All surveys begin with deeds. Deeds are legally recorded documents that convey title. As a matter of course, we pull your current recorded deed from your county’s courthouse along with your neighbors’ deeds. We analyze them and plot the legal descriptions from these deeds according to the bearing and distances (courses) and corner descriptions. These deed plots go together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Our first indication that there may be an issue with the deed may become apparent at this time. A deed’s legal description starts at a fixed point. The courses around your property should return to that same point. If not, there may be missing courses or errors in these courses.
Other deed errors include incomplete descriptions or descriptions that include more property than was meant to be conveyed. At some point, your property was part of a larger property, and that larger property was part of an even larger one, and so on. If you think about it, every piece of property in Pennsylvania was once a part of the grant to William Penn.
Very often, we come across a legal description for a 1-acre property that reads something like: All that certain 500 acres that John Brown sold to Steve Smith in 1796, excepting thereout and therefrom the 200 acres Steve Smith gave to his son Jacob Smith in April 1823; the 15 acres Steve Smith bequeathed to the Methodist Church in 1832; etc. This would be a case for when preparing an accurate legal description for the current property would be warranted.
We verify the deeds by performing our survey in the field. The information we find helps put together the puzzle more completely. After the field survey, we can make a determination of the true location of your property. Along with the field survey, we may do a more extensive deed history search to determine where the deed problem may have started.
When do I need to correct my deed?
All deed errors are not the same. If during our survey, we quickly determine the error and can perform our survey with little effort, we may assume another surveyor would be able to do the same. This may be a case of a correction not being necessary. Other errors that include more work may be a good reason to have your deed corrected.
The way you go about a deed correction is to first have a licensed professional land surveyor prepare an accurate legal description of your property based on a boundary survey that they performed. You can then bring this legal description to an attorney who can help you file the necessary paperwork with the recorder of deeds in your county. Otherwise, if you wish to save some money, you may contact your county’s recorder of deeds office directly.
Real estate property is one of, if not the most important thing we own. An accurate description of it, along with a proper boundary survey, is extremely valuable when it comes time to sell your home in the future. Howell Surveying is here to help you with any questions you may have.
We often hear comments like this from our clients about boundary surveys:
“We did not think this was so much work.”
“Our lot is not that big.”
“We only wanted this side surveyed.”
Howell Kline works very hard at being efficient, having all our information for the survey prepared before the fieldwork, and gathering adequate knowledge in the field to ensure the survey’s accuracy. Let’s address some of the reasons why there is a disconnect in work required for a boundary survey.
We look for evidence of boundary surveys previously done on your property. This evidence includes rebar, pipes, concrete monuments, or anything set by a surveyor in the past. This evidence is in the ground and needs to be uncovered and located without instrumentation. We look for these things on your property and your adjoining properties. We need your neighbor’s property corners to make our final determination on where the corners genuinely are.
Smaller lots are wonderful because we do not necessarily need to survey over great distances. These smaller lots have challenges, including fences, shrubs, outbuildings, etc. These things are helpful because they guide us in looking for evidence but also present challenges due to poor sight lines. We need to locate these things to ensure we catch any encroachments (structures or improvements, not you own on your property).
We often explain to clients that we can not just survey “one side” of your property. In order to properly determine the location of any one particular line, it is still necessary to survey the entire area.
We aim to communicate with you and set realistic expectations. We want to be upfront with our clients, so we ask that you provide us with as much information as possible so that we can estimate the work accurately. We will also communicate with you after work has begun and discuss any issues that may keep us from fulfilling our contract.
If at any time in the process of us performing your survey you have questions, we are always willing to answer those questions and help you better understand.
I don’t own the strip of ground along the road? This is a question we often get from homeowners. It usually comes after we have surveyed the property and marked the corners. The property owner is standing on their front corner and states “I thought I owned to the road?” We answer that the ground between your property corner and the road is called the right-of-way (ROW) of the road.
“What is a right-of-way?” According to Black’s Law Dictionary, it is a “term used to describe a right belonging to a party to pass over land of another.” We will stick to road ROWs for this article.
Your property is described in the legal description on your deed. Legal descriptions are written in many different ways, but most of them include some type of metes and bounds description containing bearings and distances (parcel size and shape). The description usually includes any roads your property touches. It may also include language such as “to the title line” or to the “side of the road”. Either way, every road that is dedicated for public use is a right-of-way.
“What is the ROW width in front of my property?”
