Buying A House? Use Google Maps to Help You Locate The Property Lines

by Bryan McDonald on May 5, 2010

Google Maps has started to integrate plat maps into their maps.  This is an exciting feature that might one day help anyone to find the approximate location of the property lines for a house.

Update. Due to some confusion this blog post had been updated.

Disclaimer. Google Maps is not a replacement for a survey from a licensed surveyor and should not be used as a replacement for the actual plat map from your county’s tax assessor. You should also note that any recent changes to the property lines might not be reflected on Google maps or the tax assessor’s website and might not be accurate.  Always refer to the actual plat map or recent survey for accurate property line.

This blog post is a Glimpse into the future. As of right now, you can not use Google or any other online mapping service to accurately find your property’s boundaries. While Google does publish plat maps online, these could be grossly inaccurate, not to mention, the GPS signal on your SmartPhone is not strong enough to give an accurate enough reading. Please consult a licensed surveyor or engineer to survey your property.

So why even blog about it if you can’t really use Google to find your property lines? Because one day, maybe 30 years from now, you will be able to use Google or a similar service to find the approximate location of your property lines. Will it replace a licensed surveyor or engineer? No. But it will be a useful tool for anyone interested in buying or selling real estate.

More and more data is becoming available online that affects everyone in real estate; appraisers, agents, brokers, surveyors, and home inspectors. Websites like Zillow.com and eppraisal.com can give an estimate of your home’s value, Redfin.com can replace your real estate agent or broker and can save you thousands of dollars, and one day Google or a similar service will help you find the approximate location your property lines.

While online valuations and and online plat maps are not accurate, they are getting better as technology advances. It might be years before you can use Google to find your property lines but Here is a quick Glimpse into the future:

A Future Homebuyer:

Image looking at a house that you want to buy but being unsure how far the property extends.  You might be able to open Google Maps on your smartphone and see the approximate location of the property lines.  And because your phone probably has GPS, you will be able to walk the property lines and have your location updated in real time on the map.

GooglePlatMaps1

A Future Real Estate Agent:

Image giving a tour of a home to a potential buyer.  After the tour of the interior of the home, you can tour the exterior and the lot.  You will be able to interact with the map on your smartphone or even an iPad.

A Future Real Estate Appraiser:

Real estate appraisers appraise vacant land and it is not always easy to find the property survey markers.  Having a plat map on your smartphone will be a convenient way to make sure you know where the property line are.

The iPhone 3GS has a built in compass that will make the map rotate as you rotate the iPhone.  This will allow you to know approximately where to walk if you wanted to walk along the property lines.  Not sure how to integrate the iPhone compass?  You can read How To Integrate The iPhone Compass With Google Maps.

The Bottom Line

Any online service will never replace a licensed surveyor or engineer but one day it will be a useful tool for anyone needing to know the approximate location of their property lines. Will this happen anytime soon? No, it might be 30+ years before it happens, but it will. And of course we could debate this time frame but in my opinion it will eventually become fairly accurate (but still not a replacement for a surveyor). There is already one iPhone app available that uses your phone’s GPS to calculate the size of your lot, of course it shouldn’t be used on anything smaller than 1 acre, but as technology improves, there will be more apps and online services like this.

As far as taking work away from Surveyors, this is another interesting topic.  I am a licensed real estate appraiser. Appraisers are slowly being replaced by computer models. Will a computer ever fully replace a licensed appraiser? No, but it will come close. Banks are already using these computer models to replace an appraisal or supplement an appraisal report. This has been happening for years and the computer models are getting better and better. More and more data is available online. Tax records, security deeds, warranty deeds, some counties have house sketches online, and electronic plat maps are available. Are all of these records 100% accurate? No, but they are improving each year.

Will Google or some other on line service replace an actual surveyor or engineer? No, but in the future it might be used as a supplement to an actual plat map.

Related posts:

  1. How To Integrate The iPhone Compass With Google Maps
  2. Will Google be the Appraiser’s Source for Plat Maps?
  3. Google Maps Labs and 9 New Experimental Features
  4. How To Use Google Maps to Show Your Geographic Competency

{ 4 comments }

Real Estate Appraiser Tips May 7, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Bryan, thanks so much! This is incredible….I had no idea I could do this with my iphone. Again, thank you! I shared this on Facebook today. Bill

And, thank you for your help last week also! I’m mailing you something. Bill

Bryan McDonald May 7, 2010 at 1:30 pm

No problem Bill!

Tom Horn May 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Bryan,
Great post. Talk about having information at your fingertips! I can see where this will be a great help to all those you have listed above.

Bryan McDonald May 7, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Thanks Tom. It was pretty fun walilking around and being able to see my location in real time on the plat map.

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