the West. Each house is about 15' apart. There is a house to the north of me (behind my house) but that house is on the other side of the alley.

My neighbor insists that he owns one foot of my lawn so he and the rest of his family drive and park their vehicles on that foot of lawn (that I mow and maintain). His mortgage survey and my mortgage survey even seem to agree with his claim, and it appears that I "own" a foot of property of my other neighbor's lawn (except I don't drive or park on her grass). So every Spring I have a disgusting mud-pit to deal with.

Why is this situation like this? I don't get how this works...what's the sense of having a foot of property that looks like it is mine...actually belong to my neighbor?

Does any surveyor know why this is like that, and what are the chances that a "pin survey" would show that this is a mistake? I am guessing there is a very small chance if any at all because of the age of the subdivision.
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  #32  
Old 03-31-2009, 10:29 PM
Civil Guy Civil Guy is offline
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Well... define 'mistake'. The surveyors at the time had the equipment they had - no GPS, no laser distance measurers, no automatic levels - heck, only had adding machines, slide rules, and trigonometry tables for doing the calculations. For measuring distances, they had steel chains that had to be held just so, and corrected and calibrated just so. Write the results by hand into a book with hopefully decent handwriting that will still be legible for posterity.

So, they measured a baseline half a mile long (that would be 2640 feet), and showed it as 2640.00 feet on the tract plat. Thing is, modern measurements make it out to be 2638.502 feet. It might be easy enough to come up with a fair adjustment if the tract was perfectly rectangular and all the lots were set up to be the same size... but that scarcely ever happens. There are rules for how to figure a fair adjustment, but they're not always "easy".

Oh, and it turns out that the tract surveyors missed one of the notes from the original farm lot subdivision. For that farm lot, the 1850 survey set one of the farm lot pins 10 feet away from its 'true' location because at the time, there was a huge old oak tree (since blown over and gone) right at the true location. The offset was noted in the farm lot plat, but not clearly enough. The goof was not picked up until a squabble in the next tract over caused that tract to be resurveyed in 1960. Everyone 'knows' about the 1960 survey, but there's never been enough reason to apply it to the tract you're living in - until you finally get angry enough with your neighbors to truly want to tell them to "get off your lawn".

These are 'what ifs' to demonstrate a point or two.
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  #33  
Old 03-31-2009, 11:17 PM
ManiacMan ManiacMan is offline
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I mean mistake as in...someone goofed up in 1950. I guess anything is possible, but I won't find out until I get a survey.

Let's say the survey actually shows that my neighbor's garage has been encroaching on my lot. Well it's been there since before I or he even bought and moved into our respective homes. I don't see how I would be able to do anything about it. I think there is some kind of law that says if a person takes care or uses a chunk of land that land becomes theirs after a certain time period...so other than waving a survey document in his face what could I really do with a survey? He could always dispute it and then the next thing you know the lawyers get to buy a new boat...
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  #34  
Old 03-31-2009, 11:59 PM
LurkMeister LurkMeister is offline
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You're thinking of adverse possession, the rules for which vary from state to state.
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  #35  
Old 04-01-2009, 07:36 AM
Xema Xema is online now
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... and then the next thing you know the lawyers get to buy a new boat...
Yes, that's often how such disputes are resolved.
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  #36  
Old 04-01-2009, 07:50 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Well, my grandfather had an extensive garden, and it abutted his neighbor to the west's garage. In fact, when said neighbor needed to take out a mortgage for home remodeling, the survey indicated that the corner of the garage was across the property line. So grandpa and the neighbor, being fairly good friends, agreed on a property swap -- grandpa sold him a triangular parcel surrounding his garage and sufficient to give him the proper setback, and in exchange he deeded over an equivalent square footage of land behind the garage. Then they proceeded to completely ignore who actually owned what, and grandpa continued to garden on the land he'd sold to the neighbor, while the neighbor stored his boat on the land that he'd sold to grandpa -- but they both made sure that their heirs knew of the transaction, because what they 'officially' owned by dee now differed from what it looked like they owned by the fence around the garden separating the two parcels.
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  #37  
Old 04-01-2009, 09:11 AM
Dinsdale Dinsdale is offline
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I'm trying to picture exactly what you are describing, but it seems to me mainly to be a "set-off" issue related to zoning.

