Jim Valentine: What defines the boundaries?

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When you buy residential real estate, how do you know where the property lines are, what the boundaries of your property consist of? Many years ago, surveyors used local objects for guides. A tree or a rock could be a part of the legal description. Trees come and go and rocks can be moved. While they referenced those items in conjunction with measurement descriptions, it wasn’t always easy to determine where a boundary line was.

It wasn’t that long ago that property could be divided by a description in a deed. There are several areas in Northern Nevada where subdivisions were created in that manner, leaving people to wonder where their access was. In such cases it is described in your neighbor’s deed or other properties that you would have to traverse to get to your property. We’ve seen people ready to dump what they thought was landlocked property at a cheap price until we told them they did, indeed, have legal access.

Many people use fences as boundaries. Those might be the boundary for your dog’s travels on your property, but it might not be an accurate depiction of the legal property line. More often than not, people putting in a fence install it set in on their property so as to avoid a property line dispute and the need to move the fence later. Sometimes the inset is more than a successor in interest wants to live with and they get a new survey and move the fence. This isn’t common, but it happens and you should be aware of that potential as you improve your property. Be sure you know where your corners are and how your fences are situated in relation thereto.

Fences can get you close to locating your property line, but shouldn’t be relied on for the absolute boundary. There can be cross fencing and the real property line actually is further away. Find the property corners to know where your property line is. Corners of a parcel divided in the last half century will consist of a piece of rebar. If it was more recent, it will have a plastic cap on top of the rebar with the surveyor’s license number stamped in it. The rebar should be in place and the plastic cap intact or it may have been moved.

Some new subdivisions with small lots can present a problem finding a corner. The fences are so established that it is not practical to find corners and move a fence. It might be so tight that they use markers in the curb instead of corners. They can also have offset corners, where they don’t put the corner marker on the exact corner itself, but a specific distance away that you must measure from. This is for situations where the actual corner is in a street, in a stream, etc. You can look to see what you can see, but unless there is something grossly wrong with it, don’t worry about finding or setting corners in such a situation. It won’t be money wisely spent.

If your property doesn’t have fences you still need to know where your boundaries are so as to protect your interest. You don’t want somebody parking on your property for an extended period of time and then making a claim for the use into perpetuity. It’s a long shot, but stranger things have happened. If you are going to buy your pets on the property line, be sure to keep them on your property. I was showing a 5-acre parcel one time when the neighbor came out and told us that his pet cemetery was on the property we were selling. We advised him to move them to his property, not to rely on a new property owner protecting them. That wouldn’t be their responsibility and he was trespassing.

Our advice: Boundaries are just a measure and marker with a good neighbor. When things go sour with a neighbor is when it gets dicey. Make sure you know your boundaries so you know when your neighbor goes past his and out of bounds during a neighbor boundary issue. The boundary parameters of your property is essential to your ownership, it is the definition of what you own.

You might not have liked boundaries as a child, but you’ll love them as a property owner. Know them and you’ll sleep better at night.

When it comes to choosing professionals to assist you with your real estate needs… Experience is Priceless! Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, 775-781-3704. dpwtigers@hotmail.com


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