Where to Get Information On Your Property
Buying a home or a piece of property is a complicated process. Often times we get so caught up in dealing with the seller, the real estate agent, the mortgage broker, and our family members that we quickly lose track of basic details about the property itself. A lot of seemingly minor details like the property line may not be important while you’re trying to work a new mortgage payment into your budget, but it is definitely something to keep handy. If you plan on making any changes to your land or your home, you’re going to go through the design/build process. During that process hundreds of questions are going to come up about your property. We’re going to give you some resources you can use to help answer a lot of those questions.
Real Estate Websites
Real estate website like Trulia, Zillow, and Redfin can be great resources for insightful property info. They don’t just have maps and pricing. Redfin in particular actually gathers data from public records and presents it in an easy to read profile for each property. Information such as the APN (Assessor’s Parcel Number), the square footage of the buildings, what municipality jurisdiction it falls under and more can be gathered from this and similar websites.
Local Municipality/City Hall
If you can’t find what you’re looking for through a real estate site, try visiting your local municipality’s land use or service department. Since we’re a California based architecture firm, we’re more familiar with local municipalities in California, but most local municipalities are structured the same throughout the county and should have a department specifically for Building, Safety, Planning and Engineering. Government employees tend to be very knowledgeable and will work with you as best they can to help you find what you’re looking for. They can answer questions about what their Development Code dictates the easements and setbacks are for your property as well as tell you what other restrictions are in place that might prevent you from moving forward with your project. These are important things to find out before you begin the design phase of your project.
Local Tax Assessor
Every Tax Assessor has different services in place when it comes to keeping the public informed about how their taxes are calculated, collected, and spent. Try visiting your local municipality’s website for a link to the Tax Assessor’s website if you have questions about property taxes or if you’re trying to track down a Parcel Map that shows your property this is a good place to start. If your property is in the County of San Bernardino, you can get access to most of this information online via the Property Information Management System Internet Site. Use Redfin to find the APN of the property and then input that number into the Parcel Inquiry to generate a Property Info report. Once you’ve found the Parcel Map, you can get the exact dimension of the property and see the property lines.
If you’re trying to track down maps, diagrams, or general geographic information about your property and the Tax assessor or City Land Use departments aren’t helping you out, try asking your local City Surveyor. The Tax Assessor relies on Parcel Maps the Surveyor creates in order to put together his/her Property Tax Roll. In most cases it’s best to just give the Surveyor’s office a call and ask your questions to the department directly since the Surveyor’s don't provide very extensive information via the internet.
If you’ve gone to all of these resources and you STILL haven’t found the answer you’re looking for, then consult an architect. As long as you’re clear about what it is you’re looking to do on your property and what it is you’re looking for, he/she will be able to help you. Most architects will be very familiar with the city or county they work in and will be able to answer most preliminary questions accurately based on the information your needs and wants. A conversation with an architect can save you a lot of time.