Say every lot on your street is 50' wide. If you want to install a driveway or sidewalk on your property, local zoning laws likely prohibit you from placing it immediately abutting the property line. (In my town any impermeable surface has to be 1' inside the line.) So at some point in time your neighbor installed his driveway 1' inside his property. The 1' on your side of his driveway remains his property, although it adjoins your lawn, and is closer to your house than his, such that to many observers it appears to be your property. But it isn't. And he retains the right to park or drive his vehicles, plant or maintain it as he wishes.

I believe the reasons are to prevent construction of buildings or pavement from infringing upon the neighbor's property, either physically or through affecting water runoff.

IME in most areas like this folk tend to be flexible as to maintenance such as mowing and raking. Each neighbor tends to maintain the little strip that is actually their neighbor's.
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Old 04-01-2009, 09:29 AM
ManiacMan ManiacMan is offline
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Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
I'm trying to picture exactly what you are describing, but it seems to me mainly to be a "set-off" issue related to zoning.

Say every lot on your street is 50' wide. If you want to install a driveway or sidewalk on your property, local zoning laws likely prohibit you from placing it immediately abutting the property line. (In my town any impermeable surface has to be 1' inside the line.) So at some point in time your neighbor installed his driveway 1' inside his property. The 1' on your side of his driveway remains his property, although it adjoins your lawn, and is closer to your house than his, such that to many observers it appears to be your property. But it isn't. And he retains the right to park or drive his vehicles, plant or maintain it as he wishes.

I believe the reasons are to prevent construction of buildings or pavement from infringing upon the neighbor's property, either physically or through affecting water runoff.

IME in most areas like this folk tend to be flexible as to maintenance such as mowing and raking. Each neighbor tends to maintain the little strip that is actually their neighbor's.
You know that makes perfect sense...and I would have to agree. I suppose there is nothing that I can do. Sure I can get a survey with the hope that my property should be shifted over some, but that would be a very small chance...and likely end up in court. I guess I just have to grin and bear it. All these years I have been thinking that since it was ME mowing that grass and throwing down new dirt and seed it was my property.
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  #39  
Old 04-01-2009, 10:09 AM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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The link Astro provided above has some very good definitions of various types of surveys. Let me quote what it has to say about mortgage surveys.

Quote:
Mortgage Inspections: (Not necessarily a Land Survey!)
Are not used for consistent purposes in all States. They are often a product that is provided on residential loans. A drawing may or may not be provided. Be aware that many of these “Mortgage Inspection” surveys are NOT BOUNDARY SURVEYS. Often they are required by lending institutions. Fences and other improvements should not be constructed based on a mortgage inspection. This is because boundary lines are not determined on many “Mortgage Inspection” surveys. Look for the “Certification” of the Land Surveyor, which usually includes the signature with the Land Surveyor’s license number, and State of Practice.
Mortgage Location Survey: (Not necessarily a Land Survey!)
These surveys are typically used by title companies and mortgage lenders to obtain proof that the major improvements on the property are free of encroachments onto neighboring properties or into recorded easements. Mortgage surveys do not establish property corners or property lines and may not be used for building purposes.
The truth is among many land surveyors mortgage surveys are considered something of a joke. They basically consist of someone, often not a land surveyor, driving to the property and sometimes not even getting out of their vehicle. All they really determine is whether or not there is a house and garage on the property and that they don't appear to be over the apparent property lines. They might get out a wheel to check to see if the dimensions of the property are approximately correct and they might check on the various set backs required and judge whether they look right. It's likely that none of these measurements meet survey standards. Then again, what do you expect for a couple hundred dollars? Once more, and I'm feeling like a broken record here, the laws regarding the different types of surveys vary widely from place to place. Some are very stringent while others are very lax.

Maniaman,
"Why a situation like this?" It could be any number of things and may never be known exactly. Your surveyor should make every effort to gather as much information regarding the original survey and some clues may be found pointing to the causes, but the precise reason probably won't ever be determined.

"so other than waving a survey document in his face what could I really do with a survey?" As Xema indicates, the courts are ultimately where these disputes are resolved if the parties can't otherwise agree. This is the reason I always suggest first talking with your neighbor and trying to resolve the problem between you before calling in the professionals. Perhaps you could split the cost of a surveyor coming out and determining the line separating the two of you. Trying to keep it out of the courts should be paramount in everyone's mind. But as it seems so often, people egos tend to come into play very quickly. As somewhat of an aside, it also seems from my experience that the more money the two parties have, the more likely they are to squabble over mere tenths of a foot. Who was it that said "Good fences make good neighbors?"

