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GIS: The best-kept secret of real estate agents!

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

Whether you are new in the real estate world, an investor, a real estate agent, or if you have just inherited a property, learning how or where to even begin researching a property can be overwhelming. But I am here to help you! GIS is where you will begin and here’s why.

What is GIS?

There are so many tools for real estate agents to use, GIS is just one of them! But what is it? In simple terms Geographical Information System (GIS for short) is a website that has mapping and property information available to the public for free, did I say FREE? The GIS websites can show many different kinds of data on one map, such as streets, buildings, parcels, owners, and much more. This enables people to more easily find a great deal of information about a property in one place. The GIS can save you hours of research once you learn how to use the website.

Where do you find the GIS website?

Easy, just about every county, town, and municipality in the US has a GIS website. For this explanation, we will use the "county" as the example. Locating your local GIS website is as easy as typing in the search bar, the “County name + GIS” (ex. Mecklenburg County GIS). If your search does not come up, simply place a call to the local Department of Planning and Zoning or GIS department for instructions.

How do you use GIS?

GIS is where you should begin each and every time you are researching a property. You will need some type of information about a property in order to start or at the very least know the street name or location on a map. You can easily work from there. Each GIS website will have a search bar on the site to type in either an address, a parcel ID number, tax Id number, or an owner's name. This is how you start the search. Or, if you have only a street name, you may be able to find the location on the map. Often it is as simple as clicking on the parcel you have located on the map to bring up the information you need.

What can you do with the information you find?

Depending on why you are researching a property, you will be able to use the information you have gathered for listing, selling, or purchasing a property. If you have inherited a

property, this will help you in knowing the property better for its potential use, or sale.

What are some things you can discover on a GIS website?

This is the best part…you can find Parcel ID (Identification number) and address, Owners' names and addresses (could be different than the property address), purchase price, taxes, acreage, topography, zoning, possible easements, aerials, water features and many other interesting facts about a property you probably didn’t know existed or that you had access to it. Don’t hesitate to call up the local GIS department for the county you are researching for help. They will gladly walk you through the process. There is usually a tutorial offered to watch on these sites. Also, for utility locations, you will need to call up the county utility departments to find out exactly where they are located in relation to the property you are researching.

Who can use GIS?

o Real Estate Agents

o Investors

o Attorneys

o Brokers

o Developers

o Builders

o Heirs

o Anyone

Now you know why GIS is a fantastic resource! It’s free, easy to use, and provides loads of valuable information.

Here are a couple of YouTube videos discussing GIS. They are short but also informative.

Seth Williams is the host of RE Tipster on YouTube which focuses on providing real-world guidance for real estate investors. Seth has other great information on his site. Check him out.

Ed Weinberg is an investor and Broker and host of Ed Weinberg’s Real Estate Team Show.

Now that I have shared 1 major thing you need to know about land, check out the other 9 things in the book. Want to learn more about how to research a property? Check out “10 Things You Need To Know About Land.” An excellent resource to add to your real estate, home, or office library. Or carry as a pocket guide.


Cheryl L. Sain has been in the real estate industry for over 20 years and has executed thousands of land transactions with investors, developers, national builders, and individuals.


This information is provided as-is and does not in any way make or imply and guarantees as to an outcome. You will need to evaluate the information herein and consult appropriate professionals such as surveyors, attorneys, tax accountants, or any other professional agencies or broker-in-charge to acquire the information and guidance you need to help you make the decision that is best for you.


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