When you buy a house, you typically also purchase the property the house sits on. Before you start landscaping or making any kind of changes, you’ll need to consider the boundaries that outline what you actually own.

A property boundary is the specific location surrounding a piece of real estate that denotes the edge of the owner’s claim. Property lines define what the homeowner owns — as well as where he or she can be held liable for negligent acts that might occur.

What is a boundary?

Property lines, or boundary lines, are the outlined edges of any parcel of property. Real estate boundaries are generally based on county or city-defined guidelines. The property owner can use these lines as guidance when determining where to build or place things belonging to them, as well as to manage liability risks.

Property boundary lines are often listed with the county or city assessor’s office. Often, deeds also contain a description of the property lines. This will include specific measurements to describe the actual location of the property at the time of sale. Maps available at a county recorder’s office can also shed light on specific concerns.

A property survey provides the clearest outline of property ownership based on boundaries. For example, if a homeowner is planning to sell their home, or a buyer wishes to understand the true amount of property obtained in a sale, they can request a property survey. They also come in very handy in the case of a property-line dispute between neighbors.

Some properties may have easements allowing others to legally use or access the property even though it is privately owned. For example, many utility companies have easements that allow them to cross property boundaries in order to maintain power or water lines.

Boundary example

Here’s a practical example of how boundaries come into play in real estate. Let’s say the Smith family’s property extends 80 feet from the road. The boundary line is also listed as mapping coordinates on the property’s deed. The Smiths want to plant a garden toward the edge of their yard, and this allows them to know exactly where they can place it. In case of a disagreement over fencing or land use, the Smith family has documentation showing their ownership and, therefore, rights to use the land.

Bottom line

A boundary is the official line that legally delineates where one property ends and another begins. As a homeowner, knowing exactly where your property boundaries are can help you decide where to build things, like a fence, garden shed or driveway, without running into problems.