Surveying is far more complicated that the public perceives it to be. Most states require a four year degree in survey and then a licensing exam. Sorry, I should say exams as there are two of them. One for LSIT (Licensed Surveyor in Training) and one for the LS (Licensed Surveyor), in some states referred to as a PLS (Professional Land Surveyor) or even RLS (Registered Land Surveyor) Each of these exams is typically 8 hours long, the passing rate of which is frequently rather low. Like the state bar, some people take the exam for years before finally passing.

Honestly, the financial returns are less than might be expected. One reason is that there are far too many people out there that think they are capable of determining their or even another's property lines based solely on readily accessible information (deeds) and then making gross measurements (tape measure.) They don't take into account all the other variables that come into play when a land surveyor renders their professional opinion. As such, many don't think a surveyor deserves a reasonable rate of return on professional services. Make no doubt about it land surveying is a profession, one akin to the classic professions, (that is medicine, the law, the clergy and education.) Its relationship to these other professions is in the amount of public trust invested in the land surveyor. The surveyor doesn't really go out and determine his client's boundaries, but rather the boundaries of the ad-joiners of the client. The liability of this (surveyors carry professional liability insurance) is rather great. Wouldn't you agree? Oops, how did this soapbox get here?

In actuality, I've always figured most surveyors were engineering students that decided they didn't want to be inside all day. Should have stayed the course and gotten that civil dammit.

Unfortunately it's no longer in print, but if you can find a copy of Surveying Your Land by Charles E. Lawson you may find it interesting reading. It's a short book written by a PLS for the public. It explains in mostly non-technical language what the average person would want to know about surveys, deeds and title searches. There are used copies available on line, but are priced rather high for a paperback book. Looking around on the net I did come across this brief article on 10 Tips on Hiring a Professional Land Surveyor. The information is good.
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  #40  
Old 04-01-2009, 11:03 AM
Dinsdale Dinsdale is offline
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Originally Posted by ManiacMan View Post
You know that makes perfect sense...and I would have to agree. I suppose there is nothing that I can do. ... I guess I just have to grin and bear it. All these years I have been thinking that since it was ME mowing that grass and throwing down new dirt and seed it was my property.
Glad I was able to help with the answer - even if it wasn't the one you wished for. There are some things you could do if this really bothers you.

Specifically, you could look at landscaping options which would more clearly set off your nicely groomed property from the strip adjoining his driveway. 2 thoughts immediately come to mind.

-Depending on how the properties are situated, you could possibly install a fence immediately inside of the property line. You'd have to check zoning, but in general post holes are dug a few inches inside of the property line, to ensure that the permanent portion of the fence - the concrete and posts - do not encroach upon the neighbor's property. Then the nailed on sections of the fence can be very close to or right on the property line. The fence could be either a solid privacy type that actually blocks your view of this strip that bothers you, or it could be more decorative, creating more of an "implied" boundary. But a fence would clearly convey what is yours as opposed to his, and he would be responsible for maintaining (or not) the strip between your fence and the driveway.

-Less invasive than a fence would be some sort of plantings. Again, the intent would be the same, to create at least an implied distinction between the properties. You could plant a row of hedges on your side of the property line. This could be tricky, tho, as you would want to keep them from spreading way onto the neighbor's lot in which case he could hack them back to the property line. And you don't want to plant something that will require that you go onto his land to maintain it - pruning and such. Another option might be a planting bed. Perhaps you could line it with rocks on the side closest to the property line, which would delineate the bed as well as discourage them from driving over your plantings.

But in the vast majority of cases I suspect that your approach of grinning and bearing it is likely the best recourse. If this is the worst thing between you and your neighbors, you're doing okay.
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  #41  
Old 04-01-2009, 11:20 AM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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Dinsdale, good call on the set back issue. That's a very likely explanation.
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  #42  
Old 04-01-2009, 11:57 AM
Dinsdale Dinsdale is offline
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Originally Posted by Mister Owl View Post
Dinsdale, good call on the set back issue. That's a very likely explanation.

See - every once in a great while lawyers aren't entirely useless!
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  #43  
Old 04-01-2009, 05:51 PM
ManiacMan ManiacMan is offline
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Thanks very much for making sense out of all this. That book that Mister Owl suggested will somehow get into my grubby little hands just for the simple fact that the Surveying profession sounds so interesting. Thanks again to everyone for their helpful and informative contributions.

Last edited by ManiacMan; 04-01-2009 at 05:53 PM..
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