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  #1  
Old 03-23-2011, 06:38 AM
What the .... ?!?! What the .... ?!?! is offline
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Land surveying... how does it work? How precise?

My neighbor got a survey and it appears I have less lake frontage than I've thought for the last 20 years.

Seems like GPS technology could be used. If so how accurate is it?

I just want to make sure it is correct....every foot counts.
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  #2  
Old 03-23-2011, 08:16 AM
cantara cantara is offline
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Surveying is based on landmarks and measurements between them. When lots have been laid out by a municipality, they will stake out the corners of the property with iron bars. Sometimes the bars end up getting pulled up or sunk further into the ground an can be hard to find. Sometimes they are still visible if you know where to look.

If you get the survey from your municipality/region/county, it will have a number of landmarks (like the stakes) indicated and measurements from those to the property lines. Ours had measurements from our house foundation and sewers on the street. I think the cost to have the survey remeasured here was around $1000.

I don't think GPS is accurate enough for surveying. Aren't most GPS units accurate to within 3m?
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  #3  
Old 03-23-2011, 08:32 AM
wellanuff wellanuff is offline
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I can't answer your question about how they do it. Regarding precision, surveys I have had done have indicated precise measurements, showing values nominally to a hundredth of a foot. (But see my anecdote below.)

If the situation has any immediate financial impact (including where your neighbor might be building something and potentially building on or very near your property line), you should get your own survey. (Obviously use a different surveyor.)

Twenty years ago, I had a fence put in, and the fence guys went to a great deal of effort to ensure that the fence was on our property. A year after that, I sold that house, and had a survey done. The survey showed the fence to cross over onto our neighbor's property. I asked the surveyor to double-check that, as I was pretty sure the fence was situated entirely on my property.

I expected him to come out and remeasure that area.

Instead, he just dropped off a new survey showing the fence on my property and with the measurement of the distance between the fence and our house (which had been used to show the fence to be on our neighbor's property) erased.

Did he just fudge it to make the problem go away? Were his original measurements in error? I don't know.

It's just one anecdote about one surveyor. I expect the vast majority of surveyors are reliable, accurate and ethical. But it wouldn't hurt to get your own survey, if the issues involved are significant.

Last edited by wellanuff; 03-23-2011 at 08:34 AM..
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  #4  
Old 03-23-2011, 08:33 AM
Dave.B Dave.B is offline
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The Leica GPS units I've used are extremely accurate. With all of the accuracy-boosting features turned on you can achieve sub-centimeter errors when closing a traverse.
Published accuracies from Leica start of page 5 of this PDF:
http://www.geoservis.si/instrumenti/...S1200_Tech.pdf
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  #5  
Old 03-23-2011, 08:42 AM
jtgain jtgain is offline
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A lot of it depends on how long ago the property was partitioned and how accurately the description was that was recorded in the courthouse. It's not uncommon around here to have descriptions that are over a hundred years old and refer to landmarks (such as a tree, a rock, a stream that has been diverted) that are no longer there.

As you are in a situation where every foot counts, it simply may be impossible to get anywhere near that kind of accuracy because the original description didn't contain that kind of precision.
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  #6  
Old 03-23-2011, 10:17 AM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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As a land surveyor I will say most of the advice and information offered above is correct. Especially the advice regarding consulting another surveyor if you have reason to doubt the accuracy of the survey conducted by the one your neighbor hired. Since land surveyors are considered professionals working in the public's interest, a ethical surveyor isn't a "hired gun" and normally another surveyor coming in behind a previous survey will reach the same opinions barring minor differences. However, surveyors do sometimes make mistakes or do a substandard job. For what it is worth I always go into a job with the mindset that I am determining the neighbor's property boundaries, not my clients.

There is survey grade GPS equipment available (accuracies are typically to 100th of a foot) but the layperson doesn't have ready access to it, nor with they have the knowledge needed to use the equipment, make the necessary adjustments to the GPS data, or gather the additional evidence needed to make a final determination. In many states trying to do this could be considered practicing land surveying without a license, potentially a serious crime.

Beware of anyone other than a land surveyor in your area telling you how much a survey will cost. There are numerous factors that go into determining costs including, but not limited to, prevailing rates in your area and the difficulty of the job. Most people do not seem to understand that when a surveyor sets a clients property boundaries that surveyor is rendering a professional opinion and then has a legal liability for that opinion that stays with that property for at least the rest of his or her career. Most people pay their real estate agent more than their land surveyor and the agent more or less is done once the check is cashed. All that said, land surveys are expensive and rather like with legal disputes, it would be easiest and cheapest if you can just come to an agreement with your neighbor.

