How to Locate the Property While Doing Research

How to Locate the Property While Doing Research

Here are some helpful hints on how to find properties when inspecting them prior to completion of the purchase


  1. The property has a street address. If this is the case, finding the property is very simple. Go Online to or and enter the street name and the city/town name. If available, the zip code and the approximate property location will appear. You will then be able to zoom in or out at your convenience until you can clearly tell where the property is located, relative to its surroundings. Once you identify the approximate location of the property you can compare the detailed view of the property location (from with the plat map (available on many county webpages as well as in the County Assessor’s/Appraiser (or Clerk’s) office).
  2. The property is in an area with no street signs. In this case, it is recommended that you print out the detailed Topographical map available through the “TOPO MAP” link for each property or by purchasing a good topographical mapping software such as If possible, it is also strongly recommended using a GPS Unit (Global Positioning System) to help you find the property location. Basic handheld GPS systems are inexpensive and can be purchased at any major electronic store. Ideally, such a GPS device can be connected to a laptop or handheld device running any of the major mapping softwares. This will give you a fully functioning multi-color interactive GPS system.


Most counties, in most states, have a very explicit numbering system to identify the individual parcels and its location in the county. Those numbers in many cases also serve as identifiers for property tax collection purposes.
Much of the Western United States uses a Assessor Parcel Number (also called APN) that consists of several sets of numbers XXX-XX-XXX and sometimes also XXX-XX-XXXX, or also different combinations of numbers like XX-XXX-XXX-XX. For example in the case of the xxx-xx-xxx the three parts of each parcel number represent the Assessor's Book, the Page, and the Parcel. For example: parcel number 503-90- 664B means that this property is mapped in the Assessor's Book number 503, on Page 90, and it is parcel 664B on that page.
In California, the numbering is similar, but there is a slight difference between the Assessor's Parcel number and the Assessor's Tax number.
In other states you might see a combination of two numbers first and then a set of up to 10 numbers separated from the first ones by only a hyphen.
To find a property on a Parcel Map, look for the last set of numbers on the parcel number and find it in the Parcel Map attached to each property listing. Once you found them you found the property.

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Copyright 2007 Yeti Marketing, LLC

Rectangular survey system (Ranges / Townships / Sections):

Looking at a Parcel Map and/or the short legal description, how do I find out where this parcel is in relation to other parts of the County, State, USA?


Several methods of description are used in the United States: (1) Rectangular survey, and (2) subdivision lot and block.
The rectangular survey system is based on two sets of intersecting lines: principal meridians and base lines. Principal meridians are north and south lines, and base lines run east and west. Both can be located exactly by reference to degrees of longitude and latitude. Each principal meridian has a name or a number and is crossed by its own base line. Each principal meridian and base line is used to survey a specific area of land.


The land on either side of a principal meridian is divided into 6-mile wide strips by lines that run north and south, parallel to the meridian. The north-south strips of land are called ranges. They are designated by consecutive numbers east or west of the principal meridian.


Lines running east and west of the base line six miles apart are referred to as township lines and form strips of land (or tiers) called townships. These tiers of townships are designated by consecutive numbers north or south of the base line. The township squares formed by the intersecting township and range lines are the basic units of the rectangular survey system. Theoretically, townships are six miles square and contain 36 square miles.


Each township contains 36 sections. Sections are numbered consecutively, 1 through 36, as illustrated in

Figure A

, with section 1 being in the upper right-hand corner of the township. Each section contains 1 square mile, or 640 acres of land, and is commonly divided into half sections (containing 320 acres), quarter section (160 acres), and further divisions of halves and quarters for reference purposes.
For example:


“The E1/2 of the NW1/4 of Section 17, Township 14 North, Range 4 West of the 6th Principal Meridian.” In the above example, the land described would have an area of 80 acres (the NW1/4 equals 160 acres; ½ of this 1/4 equals 80 acres). Generally, the smaller a parcel of land is, the longer its legal description will be.
Subdivision Lot and Block:


The second method of land description is by lot and block number in a subdivision plat. When land is subdivided by its owner, the first step is the preparation of a plat map survey by a licensed surveyor or engineer. On this plat, the land is divided into lots and blocks, and streets or access roads for public use are indicated. The lots and blocks are assigned numbers or letters.
#1. Source: “Real Estate Fundamentals, 6th Edition, 2003”. Gaddy Jr., Wade E., Hart, Robert E.

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