You might be thinking about building your dream house or considering purchasing land. If so, the next step is understanding the geometry and terrain of your property, and knowing what activities will occur if you build on this property.
Start having a look at the property’s size, shape, and location. Once you’ve got the property address or commonly for vacant land you've got land coordinates, start your analysis even before you visited the property. "To be prepared is half the victory!"
First of all, figure out if the property has a plat map. You can inquire with the seller or contact County Clerk or Recorder of Deeds. A plat map means that the property was once surveyed, in general, this is good news and this means the property boundaries were once legally established, measured, and documented. The plat map also identifies easements related to your property.
In addition, while visiting a property there are several very useful apps such as Landglide.com which help to visualize the borders of your property boundaries and walk the property lines. Here you will have to know the State, County, and APN to find the property you are interested in or alternatively the name of the parcel owner. The tool will find the property for you and will show you the property borders. In addition, it will also provide some property details.
Today, Google Maps or Bing Maps, or other online maps platforms will give you a great start in getting to know your property. Just enter the coordinates of the property into the maps. Even better is if you have GPS Corner Coordinates as you could also add them to the map to approximately visualize the property borders for example, in Google Maps you can also measure a distance (with a right click on the map) from one corner to the other.
In addition, most Counties have an online GIS map with the option to get an approximate measure of the parcel and the corner coordinates. Keep in mind that this is not a guaranteed measurement, you will require to get the land surveyed to know the official parcel size and boundaries.
Maps with integrated 3D Views will help you to know whether or not the property has a slope and where the water stream is located, etc. For example, in GoogleMaps, you can select a layer named “Terrain” and by keeping the Control key and selecting with a mouse on your property you will be able to visualize its terrain by rotating, zooming in / out, and thus visualizing the 360 degrees view from your property.
Some of the maps already have integrated 3D views of objects where e.g. trees are depicted in 3D. Pretty nifty, or? Don’t forget to check the elevation of your property. For this, you can use Google Maps
In Terrain view, by slowly zooming in / zooming out on your property suddenly elevation lines appear. Look at the numbers in the elevation lines to approximately determine the altitude of your property.
Another useful tip is to use online topo maps and topographic coverage. You can use a topo map such as ungmdb.usgs.org to determine the elevations, and location of streams, creeks, and rivers. Just enter in the search field parcel address or coordinates and it will open a topo-map for the location.
Terrain view of Modern maps will allow you to see if your land is wooded and in most cases see how well the lot is accessible - are there roads or not. Sometimes in a very densely wooded area, it is difficult to see the road, it might be existing, but in some cases it might also be overgrown with trees.
Depending on the location of your land and mostly when your property is bordering a street, Google Maps will allow you to browse “Street View” images to directly see the street view near your property.
Don't forget to print the material and maps you prepared before visiting your property.