I'll leave you with this joke told about George Washington and while I can't verify the truth of the joke, I can see some surveyor do just this.

After having conducting land survey for a local farmer Washington presented to the land owner a bill for $100.

The farmer paled at seeing such a price and exclaimed,

"One hundred dollars! But all you did was walk around my farm taking a few measurements and then setting a handful of stakes into the ground. This is outrageous! Justify these costs."

At this point the future president calmly took back the bill, wrote a few lines upon it and handed it back to the farmer.

The farmer looked at his now itemized bill and read,

Set four pins on property corners at twenty five cents each.

Total for pins $2.

Cost of knowledge needed to correctly set pins $98.

Last edited by Mister Owl; 03-23-2011 at 10:19 AM.. Reason: can never leave a thing alone.
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  #7  
Old 03-23-2011, 10:24 AM
muldoonthief muldoonthief is offline
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Why did you think your frontage was larger than what the surveyor showed? If it was due to a previous survey, contact the surveyor. If it was what the realtor told you when you bought the property 20 years ago, go ahead and hire your own surveyor, but be prepared to be disappointed. My father was a surveyor, and it seemed that about half his jobs involved telling a distraught homeowner that the realtor had been way off when they told them what they owned.

Anecdotally, I used to work for my father on weekends, and it was amazing how accurate they are with just transit & tape measure (late 70's early 80's). He'd take measurements around 3 corners a few hundred feet apart, drop a plumb bob in dense woods on what should be another corner, only to find a monument in place about 3 inches away.
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  #8  
Old 03-23-2011, 12:23 PM
thelabdude thelabdude is offline
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Surveys are subject to human error. There was a pipe at the SE corner of my lot that had been accepted as the corner for a long time. When I refinanced my house the bank demanded a survey. I think the guys came and stuck flags in the pipes they found. Since I was planning on fencing my yard, I demanded pegs at the back where there weren't any. Before I got the fence built, the electric company uprooted one. The new survey, at their expense, found a another pipe in the SE corner about 2' further east. I told my neighbor not to worry about it. They moved their flower beds anyhow.

Many surveys specify so far from the middle of the road. I asked my daughter, the city street department engineer about that. I wanted to know if construction contractors carefully locate the markers and center the streets on them. She evaded my question and said it is the responsibility of the county surveyor to maintain the section corners.

If what is think is a corner marker on the lot behind me is one, there is about 2' of no man's land between the lots.

So get another survey if the difference is important to you. Or talk to a lawyer. If you have been using the land for the last 20 years, you may be able to claim it.

Hummmmmmmm, I put my fence up in 2000. So in another 9 years, what I fenced in is mine? And what is outside is theirs?
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Old 03-23-2011, 01:52 PM
chappachula chappachula is offline
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nm

Last edited by chappachula; 03-23-2011 at 01:53 PM..
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  #10  
Old 03-23-2011, 02:19 PM
janeslogin janeslogin is offline
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Did anyone mention common criminal? I had a co-worker moved into his new home and found himself a member of a class in a class action suit against the developer had taken a foot from each lot until he had taken enough land to make an additional lot.
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  #11  
Old 03-23-2011, 02:36 PM
RedSwinglineOne RedSwinglineOne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Owl View Post
I'll leave you with this joke told about George Washington and while I can't verify the truth of the joke, I can see some surveyor do just this.
I've heard this joke before, but never with George Washigton. I've usually heard it in the form of some kind of consultant being asked to find the source of a problem. He marks the problem (on a machine or something) with a chalk 'X', and then presents a bill.
When questioned about the amount of the bill, he says something like "Chalk 'X'-$1. Knowing where to put it-$999."

Its a good lesson though.
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  #12  
Old 03-23-2011, 03:36 PM
bump bump is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by What the .... ?!?! View Post
My neighbor got a survey and it appears I have less lake frontage than I've thought for the last 20 years.

Seems like GPS technology could be used. If so how accurate is it?

I just want to make sure it is correct....every foot counts.
You should be able to look at your current survey (you did get one when you bought the house, right?), and see where your property actually lies in reference to some benchmark. You may be able to get a copy from the title company, the bank or the county if you don't know where your copy is.

I don't see any reason to re-survey; the original one is probably accurate, and either you or your neighbor has been encroaching, or the lake has changed shape over the intervening time since the survey was made.

Theoretically, there should be iron pins in the corners of your lot- go hunting with a metal detector and you may find them. Note: most modern-day houses have the lot actually start 5-6 feet from the street- inside the sidewalk in most cases, so looking right near the street isn't going to find you much.

