QUESTION: “I recently looked at a piece of property I’m interested in purchasing, using my local county tax assessor’s website. The aerial map view of the parcel shows the neighbor’s metal shop halfway over the line in common with the property in question. How can I be sure that I am not buying a piece of property that has an encroachment?”
ANSWER: I personally depend on the Georgia tax assessor’s website daily in my routine work. The information the website provides is a tremendous asset to real estate professionals, common patrons and land surveyors alike. A lot of the information can help you decide if the property you are considering is a good investment choice for your needs. The map view often provides a good general idea of what a landowner may own inside of the tax parcel that he or she claims in ownership.
However, the tax parcel lines drawn are close — but not exact. The information used to create these parcel lines is generated with the best available data, derived from the most recent survey provided to the tax office. In some cases, this could mean lines generated from a land survey done in the early 1900s. This is by no fault of the property owner or the local tax assessor’s office; the property just may not have a current survey on record.
The tax assessor’s property lines should always be considered an approximation. Some county GIS websites even include a disclaimer to ensure the common patron understands that the information provided has been derived from the best available data and may or may not be exact.
The solution? Always hire a surveyor to verify a property line in question — especially before you assume that there are or are not any encroachments the property.