When it comes to property lines, a fence doesn't always mark the spot.
Terri Ellis, now an Angie's List member, learned that lesson after moving into her Weddington, North Carolina, home. The lot was supposed to be a 1-acre rectangle, she says.
After hiring a licensed surveyor, she learned her lot extended 35 feet beyond the back fence and up to 6 feet beyond the side fences.
"It was a big chunk of property," Ellis says.
Every land transaction should include a professional survey, says Andrew Ritter, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors.
"It saves trouble today, tomorrow and down the road."
Owners of existing homes too often rely on imprecise anecdotal evidence, such as what their real estate agent might have told them, says Jason Wylie, owner of highly rated County Surveying in Denver, North Carolina.
When he marks property lines, neighbors may get upset if they think he's incorrect. He explains his measurements, sometimes even marking their corners for them.
"We try to be friendly with everyone and help the neighbors see why we're doing it where we are," he says.
Lori Gattuso, co-owner of Stronghold Fence Inc. in Waxhaw, North Carolina, says her crews encounter confusion as well.
"A lot of people think their property is bigger than what it is," she says.
Homeowners associations typically require fences to follow the property line, so her crews work from a survey map and build the fence accordingly, sometimes to the dismay of neighbors.
"They'll come out and say, 'This is where I mow up to. You can see my mow line.' When we show them that their property from the survey is 2 or 4 feet in, they are quite surprised, sometimes angry," she says.