How to Determine a Real Property Boundary With GPS
Determining the exact boundary lines of a piece of real property is very important, whether you're involved in a land transaction or are simply trying to figure out where your new fence should go. Professional surveyors can cost many hundreds of dollars to provide exact measurements of your property boundaries. Using a Global Positioning System, or GPS, device, you can find corner monuments or formulate a close approximation of your boundary lines.
Things You'll Need
- GPS mapping software
- GPS device
- Legal survey document
- Boundary markers
Upload a GPS mapping software application to your GPS device. For instance, ExpertGPS, developed by TopoGrafix, and Global Mapper, developed by Blue Marble Geographics, are programs that let users upload topographical maps and other aerial land views directly to their GPS devices. GPS mapping software packages range in price from free trials up to $400 for a full software suite.
Obtain a legal survey document that contains the exact coordinates of your property boundaries. Property coordinates can be found in plat maps, legal land survey reviews or mortgage maps. Contact your county clerk's office or mortgage servicing institution to obtain one of these documents.
Determine the basis of bearing for the coordinates given in your legal survey document. This should be explained in the document. The basis of bearing could use either geodetic north or magnetic north, or coordinates could be based on an "assumed north" that doesn't use either of the previous fixed points. Make sure that your GPS mapping software is set to the appropriate reference point for accurate positional readings.
Choose a waypoint from which to start marking your real property boundary. Enter the coordinates for one corner of your property. Some GPS mapping programs will let you enter multiple coordinates and make a route out of the real property boundaries. If not, simply upload each coordinate separately as a waypoint.
Use your GPS device to walk to the first waypoint that you logged into the mapping software. Load the waypoint in your device and select "Go To" or the appropriate option.
Place a boundary marker in the ground when you reach the property corner, according to the GPS device. If you weren't able to upload all coordinates into one route, load the next waypoint of the boundary from your GPS device. Select "Go To" and walk to the next waypoint.
Place a boundary marker in the ground. Continue to repeat this procedure until all corners of the real property boundary have been marked.
Tips & Warnings
- Public domain information on latitude and longitude coordinates may be helpful in your GPS search for real property boundaries. For instance, the network of Continuously Operating Reference Stations, managed by the National Geodetic Survey, provide satellite data that can improve the precision of GPS calculations.
- A real property boundary marked using a personal GPS does not have the same legal worth as a boundary determination by a professional surveyor. Consult with a local surveyor or real estate agent to verify your GPS results before using them to support any legal claims.
References & Resources
- ExpertGPS: How to Survey Your Property Lines Using a GPS Receiver
- Hanley Law: Real Property - Boundary Disputes
- Boundary Dispute Law Blog
- National Geodetic Survey: Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS)
- Point of Beginning: Geodetic Surveying Made Plain - Where's North?
- IPS Community: Finding Property Lines?
- Blue Marble Geographics: Download/Purchase Global Mapper