Once you have your first pin, you can use the info on the survey to figure out where the rest ought to be, more or less, then use your metal detector to find your other pins. Or you can get all trigonometric and calculate where they should be based on the survey, assuming you can find true North, and measure accurately.
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  #13  
Old 03-23-2011, 05:35 PM
bizerta bizerta is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by What the .... ?!?! View Post
My neighbor got a survey and it appears I have less lake frontage than I've thought for the last 20 years.

Seems like GPS technology could be used. If so how accurate is it?

I just want to make sure it is correct....every foot counts.
Step 1: Read your deed. That is what defines where your property lines are. Even though my deed (and the mortgage survey) starts with stone markers that are up to 280 feet away from my property, I was able to locate them. Using a 300 foot tape measure, I was able to estimate, to within a few inches, where my own corners are. It took a bit of geometry knowledge, and a right-angle surveyor's prism, but it was a fun afternoon.
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  #14  
Old 03-23-2011, 07:07 PM
jtgain jtgain is offline
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Also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adverse_possession

Adverse Possession...if you have been using those precious feet of land, you may be able to keep them even if the survey is not in your favor.
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  #15  
Old 03-23-2011, 07:38 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Surveyors do make mistakes. I can give you a dozen major (off by several feet) errors made in my experience as a real estate agent and landowner.

One mistake was due to the surveyor reading the width of a lot in official records as 60 feet instead of 6, resulting in a 54 foot overlap with a property on one side and a 54 foot gap on the other.

One of the more common ones is to assume that some other surveyor was accurate, and measure from his marks. Woops! The previous surveyor may have been relying on a previous one, and so on...

I know an area where the land was settled from the north and the south of a long coastal road over many years. Each new survey started from the last. When they met in the middle, there was a 100 ft overlap. Obviously, some landowner is going to lose big if anyone decides to force the issue.

I know another area where it was measured from the East and the West. They never met in the middle, and there is now a half-mile long wedge of land that no one knows who owns it. But a new survey is expensive, and there is always the risk that your land might disappear or shrink, so the adjacent landowners do not plan to resurvey, letting sleeping dogs lie, as it were.

A surveyor once told me that the source of many errors was due to accumulation; chains stretch and links are broken. When used repeatedly, small errors add up and in years past, GPS wasn't available to check accuracy.

My favorite story (probably not true) is a measurement made, not from "Mrs. Jones' old elm tree stump," but "Mrs. Jones' spotted cow in the north pasture..."

Quote:
Originally Posted by What the .... ?!?!
My neighbor got a survey and it appears I have less lake frontage than I've thought for the last 20 years.
That's a common problem in my area. One reason may be the definition of water's edge has changed, and the actual water level may be different. In my area, we now use the "Ordinary High Water Mark", but the actual location is up to what the county planner thinks it should be, and the planner might not have lived in the area for more than 5 years, so is open to challenge.

Also, land area used to be gross acreage, but now is more commonly net (which takes into account easements and road rights-of-way). This can make a big difference in the apparent lot size; the lot didn't shrink, just the definition did.

Last edited by Musicat; 03-23-2011 at 07:42 PM..
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  #16  
Old 03-23-2011, 07:45 PM
Daylate Daylate is offline
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Some of those old surveys were sporty at best. I worked for years for a consulting engineering firm that got involved in these ancient surveys on a regular basis. Two I remember in particular. One of these was a survey of some property around South Seattle, dating from shortly after the pioneers landed at Alki Point, and started off thusly:

"XX feet SW of the oak tree where Philo Blake killed the bear....." and went on from there.

The other was from a survey in West Virginia, dating just after the Civil War. This went:

"XX feet NW from the door of the cabin lived in by an old Indian....".

Took some ingenuity to reproduce those plats.
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  #17  
Old 03-23-2011, 07:49 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muldoonthief View Post
Why did you think your frontage was larger than what the surveyor showed? If it was due to a previous survey, contact the surveyor. If it was what the realtor told you when you bought the property 20 years ago, go ahead and hire your own surveyor, but be prepared to be disappointed. My father was a surveyor, and it seemed that about half his jobs involved telling a distraught homeowner that the realtor had been way off when they told them what they owned.
As a Realtor, we handle this by NEVER describing where the boundaries are (we aren't surveyors -- how could we know?). Instead, we say, "According to the Seller, the lot goes to that tree," or, "The latest survey shows the boundaries on this map. If you need interpretation, please contact the surveyor."