Your deed may or may not state the width of the ROW. Even if it does, it may depend on when the deed was written, as the width may have changed due to later dedications. Ask your municipality or whoever has responsibility for the road what the current ROW width is.
“What can I do with the right-of-way?”
We explain to our clients that the ROW is yours to maintain, but we recommend not placing any improvements (fences etc.) in it due to the fact that whoever has work to do inside the ROW (state, municipality, utility company, etc.) does not have to replace any of your improvements affected by their work.
“If I don’t own it, I’m not going to mow it!”
This logic does not work. You may not be deeded the land between you and the edge of the pavement, but it is your responsibility to maintain. Just ask your local municipality. Depending on where you live, they may even hand over a hefty fine for not maintaining your portion of the ROW.
Road ROWs can be complicated as not all road ROWs are the same width and even the same road can have varying ROW widths. ROWs are not the only rights that others may have to your property. Easements on your property may or may not be written in your deed. These easements can be for many things, including utilities or trails.
We have only just scratched the surface on this subject. We would love to discuss any questions you may have about right-of-ways and easements that may affect your property.
“Good fences make good neighbors.” We have all heard this saying or something very similar. As someone working in the surveying profession, I have heard it many times. Often, the saying is spot on as long as the fence is installed after a boundary survey is complete.
Here are some thoughts and suggestions from a land surveying professional to keep in mind as you begin your fencing project.
Talk to your neighbors. Let them know your plans for the fence. See if your understanding of the property line is the same. Get their input and see if they have any concerns.
Talk to your local municipality to see if there are any local ordinances regarding fencing (i.e., distance off property lines, height restrictions, etc.).
Get a survey done. Even if you and your neighbor agree on the property line location, a boundary survey will put everyone’s mind at ease. Our typical boundary survey includes clearly marking the existing corners and setting corners not found. We also mark property lines so you and your neighbor can walk the line and see where any fencing should be placed.
Oftentimes, our clients are surprised by where the line is, and I often hear, “Glad we got this done because that is not where I would have put the fence.”
A question often raised by our clients is, “Now that I know where the property line is, where should I place the fence, on the line or inside the line?” This is an excellent question, and unless required by ordinance, there is no right or wrong answer. If you place the fence right on the line, you and your neighbor will always know where the line is. The only drawback is that if you and the person next door ever become “unneighborly,” maintaining your fence could become an issue.
Good fences can make good neighbors. Let us help you ensure the fence is in the right place. No two jobs are the same; provide us with as much information and background as possible and we will make your fencing project a success.
Even though there is snow out there, we must still be vigilant against the pesky tick. While ticks are indeed more active during the summer months, you can still come into contact with them in the winter, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). I think we can all agree that ticks are disgusting, but we also know they can carry Lyme Disease. Some of us surveyors are keenly aware of this.
It is important to know as much about Lyme as possible in order to mitigate your chances of contracting it. Now I would not consider myself an expert by any means, but I will share some information that I found very interesting. I do suggest you visit the CDC website as well, as they have some helpful information. If you think you may have Lyme see a doctor right away.
Lyme disease is bacterial.
Lyme is transmitted through the bite of a Black-legged tick. Not all ticks carry Lyme.
Most cases can be treated with a few weeks of antibiotics.
Ticks can also carry other diseases. Be sure your doctor is thorough with checks.
In the era of Covid, be sure you discuss your potential exposure to ticks with your doctor. Do you spend time outdoors? Even if you don’t, do not forget your pets! The symptoms of Lyme and Covid are similar.
We can all look forward to some warmer weather and spending more time outside. Some of us spend time out there year-round, so warm or cold we share these great spaces with all creatures, including ticks. Be safe and keep up those tick checks.
When you contact our office to inquire about a survey, you will be asked many questions. This is because we want to ensure that we have all the information we need to take care of your land surveying needs. Every survey is unique, and the more information you can provide, the better we can tailor the survey to meet your needs. We have been at this for years, so we will work with you and guide you through the process.
Some surveys will require a plan, while other surveys will not. Although a plan is not required, it may still be beneficial. Let’s focus on one of the more common requests, which is, “I want to know where my property corners and lines are.” This can be accomplished with a field survey. First, we will collect all the necessary preliminary information to perform the survey and send out our crew to mark the corners and stake the property lines. For this type of survey, we offer a plan option that shows your property with deed bearings and distances, corners found or set, and stakes placed on the property lines. The plan, which will be signed and sealed by a licensed surveyor, will also show features on or near property lines, including encroachments. This plan can be helpful to reference later when the line stakes are no longer there, or you have an issue with your neighbor and need clarification. Sometimes a picture can say a thousand words.
