A generally accepted method for identifying boundary lines and verifying the size of a property is to have the property surveyed, and corners identified and marked. A survey will confirm that the legal description is accurate and that any presumed fences or other boundary markings are correctly located.
In a recent case, a land owner disputed what the surveyor told him about where the location of a corner was located. Once convinced, the land owner insisted that the surveyor move an old axle that had been driven in the ground as a marker that identified the assumed corner (when they bought the property), and move it to the corner that was now identified by the legal survey. The surveyor refused to move the marker, but noted its location on the new recorded survey. What had been noted as the known corner marker for many decades had been inaccurate. The reluctance of the surveyor to remove the old axle may be rooted in the fact that it is illegal to remove survey pins (it is a felony).
The following is an interesting and true observation written by Neil Shelton as it appeared on an internet posting; “If you’ve ever wondered over the deed to your homestead or the strange designations you’ve seen in your real estate tax bill, you’ve come face to face with a legal description. Ever since man started slicing up the earth and deciding which pieces of it belonged to whom, there has been a need for defining exactly where any given piece of land might lay. In early Britain, this was handled in a memorable fashion; the policy was to take a young child from the neighborhood, lead him one by one to the corners of the tract of land in question, then give him a severe thrashing at each location. The theory was that the child would long remember each spot (if beaten with sufficient gusto) and could testify to its location long into the future.” Of course this method seems severe but illustrates the importance of knowing your property corners.
I have found through the years that most people really don’t know exactly where their property boundaries are located! If you are a buyer, identifying the boundaries should be one of the main contingencies of the sale. Since the listing broker or the selling broker are not responsible for discrepancies in boundary lines, buyers should be careful to insist on a legal survey.