We advise buyers of rural properties to have the property restaked or resurveyed to their satisfaction. City lots are less likely to have errors.
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Old 03-23-2011, 07:56 PM
jtgain jtgain is offline
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Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
That's a common problem in my area. One reason may be the definition of water's edge has changed, and the actual water level may be different. In my area, we now use the "Ordinary High Water Mark", but the actual location is up to what the county planner thinks it should be, and the planner might not have lived in the area for more than 5 years, so is open to challenge.
This was part of what I was referring to above. Let's say that you have a 75 year old description that says that your land runs to the "north bank of XXX creek." In my state, (and it may be majority or minority jurisdiction, not sure) if that creek has gradually meandered its way through the years, then the boundary of the land follows the north bank of the creek. If it was "suddenly or directly diverted" then the boundary stays where the north bank originally was.

Lakes are a whole other story. I'm not sure what lake the OP is located on, but most are man-made by a dam or other structure. Chances are the property description was made when his lakefront property was a stream. If so, then his boundary is probably a tree or pin that is long gone. If not, and it was made after, then it refers to some level of the lake that can be horribly ambiguous depending on the tolerances in the equipment that the surveyor uses. Or the one that the surveyor who described the property XXX years ago used.

I still stand by my above statement that property, especially waterfront property, is unlikely to be able to be accurately surveyed to within feet.
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  #19  
Old 03-23-2011, 08:45 PM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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I will reiterate the two best pieces of advice here, talk with and come to an amicable agreement with your neighbor or consult with a local land surveyor. There are too many different municipal, county and state laws for anyone but an informed expert, such as a licensed land surveyor or practicing real estate attorney, to be able to give you anything but an educated guess at best.

Last edited by Mister Owl; 03-23-2011 at 08:48 PM.. Reason: 'cuz like what the hell?
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  #20  
Old 03-24-2011, 06:16 AM
What the .... ?!?! What the .... ?!?! is offline
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Originally Posted by muldoonthief View Post
Why did you think your frontage was larger than what the surveyor showed? If it was due to a previous survey, contact the surveyor. If it was what the realtor told you when you bought the property 20 years ago, go ahead and hire your own surveyor, but be prepared to be disappointed.
Based on the way I've been cutting my grass for 21 years .... that counts doesn't it ?

Here's the story.......

Neighbor's house was here first and the owner owned this lot too. Some time in the 1960's he built our house on this lot and moved. At that time, he reconfigured the lots a bit to take a pie-shaped section by the road out of our lot and add a pie-shaped section by the lake to our lot. The purpose was to square both lots up to the lake a bit more .... and perhaps to give his new home (mine now) more lake frontage.

We bought in 1989 and I have a survey and description dated 1986 reflecting what I've described. We have always gotten tax bills for what remains of the original lot and the little pie section.

I spoke to my neighbor yesterday and he didn't know anything about the pies and says he only gets one bill. My wife tells me that the owners of that house told her a story once about the township trying to redescribe the lots and sending them one bill....perhaps that has contributed to some confusion.

My neighbor told me that his surveyor found the iron marker at the point that is staked and flagged ...... but that could be the original. Do you think they would have sunk another marker later for that new boundary??

My neighbor is being pretty cool about the whole thing...... in fact, I think he may be a bit concerned that it appears he built a stairway to his deck that is actually on my property...... could be a good bargaining chip.
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Old 03-24-2011, 06:26 AM
What the .... ?!?! What the .... ?!?! is offline
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Originally Posted by What the .... ?!?! View Post
Based on the way I've been cutting my grass for 21 years .... that counts doesn't it ?

Here's the story.......

Neighbor's house was here first and the owner owned this lot too. Some time in the 1960's he built our house on this lot and moved. At that time, he reconfigured the lots a bit to take a pie-shaped section by the road out of our lot and add a pie-shaped section by the lake to our lot. The purpose was to square both lots up to the lake a bit more .... and perhaps to give his new home (mine now) more lake frontage.

We bought in 1989 and I have a survey and description dated 1986 reflecting what I've described. We have always gotten tax bills for what remains of the original lot and the little pie section.

I spoke to my neighbor yesterday and he didn't know anything about the pies and says he only gets one bill. My wife tells me that the owners of that house told her a story once about the township trying to redescribe the lots and sending them one bill....perhaps that has contributed to some confusion.

My neighbor told me that his surveyor found the iron marker at the point that is staked and flagged ...... but that could be the original. Do you think they would have sunk another marker later for that new boundary??

My neighbor is being pretty cool about the whole thing...... in fact, I think he may be a bit concerned that it appears he built a stairway to his deck that is actually on my property...... could be a good bargaining chip.
I probably got you all confused with the above story.....

Neighbor 1 (who we never knew) built both houses and reconfigured the lots.

