The Fence that Wasn't

Posted By Kent McMillan on 4/21/2009 at 9:25 PM

I've been trying to get some work finished up so I can get started on the 8,000 ac. ranch survey out in West Texas that I mentioned a couple of days ago. Two of the things are little jobs, a resurvey of a remainder of 9.073 ac. tract that I originally surveyed about 17 years ago and a survey of another tract that was a 30 acre remainder of a tract that I had also previously surveyed. In theory both should have been clean work. I already had good files developed for both projects, so the research effort needed was light. I don't like to turn repeat clients away if I can help it, so I agreed to do both.

In 2005, I'd visited a couple of the corners of the 9.073 ac. tract that fall along a county road. At the time it struck me how nearly unchanged everthing looked compared to 1992. In 1997, the purchaser of the 9.073 acre tract had sold off a lot out of the Northwest corner with a mobile home and some sheds on it. I'd made a survey to cut that parcel out and noted in 2005 that the same mobile home and sheds were in place. The fences looked unchanged.I'd driven past the property earlier this year and had noticed that everything still looked remarkably similar, same old fences and improvements pretty much.

Naturally, Texas land title surveying involves examining the adjoining landowners' deeds to see whether boundary conflicts exist. So I pulled the current owners' deeds and saw that all but one described the various parcels by reference to the metes and bounds descriptions I'd prepared from my original surveys.Well, that was all reassuring, if a little boring. There weren't any conflicts and I knew quite a bit about the surveying, so I didn't expect much could go wrong there.

But then I looked at the deed by which the heirs of the former landowners who had sold the 9.073 ac. in 1992 had conveyed the supposed 131.60 ac. remainder of the land. That deed described a tract of 131.60 ac. by metes and bounds from a survey done in 2006 by another local surveyor.

The boundary of the 131.60 ac. described by metes and bounds is the reddish line on the sketch below. The correct boundaries of the various senior parcels sold off by the predecessors of the seller of the 131.60 ac. are shown in blue.

Actually, the blue lines are the boundaries of the 9.073 ac. sold in 1992 and the little parcel with the mobile home on it cut out of the 9.073 ac. You'll note that the reddish boundary of the 131.60 ac. remainder tract cuts right through the original 9.073 ac., cuts though the parcel sold out of its Northwest corner, and even cuts through the carport and mobile home.

So, in the words of Jerry Seinfeld, what's up with that? I called:

- my client,
- my client's realtor (to let her know that the closing would most likely be delayed),
- the title company, and
- the surveyor who had surveyed the 131.60 ac. tract and prepared a metes and bounds description of it.

"That was how we found the boundary fenced," he said. "There wasn't any mobile home or improvements on that tract when we made the survey in 2006."

"Well," I said, "unfortunately I have maps of the improvements as they existed in 1997 and it all remains basically as it was." I didn't mention the aerial imagery on Terraserver that shows the same thing.

"Oh, there was a fence there in 2006," he said, or something pretty much to that effect.

"Well," I said, "shall I send you a copy of the senior deed so that you can see for yourself the large conflict that the conveyance using your description has created.?"

"Yes, please do. I can't believe that the title company didn't catch this."

Okay, so the fellow I was talking to had apparently not done sufficient research, had sent a field party out to survey in whatever they could find that looked like a boundary marker and fell near a fence corner, and now he believed it was all the title company's fault.

I thought to myself that the whole tale had an eerie similarity to some stuff one reads on this message board. What is even weirder is that this is a true story.

Best regards,
Kent McMillan, RPLS Austin TX

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