Boundary Issues: Where Do You Draw The Line?

By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor at Candy's Dirt

The annual Texas Land and Title Institute has successfully plowed through the snowy Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio. Jam packed with attorneys and title professionals from across the state, this conference had an impressive Dallas contingency braving the cold.

I caught up with Chicago Title‘s Bill Woodall and Debby Moore, who are recently engaged and attended this event. These two make up the newest and best looking power couple in the title business. Bill runs two offices, serving residential and commercial closings in both Preston Center and on LBJ. Debby specializes in commercial closings. That’s a lot of title industry brain power under one roof.

We chatted about surveys, easements, encroachments, and boundary line issues. Not the typical lunch conversation for most couples. But survey techniques and standards have changed in recent years causing property line issues all over the state. And these pros deal with them daily.

Disputes over property lines and encroachments can cause big problems for buyers, sellers and their neighbors. There hasn’t been this much uproar over a few inches since Lorena Bobbitt took a knife to her husband. Even a few inches of Dallas real estate is too valuable for people to want to give it up.

Typically, today’s surveys can vary from previous surveys by 6 to 9 inches. And you can’t simply rely on a fence being your property line any more. Moore points out that surveys used to be performed with chains and other measuring devices. “Now they do them with GPS and satellites. It’s creating changes in boundary lines,” she says.

Woodall recommends dealing with potential property line problems before they become an issue. “When an agent takes a listing, they should ask for an existing survey. Take a look at the boundaries and walk the property,” he advises. “See if there have been any changes like a new fence. Get clarification from the property owner about what’s been done. Address it as soon as you know about it.”

The title company determines if a new survey is needed or if an existing one can be used. Since they are the ones insuring the title, they want to be sure the property lines and all improvements, like buildings, pools and fences, are accurately reflected. They also need to ensure the buyer is aware of any easements or encroachments.

If there are any issues with neighboring properties, they can help offer solutions. Boundary line agreements help get parties to agree on their boundaries and allow encroachments or easements to remain. An in-house or independent real estate attorney can prepare the necessary boundary line documents to keep everyone satisfied.

We’ve all got our boundaries. In real estate, we don’t expect them to change. But like a conventioneer at a complimentary happy hour … they can.