Here at Howell Kline, we strive to make your experience with us as seamless as possible and deliver you comprehensive results. If you need a land survey, give us a call!
The question Surveyors hear most often, after “Are you taking my picture” is “If you are surveying my neighbor’s property, why are you over here on mine?” The most concise answer I can give is that to survey our client’s property, we must also “survey” the neighbors (adjoining) property.
Considerable research is conducted before the fieldwork. This includes obtaining recorded deed and plan information for our client’s property and surrounding properties. This information, among others, is put together so our surveyors have the clearest possible idea of the property and can best plan our fieldwork.
The fieldwork includes searching for our client’s property corners and adjoiner corners to verify the proper location of found corners. I often describe the process as putting a puzzle together. The deeds and plan information along with physical details found in the field are analyzed by the field crew and licensed surveyor in the office to determine the true location of property corners and lines.
The job of the surveyor is to have as much information as possible before starting fieldwork and work as efficiently as possible in the field. We strive to be as minimally intrusive as possible when working. We will communicate with adjoiners and address their concerns regarding our fieldwork.
Some things our clients can do to help us perform our jobs include notifying your neighbors of upcoming survey work and being upfront with us regarding any potential issues with neighbors.
PA Senate Bill No. 166 Session 2013 enacts a Surveyor’s right to enter the land of another to perform surveying services (Click here to view the bill!). Our surveyors will make an effort to engage adjoiners during the survey to make them comfortable with the work required to perform the survey. We can provide appropriate information to neighbors, including the name of our client and our professional certification. If there is an issue with an adjoiner that cannot be resolved in the field, the surveyor will make the client aware.
One of our goals is to leave our client’s relationship with their neighbors better than when we started. We can achieve this through friendly encounters and professional behavior. When we hear “Why are you on my property,” we most often reply with, “We are surveying your neighbor’s property….” It is our job to do everything possible to ensure that the neighbor is informed on why we need to be on their property. Most often, this can be accomplished with a smile and clear, concise information.
On a regular basis we receive calls from property owners who have searched for their property on the County Geographic information system (GIS) known asChescoViews and discovered that their neighbor‘s driveway is on their property or some other gross error is apparent.
Anyone who has worked with surveyors and GIS professionals may perceive a well-known stigma that goes along with the two. It’s a touchy subject, and both sides can be pretty stubborn about it. Surveyors may feel that GIS professionals are careless with the way they use their data. GIS professionals may insist that surveyors don’t welcome innovation. Any party who holds either belief is greatly misinformed. The fact is that when spatial data is well documented and used for the application that it is suited, conflicts and misunderstandings regarding these two geospatial practices fade. Furthermore, one may contend that there isn’t a better partnership than surveying and GIS.
The first thing we tell the owner is GIS is not a survey, but county tax parcel information overlaid onto an aerial image. Counties have had tax maps for many years. Now these tax maps are overlaid onto an aerial image and accessible online. These maps are meant to be used as a tool for the county and its residents. That neighbor‘s driveway that appears to be on your property in most cases may not be. The best way to clear up any questions about the true location of property lines is to hire a surveyor to perform a boundary survey.
What is involved in performing a boundary survey? There are several steps involved in properly performing a land boundary survey: First, we obtain copies of the record legal documents from the county Recorder of Deed. As a matter of course we obtain not only the deed for your property, but also the deeds for all the properties that adjoin yours. Many times, the deeds we obtain reference subdivision plans, if the plan was recorded, we retrieve a copy of those as well. Second, we enter the descriptions of those properties into our Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) software and piece them together like a giant, mathematical, jig-saw puzzle. Third, we send a crew to your property to look for and recover any existing property markers in your neighborhood. Once the crew has found sufficient evidence of where the property lines are, they will set any missing corner markers on your property and set stakes along the lines.
If you see one of our surveyors with a copy of a ChescoViews map out in the field do not be alarmed. We use this information as it is intended, a representation of your tax parcel and your neighbors tax parcels. We can often see why the client has concerns. We can see that driveway is “over your property line”. This helps us be sensitive to property owners’ concerns. After the survey is complete and the true boundary line is established, we can compare the ChescoViews representation and the survey lines with our client.
GIS is a valuable tool when used for the applications for which it is intended. A professional survey is the only way to determine boundary issues.