You Can't Read the Map If You Can't Find the Map
Modern mapping sites and software go far beyond simple aerials to include topography, geology, soil types, hydrography and much more.
But all that is no good if you don't know where to look on the map.
Finding properties on a map sounds simple...just type in the address, right?
Unfortunately, mapping software misplaces many rural addresses. My own address shows up a few miles from where it really is.
Even if you've already been to a property, rural areas tend to have huge tracts of land that look similar on an aerial. Forests, pastures, fields...add that to a couple-mile address error, and you could be scratching your head trying to find that property on a map.
Let me help you locate your rural dream properties on a Missouri map (or any map, for that matter!)
Location, Location, (GPS) Location...
With patience and the help of your Realtor, you can confidently locate each country dream property.
- If you've progressed to the visiting stage, use a GPS to tag the entrance, a building or another conspicuous landmark and save it. Make sure the tagged spot is in a cleared area that will be visible on an aerial map. Choose an older building to make sure it will show up even in aerials that are a few years old. When you start creating maps based on the GPS coordinates later, your landmark will be a final visual confirmation that you've input the coordinates correctly.
- No GPS? Document the closest road intersections. Then drive from an intersection to the property, noting the mileage and direction. Note any landmarks on the property that will stand out on an aerial map. Ahem, don't forget to note which side of the road the property is on...not that I would ever do a thing like that.
- GPS tags or the intersection method won't show you the property boundaries, so try to get a plat map and aerial with the boundaries marked. Ask your Realtor (me!) for these items. You can get them from the county if you're local. Few of the rural counties around here have plats or aerials online at this time, though Lawrence County where I live does. Go, Lawrence County!
Remember, do not enter the land without a agent accompanying you. If you're just driving by, tag the entrance. Even empty land often has neighbors keeping an eye out for trespassers.
Are You a Dreamer?
If you're at the armchair dream stage, maybe you're not comfortable calling a Realtor yet. That's fine. When you see a potential dream property on the internet, you can use a combination of the address, driving directions on the listing, and any small aerial or plat that might be included, and find the place by trial and error. It won't work for all of them, but it will work for some.
My husband and I did quite a bit of this armchair dreaming before we bought our 40 acres in Southwest Missouri. We considered garden suitability, water features, distance to towns, and more.
Playing with maps was a big part of what brought us to Missouri to buy rural property. We could see the terrain, the combination of forest and open, the good road system, the amazing number of streams.
Besides, sitting there in our comfy chairs trying to figure out the exact location of each rural property became part of the adventure. We weren't ready to buy...we just wanted to dream.
OK, I've Pinpointed a Location...Now What?
All right, take your GPS coordinates, your nearest landmark, the nearest town + directions, or whatever you have, and go forth to your mapping software or one of these sites.
Our favorite mapping site for Missouri is the Missouri Map Room. This University of Missouri site lets you easily make layered custom maps. Just click on Missouri Interactive Maps to get started.
You can use addresses, lat/long, county, township/section/range and more to find the property you're looking for. Once you've found it, you can add an amazing amount of information from aerials to agriculture to demographics to healthcare to topography. You can zoom in and out, add and remove layers, and more.
For detailed information about dirt...excuse me, "Soil"...you can go to the USDA's Web Soil Survey page and click on the big green button to start making your maps.
Go check these sites out. They're amazing.
Do I Really Need to Know All This?
Yes! Or at least some of it, depending on your needs.
If you bought a house in town, you'd want to know about the schools, the stores, healthcare and how well the neighbors behind you take care of their place, right? This is the same thing on a larger scale.
Don't wait to think about the things that are important to you.
Perhaps the area you're considering for your dream home is almost completely vertical, has soil that won't support a garden or is more than an hour from the nearest hospital. You might even travel to the wrong area of the country, looking for a combination of factors that simply aren't there.
Perhaps you see a listing that seems perfect. Map it, and find out more.
Is it a quarter mile from the railroad tracks? Maybe you love the rumble of trains. Or maybe you don't.
Does the listing say "secluded"? Map it, and see if it's secluded enough.
Exactly how much of this listing is wooded, and how much is cleared? Map it!
Does the stream mentioned in the listing run into a bigger river? Map it!
Do they grow a lot of crops around here? Map it!
Have fun with your maps. Today's wonderful maps are a great part of educating yourself about property. When you're ready, I'll be glad to help you turn those dream maps into a dream home here in Southwest Missouri.