I need to find my property lines..

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by DatacomGuy, Oct 9, 2017.

  1. Southern Forest

    Southern Forest Well-Known Member

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    One thing I think folks need to know is that surveys are by no means perfect instruments. As a forester, I cannot tell you the number of times I have dealt with landowners with dueling surveys. Both landowners will have well-done proper surveys and neither survey comes to the same corner. They can very easily be a few feet off and both be legitimate. How is that possible? The entire land system in much of the country was measured using chains, especially so in old states like Georgia. Old chains were a bit stretched. New ones could be a bit short. None of that matters in short distances but over the course of miles, it made big differences. As a result, there were some sections that were a mile long, some were slightly long, some slightly short. This caused some 40 acres to be 41 or 42 acres and others to be 39 acres. In forestry we call them long or short 40's (or 80's, or quarter sections, or section, etc).

    The way this affects surveys is that a surveyor has to start at some benchmark or known point. Say one surveyor starts at the northeast corner of the northeast quarter of Section 5 and, with appropriate accuracy, shoots to your property and marks lines. Your neighbor hires another equally qualified surveyor who shoots from Section 4 coming in from the other direction. With equal precision and accuracy he comes up with corners that are a few feet away (or a boundary line). It happens all the time. Who's right? Neither and both at the same time. That is why typically land boundaries are settled on older use patterns rather than the survey. This remains true even with modern GPS. A brand new, hyper-accurate survey gets trumped by an old pine knot used as a corner the last 50 years. The old regular-use fence (if described as a boundary line in legal documents), beats any actual survey. Adverse possession (or general use), whether or not the intent was nefarious, generally beats the survey if the owner has in any way used the property for a specific amount of time.

    As a forester, one problem I have with surveyors is that their maps are not very useful on the ground and they rarely mark their work with any kind of permanence. Corners can often be notoriously hard to find and cut lines can disappear quickly. That is why once a survey is made, the lines need to be marked quickly or they revert back to nature. Often times, a surveyor will make a map, plot corners, etc but leave no trace of lines. As a result, you have corners (which you may or may not be able to find) but no property lines.

    Having typed all of that, I have great regard for surveyors and don't intend to trash them on a forum. And, boundary lines aren't so hard to find if you get used to doing it. I find them all the time when landowners can't seem to see them (having done a bunch of it) and a surveyor can find old survey lines that I can't see (and that is without his tools). $400 is a pain to pay, but it can be a cheap way to get the lines marked (but once that is done, you will need to mark it with paint, as usually surveyors only use flagging or other temporary markings).
     
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  2. Fishindude

    Fishindude Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If you have the written legal description, read it. It should give you pin to pin dimensions. Chances are that pin is there, just concealed below grade slightly.
     

  3. Yvonne's hubby

    Yvonne's hubby Murphy was an optimist ;) Staff Member

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    Talked to a surveyor here a couple months ago, real nice guy and good at his job. Wants $300 just to show up at my property. I got together with the neighbor instead, agreed the corner in question was "somewhere right around here" within a couple feet one way or the other and went on with life.
     
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  4. melli

    melli Otiose Endomorph

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    Interesting read - we have disputes all the time...houses have been moved because developers ran over their own surveys...lol
    In now my old hood, I had a new home where the neighbors were using my driveway, thinking it was theirs...they paid for a survey (Not cheap - $1500 min) hoping to settle it in their favor...I got my driveway back and they had to resort to rock climbing to access their house.
    I know of a situation where service lines for one neighbor run under another neighbor's property...still to be resolved, as neighbor with errant lines has to get a blaster in to make a new driveway and run services.

    Up here we have two option for corner pegs (IP - iron peg and LP - lead plug - drip hot lead into a rock divot, then a copper tack). A white stake with lot number and type of peg (LP/IP) is affixed within a couple feet of the legal pegs (usually IP, which is pounded into ground, with a flag attached to top...usually after a year or so they are covered up with forest litter). Finding them after a decade or two can be challenging, but I use my phone to get rather close, then I uncover forest litter (need lots of satellites to get a decent fix...do two readings over two days, and you'll get pretty accurate fix).

