Question: I’m looking for a vacant lot to build on. I printed out a list of lots for sale and then took a drive to explore them. I was unable to locate many of them. My list includes the address of each lot, but of course, there are no mailboxes on vacant lots. Also, is there a way to determine the property lines once I do locate the lot?
Answer: I think those are great questions. Close to half of all properties in Charlotte County are vacant lots. So, it’s very common to see vacant lots surrounded by other vacant lots.
Of course, the only accurate approach to identifying the location and boundaries of a property is to get a survey. But I understand you just want a rough approximation. Here is the approach I’ve found most useful for rectangular lots.
The first step is to locate the lot of interest on the web site of your county property appraiser. In Charlotte, the link is www.ccappraiser.com. From the top menu bar, select “Record Search,” and then “Real Property.” On the resultant screen, enter the street number and street name of the address. When entering the street name, do not include the suffice. For example, if the street name is “Mark Twain Ln,” just enter “Mark Twain.” Then click the “Run Search” link near the bottom of the page.
On the resultant screen, click the “Parcel ID” link that corresponds to your address. That will display the “Real Property Record” for the lot.
On the bottom of the “Real Property Record,” click the “View Map” link. Click the “View Map” link again on the next page. This will display the “GIS” page. You will see your lot highlighted in yellow. You will also see the property lines for your lot and all surrounding properties. In the upper-left of the screen, you can click the “+” icon to zoom in, or the “-“ icon to zoom out.
Click the printer icon near the upper right corner of the screen and print this page, preferably in color. If you need help, click the “?” icon in the upper right corner for the help screens.
Towards the upper-left corner of the screen, you will see a small icon that looks like a tiny ruler. It’s a measuring tool. Click it. The “?” icon we just referenced will tell you how to use it. Now measure, in feet, the length of the property lines and write the measurements on your printout.
Using the zoom links if necessary, adjust the aerial map so that it also displays the nearest home on the same street. We need to find out the address of that home. To do this, click the Italic “i” icon to the upper right of the screen. A box titled “identify” will appear. Under “select layer,” select “Property Info.”
Now click on the home that is nearest to your lot. The identify box will now display the address of that home and a lot more. Write the address of that home on the map you just printed. Click on the ruler icon again and measure the feet from the edge of the driveway to your lot’s side, property line. Write it down on the printout.
If you can, take additional measurements from the lot’s property lines to other distinguishable reference points. On the printout, you may see tiny black lines along the street. Those are telephone-pole shadows. The layers icon on the map will let you include hydrants.
For the next step, I recommend you use a 100-foot measuring tape. Drive to the home whose address you wrote on the map. The driveway’s edge is your reference point. Use the measuring tape to locate the lot’s nearest side boundary. From that corner point, you can mark off the lot’s width and depth.
Here’s a trick my Dad taught me that doesn’t require a measuring tape yet provides a good approximation. Measure 2 points 20 yards apart. With a little practice, you can determine what stride you’ll need to walk from point to point with exactly 20 steps. Muscle memory will take over. Walking that walk will let you measure distances by multiplying each stride by 3 feet. For example, the rear property line of a lot that is 120 feet deep will be about 40 strides from the front property line.
If there are no homes near the lot of interest, use your phone’s GPS system or Google Maps to locate the lot by address. You still want to print out the aerial map from the county to see where the property lines are in relation to distinguishable terrain features, hydrants, poles, trees, bare spots, boulders, etc.
Brett Slattery is broker/owner of Brett Slattery Realty llc in Charlotte County. Brett responds to all questions and column suggestions, including those not printed due to space limitations. Reach him via 941-468-1430, Brett@BrettSlattery.com, or www.BrettSlattery.com.