Can I Use My Cell Phone to Find Boundaries?

Land surveyors use the latest in cutting-edge technology to find property boundaries. Combined with years of knowledge and training, there’s no replacement for the wisdom and skill of a licensed land surveyor.

Sometimes people want a general idea of where their property boundary is without consulting a professional. That said, can an average person find property boundaries without training or equipment?

The answer: yes and no.

The average person can find vague approximations of where their boundary is. However, this is just for their personal use and doesn’t constitute or replace an actual survey. When in doubt, always hire a professional surveyor.

If you’re just curious about your property boundary and don’t need a pro, you can find the boundary using just your smartphone.

How to find property boundaries with your smartphone
There are a few things to keep in mind before you try finding your boundary.

First, make sure your phone has GPS. Older phone models won’t have this feature. If you have an iPhone that’s an iPhone 4S generation or newer, you should be fine.

If your phone does have GPS, make sure it’s enabled. GPS is a battery-eater, so the feature is usually turned off unless you enable it. If you plan to use GPS in a remote area, remember to bring an external battery to charge your phone.

Second, check to see if you can access both U.S. satellites and Russia’s GLONASS satellites. If you only use U.S. satellites, you’ll have an accuracy of within 50 feet, but with U.S. and GLONASS satellites, you can get an accuracy of within 15 feet.

Third, satellites do move! Check the best time to use a satellite in your area. You’ll have the highest amount of accuracy when more satellites are around to gather data.

Follow these steps to find the approximate boundary for a property:

  1. If you want a very general idea, Google Maps does outline property boundaries. Shift out of the Satellite view and go to Map view. You’ll see the boundary of a property highlighted in yellow as you zoom in.
  2. If you want to get more specific, you’ll need the coordinates of a boundary point. These can often be obtained in the survey or legal description of your property.
  3. Go to Google Maps. Click on the More icon to go to “Labs NEW!” and click on LatLng Marker. This feature will let you input longitude and latitude coordinates for a property corner. You want to be very specific with the coordinates; the more decimals, the better the accuracy. As a good practice, always enter at least five figures after the decimal for any coordinate.
  4. Drop Markers at each of the boundary points on Google Maps. The resulting outline of connected Markers is approximately your property boundary.

As long as you have a modern smartphone and a little information on your land, you can create a quick visual reference to check out your boundary.

The last word
Remember that the boundary you locate with Google Maps isn’t a true survey. It’s not official or legally binding. It should only be used for informational purposes. Don’t get in hot water—to find your true boundary, always consult with a licensed land surveyor.