When you bought your home, did you get a formal survey of the land underneath the house? Are you sure the fence line you see is a true indication of the end of your neighbor’s garden and the beginning of your swimming pool, and that the real property line doesn’t run through your master bedroom?
Land surveys these days are not very common when you buy a home. The protocol is that a title company for the buyer and/or seller upon an agreed sales contract will review the land description associated with the address. The seller’s title company will ensure for the buyer that the deed being passed on in the sale has the correct boundary lines. The buyer’s title company (they can be the same company) will ensure for the lender that the buyer doesn’t have any unexpected liens before giving out the loan.
Well, how did those original lot lines get set up? That’s an old bit of history. Right after the Revolutionary War, the federal government became responsible for a ton of land west of the 13 original colonies. After that war, some legislators wanted to give parts of the new lands to surviving solders as a reward for their service, while others wanted the new lands sold to pay off war debt. Thus, a law was passed in 1785 requiring one big systematic survey of the new federal lands, which subsequently led to more laws creating an overall mapping system in the country. This is the basis for land transfer and ownership today, and it all revolves around the longitude and latitude lines.
Years later, as settlers moved into Utah, surveyors plotted out Salt Lake City and the subsequent counties and cities that developed. They had to get a “beginning point” from which to start—it’s called the “Salt Lake Base and Meridian” and is located in Temple Square. There’s a stone monument just outside the square on the southeast corner stating the fixed point as Latitude 40°26’04”, Longitude 111°54’00”, and Altitude 4327.27 feet. This was approved by Brigham Young on July 23, 1847, and soon the streets were laied out, named and numbered from this point of measurement. Those measurements are of public record.
In Utah, the land is laid out in “townships,” which are six miles square, containing 36 miles. These are divided into sections, which are one-mile square. That square is divided into 640 acres, the acres drawn into lots/parcel numbers. Your property tax number associated with your land is made up of four sets of numbers, such as 16-27-474-011. That’s your township, section, block and parcel. Easy peasy.
Because our city properties have been measured and re-measured by local authorities, we don’t usually have a survey done as part of a normal real estate contract. I’ve never seen one done as part of a condo sale. But I’m not saying you shouldn’t have survey on the property you are buying. Notice when you walk around the yard—do the fences seem right? Does one meander into the neighbor’s yard and doesn’t look straight? Then get a licensed surveyor to measure just that one lot line. It’s cheaper than a full survey and will answer the age-old question—who do these apricots belong to?!
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