    Surveyors in our hood are very accurate, as they can be held liable. They use local monuments (reference points affixed to rock - NAD83 projection last I heard) to calibrate their instruments. This ensures accurate surveys (within an inch). Although folks are not fully aware, up here, it is a crime to alter a survey marker. It drove me nuts to hear of neighbors moving survey markers thinking they could pull a fast one...rather funny, as I'd tell aggrieved neighbor to forget about white stick and look for the IP/LP, as those were the real (legal) markers. White stakes are just for show.
     
  5. hunter63

    hunter63 Well-Known Member

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    Thought I would toss this in there....good example of the odd things that can happen.
    A farm I hunt on.....one corner has a 10 ft square piece of ground in the center, at the 4 corners of a 4 properties...but don't meet at the middle. ....with of 4 fences around it.

    Inside is a massive oak stump (I thinking "boundary oak") that had been cut down.
    The whole square is covered with blue, red, with ribbons and tape...with several poles, stakes, and markers.

    Too bad the that tree is gone....I could have claimed the "no mans land" for a tree stand.......LOL

    Seems these farmers have been arguing about this for a long time......
    Funny part is I have permission to hunt one of the properties......so by moving a couple feet one way or another...I may be on someone else's land.
     
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  6. Back2Basix

    Back2Basix Well-Known Member

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    I'll agree that 10 different surveys may come up with 10 different corners markers.

    Quick story, we own 40ac east of Manistee in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Grandpa's headstone has always been back at 1 corner, just off our property line on state land. Foresters & surveyors came through one weekend we were up there this spring and dug about 30 holes at that 1 corner boundary. They were looking for the remnants of 3 tree stumps that marked the old boundaries. After all was said and done, we gained about 10yds running our West property line and about 5yds on our south. Grandpa's now on our property and the forest service said not to move his plaque/stone because it's now an official USFS Property Boundary marker. And now our full driveway (as opposed to half) is officially on our property.

    Very happy with the outcome of that survey
     
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  7. Bearfootfarm

    Bearfootfarm Hello, hello....is there anybody in there.....? Supporter

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    Even a poor survey carries more weight than a landowner's approximation.
     
  8. krackin

    krackin Well-Known Member

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    It won't matter if the surveyor is off a tad in this instance, it is a search for existing registered corners. If he or she nails it all the better but close enough to find the pins is all that is needed so far in this scenario.
     
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  9. Southern Forest

    Southern Forest Well-Known Member

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    "Even a poor survey carries more weight than a landowner's approximation."

    Even two perfect surveys can differ by many feet, and a long-established line can easily trump a survey, depending on location. I've seen dueling surveys come to naught when an old fence is factored in.

    I've made no statement that an approximation beats a survey, merely stating several decades of land management experience dealing with private landowners and their neighbors. $400 isn't a bad price, but if one finds the pins himself, then it is unneeded.
     
  10. fishhead

    fishhead Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Once he finishes the survey corners I would drive some thick rebar at each corner and maybe in the middle of each side as deep into the ground as possible and then cut it off so there's nothing to grab onto.

    If it's a perfect rectangle (right angle) you can always use the 3-4-5 method to find the sides and probably the pins too if they still exist.
     
  11. geo in mi

    geo in mi Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If you ever do find the corner stakes, (whether for free or for $400,) you can cut off a two foot piece of Schedule 40 --four inch--plastic piping and carefully remove the dirt around the stake, placing the plastic around it and maybe a foot above ground level. It should last through many years of forest litter, so you can find the iron again if you need to.

    geo
     
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  12. ForestToFarm

    ForestToFarm Well-Known Member

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    I have recently found all the pins on my property. There are 28 pins located and spread out along all sides of our property except for the creek where another 16 pins exists. Aside from those in the creek we have found ever single one and its all forest land. It took a lot of looking and looking again but we finally found them all. There a lot of angles on our property due to a slightly curved road out front and then one edge of our property has about 10 houses along it where the previous owner put house's on the side road. Needed money I guess.

    One thing that is funny is there are several different type pins out there. One is an "old axle", lol. It literally sticks out of the ground about a foot and the rest was driven into the ground many many years ago. The plat actually says "Old Axle" on it.

    Its 20 acres. We used a metal detector and found many of them that were not easy to find. The last one was about 30 or more feet into what a guy was claiming as his land. After several days of looking where he claimed the pin was we started looking where we were pretty sure it was, on the area he had cleared as his own. We looked everywhere but no pin. It was on the side of a creek that has changed course over the years due to wash outs from rain. So there is this large 3' diameter tree that was right on the edge of the creek and was actually hanging over the creek a bit. The land had eroded and the creek had moved. That pins is sticking out the side of the tree and barely hanging on the edge of the now newly located creek bank.