Neighbor 2 bought from him and lived here until 2005...we know them and she told my wife all the property stories

Neighbor 3 bought in 2005 and built the stairs (himself) and is doing the survey now. His older parents were also involved in purchasing the home to some degree (none of my business but may be contributing to his lack of knowledge).
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  #22  
Old 03-24-2011, 08:22 AM
muldoonthief muldoonthief is offline
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Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
As a Realtor, we handle this by NEVER describing where the boundaries are (we aren't surveyors -- how could we know?). Instead, we say, "According to the Seller, the lot goes to that tree," or, "The latest survey shows the boundaries on this map. If you need interpretation, please contact the surveyor."

We advise buyers of rural properties to have the property restaked or resurveyed to their satisfaction. City lots are less likely to have errors.
I didn't mean to impugn all realtors. It's just that I've seen multiple cases, one in my own back yard, where a homeowner made assumptions based on what a realtor told them. Including a case where a realtor showed them what was obviously a pole from an old swingset (you could still see the painted decorations on it!) and told them it was their property marker.
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Old 03-24-2011, 08:39 AM
johnpost johnpost is offline
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Originally Posted by What the .... ?!?! View Post
My neighbor is being pretty cool about the whole thing...... in fact, I think he may be a bit concerned that it appears he built a stairway to his deck that is actually on my property...... could be a good bargaining chip.
if the survey comes out in your favor i would recommend immediately create a lease where you are renting him the land for the stairway, like for some token amount.

IANAL
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Old 03-24-2011, 09:22 AM
thelabdude thelabdude is offline
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Based on my limited experience, when the land was transferred, they may or may not have put in new pins. If the deed was recorded, it shouldn't make much difference except you could show the new neighbor without a new survey.
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Old 03-24-2011, 10:30 AM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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What the .... ?!?!

This is my last post in this thread. You are basically asking for expert, professional advice, not unlike asking for a legal opinion. I believe that there is at least one other land surveyor on this board, but no one other than myself has identified themselves as a land surveyor in this thread. Would you accept and follow important legal advice from some faceless unknown on the internet? Please talk with a local professional.

Last edited by Mister Owl; 03-24-2011 at 10:34 AM..
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  #26  
Old 03-24-2011, 12:09 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Originally Posted by muldoonthief View Post
I didn't mean to impugn all realtors. It's just that I've seen multiple cases, one in my own back yard, where a homeowner made assumptions based on what a realtor told them. Including a case where a realtor showed them what was obviously a pole from an old swingset (you could still see the painted decorations on it!) and told them it was their property marker.
I'm not offended.

The job of a real estate agent is to bring buyers and sellers together. Since that often involves rubbing elbows with many related disciplines, it's hard for some agents to remember that they are not trained in surveying, building construction, mortgages, remodelling, or complicated legal matters. It would be wise for buyers and sellers to consider any advice from a non-expert accordingly, and while it might not be wrong, it isn't what you are paying the agent for. If your deal hinges on specific advice, hire someone who is an expert in that field.
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Old 03-25-2011, 12:01 AM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
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Talk to your neighbor. And if necessary get your own survey.

Now a little story about land surveys. My great grandfather purchansed the ranch in 1893. It was surveyed at the time. the property next door was sold at some time and a seperate survey was done on that property. Both deeds were recorded at the county. The common property line had different measurements and angles.

Sometime in the 60's the property next door was sold and resurveyed. We got the notice what the new common boundry line between the properties would be. We were given a date to protest the new survey by. If we did not protest then tne new survey results bould be binding between both parties.

No for the fun stuff. The back corner of the common fence was moved 11 feet. Which ment the two corner lines of the property no longer meet. The orgional 1893 deed gave the bearings in degees and tenths of degrees. the new line gave the bearings in degrees, minutes, seconds, and tenths of seconds. What was that lets move the fence line one inch.
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Old 03-25-2011, 06:07 AM
What the .... ?!?! What the .... ?!?! is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Owl View Post
What the .... ?!?!

This is my last post in this thread. You are basically asking for expert, professional advice, not unlike asking for a legal opinion. I believe that there is at least one other land surveyor on this board, but no one other than myself has identified themselves as a land surveyor in this thread. Would you accept and follow important legal advice from some faceless unknown on the internet? Please talk with a local professional.
Nope....... I'm gathering info, identifying issues and welcoming advice that I'll take for what its worth.

I'm a "professional" myself........ if you call filling our government mandated forms once a year for people with the primary goal of reducing the amount they fork over to the government being professional.

I definitely like the idea of a lease mentioned a couple posts back.
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