    I showed the guy where the pin was and he just played it off like he was surprised and did not argue about us reclaiming our land. The thing is that big tree looks like it has pushed the pin back in our properties direction causing us to loose a few feet of ground. Due to that fact I think we will get a survey just in this area to see if the pin needs to be moved. By us already doing the foot work I am hoping it saves us a bit of money.

    How we finally looked in the correct exact area was my son pulled out his Iphone and looks at the compass feature that shows what angle his phone is pointing. He stood over the pin and then looked at the display on the phone and as he twisted his phone back and forth the degrees on the display changed accordingly. There are degrees angle on the plat. When the angle on the phone matched the angle on the plat I stood at the far end of the property where we thought our pin was while holding a string pulled tight from a T-post we drove at the known pin location where my son was at and he said it was pointing almost directly at me an in line with the string. That is when we were sure we were in the right place even though the neighbor was claiming that land as his. You have to lay your phone horizontal for this compass function to work. It ended up being at that tree and a couple feet from where we determined based on the compass display and string pulling. It was primitive but it worked. The guy who thought his land went into our area more was perfectly fine once we showed him where the pin was.

    Terry
     
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  13. Bearfootfarm

    Bearfootfarm Hello, hello....is there anybody in there.....? Supporter

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    One of my markers is an "old axle" that protrudes about 3' above ground.
    The rest I've found appear to be 1" ID galvanized pipe.
    Several are above ground but others are below the surface.
     
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  14. AmericanStand

    AmericanStand Well-Known Member

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    Start at a front pin use a compass and look carefully for a slot cut through the trees in the direction of the rear pin. It might be grown up and not visable but there shouldn't be any trees exactly on the line older than the survey.
    with a 300' tape measure toward the rear location.
    If you need to take the tape around something use long shallow angles
    When you get the right distance back cast around for the pin your distance along the tape line should be close , your distance right or left of that can be more.
    I'd carefully look 5 feet in and past the tape line and 20 feet right and left of that line
     
  15. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member

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    $400 is an excellent price for a survey. Around here the prices run at least $700 now.
     
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  16. Skamp

    Skamp Well-Known Member

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    Theoretically correct. Practically, a farse.

    Reading a compass to 1 degree for 300'? Is the map magnetic North, grid North, or true North?

    Allowing for the incline/decline of same?

    Ill advised.
     
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  17. shaky6

    shaky6 Well-Known Member

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    You need a real compass like the Marine Corps uses for land navigation, a Google search for magnetic deviation for your area, and a metal detector to find the pin. If you have an old survey with degrees and distances, you're golden if you have the inclination to learn a bit.
     
  18. Southern Forest

    Southern Forest Well-Known Member

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    A Silva Ranger or Suunto will do better than USGI compasses. Those are the models used by professional foresters who do land navigation for a living. They also allow for declination to be set for the region and are considerably less expensive.
     
  19. AmericanStand

    AmericanStand Well-Known Member

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    Ill advised ? Low cost no risk.
    Easyer than you think.
     
  20. oldtruckbbq

    oldtruckbbq Well-Known Member

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    Boy Scouts taught me how to use a compass and map to find my way. The Army reinforced it. It is amazing how close you can get to something with good compass, a map, and a little understanding.

    Three corners of our property are marked with white painted T-posts just a few inches from the pins. The developer still couldn't find the last pin that defines our property and that of the property to the North and to the East. The plat he gave me included degrees, latitude, longitude, and distance. I used that information and my trusty milsurp compass, then when I got to approximately where I thought the pin should be I started going in expanding circles using a branch to sweep leaves out of the way. On the 4th pass I found the final pin. I chopped down a sapling (on my land), and drove a pole in just inches away from the pin, then painted it with some fluorescent green paint. I also planted a pin on the maps app on my phone for future reference, then sprayed a green band around 2 good sized trees that formed a triangle with the pin. There are supposed to be pins along the property lines, but I haven't looked for those yet. I'll start with the one on the east border because someone already bought that property, then do the north border before someone buys that property.

    Finding pins in the woods is a hoot, isn't it?
     
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