FAQ - Last update: February 14, 2014
Help us help you. Please read this PropertyLineMaps FAQ before placing your order.
New: Here is a pdf file that shows how you can customize your map by adding your own information to the map.
Q: Why does your website look so lame compared to others?
A: Oh, you noticed. Yes, spiffing up the website is on our 'do' list. But presently our priority is to continue adding features to our code so we can efficiently provide high quality latitude longitude coordinates for property of all different kinds.
General smartphone questions
Q: What smartphones do you recommend to find property lines and property corners?
A: Any smartphone, tablet or other mobile device is OK as long as it (1) has a GPS feature and (2) can determine your position using GPS data from both the USA satellites and the Russian GLONASS satellites. The iPhone 4S and newer meet this requirement. Many Android devices also use GLONASS data to help determine your position. Mobile devices that use GPS data from both the USA and Russian satellites often get an accuracy of around 15 feet.
Q: Is it OK to use an older smartphone that has a GPS feature but does not use GPS data from the Russian GLONASS satellites?
A: No. If your mobile device is relying only on data from the USA GPS satellites then the best accuracy you get is likely around 50 feet.
Q: How does the accuracy of the GPS in a smartphone compare to the accuracy of a dedicated GPS unit such as one of the Garmin models?
A: If (1) the GPS component in your smartphone can use data from both the USA satellites and the Russian GLONASS satellites and (2) your phone has a current almanac for the Russian satellites, then I have not seen any compelling evidence showing that a dedicated consumer grade GPS is significantly more accurate than a smartphone GPS feature.
Q: Do you have any tips for using a smartphone to find property lines and property corners?
A: Yes, please see this pdf file: How to find property lines and corners with a smartphone.
This pdf file is written in plain English. It will show you (1) how to get the best possible accuracy from your smartphone or other mobile device and (2) how to use the map link we produce even if there is no cell coverage on your land.
General GPS questions
Q: What GPS units do you recommend to find property lines and property corners?
A: Either the Garmin eTrex 20 (Buttons, $200) or the Garmin Oregon 600 (Touchscreen, $400). But if you have a smartphone that can see both the USA satellites and the Russian GLONASS satellites then I also recommend you try your smartphone first before spending money on a GPS.
Q: Do you have any tips for using a GPS to find property lines and property corners?
A: Please see our GPS tips page. That page has links to the following articles that we produced:
- Read our analysis of GPS features and models
- How to load the GPX file we give you into a Garmin GPS
- How to setup a GPS
- How to find existing survey stakes and approximate property lines with a GPS
General questions about our property line map service
Q: Where is your service available?
A: Our service is available for land everywhere in the USA except land in the state of California. Service for land in the state of California might be restored in the future.
Q: If I place an order with you, what exactly do I get?
A: After your order is processed you get an email that includes (1) a link you can click that displays an online map showing your approximate property lines, (2) a GPX file with a waypoint at each property corner and (3) a cover memo. Here is an example of what you get.
Q: How can the GPS coordinates your service produces be any good given that the cost is so modest?
A: Our service produces the most accurate coordinates possible without hiring a surveyor and does so at an extremely affordable price for the simple reason that the software we developed uses a unique approach to do most of the work.
Q: When you say the land corner coordinates that your service produces are "approximate", what does that mean?
A: Our goal is to produce GPS coordinates that are within 30 feet of accurate on average, however this is not a guarantee that we will always achieve that degree of accuracy. We will always do our best to produce the most accurate coordinates possible given the information that you provide plus any online research we perform.
Q: Do you visit my property?
A: No. We do not visit your property. Instead, we can import a copy of your survey or legal description into our system. By processing your survey or legal description with our proprietary software we can produce approximate coordinates for your property corners.
Q: Can you provide an online map link showing the approximate boundary lines for remote property that is a long way from anywhere?
A: Yes. If for some reason we cannot produce coordinates for your property that meet our standards then we will tell you and there is no cost or obligation to you.
Can you provide an online map link for a property boundary that has not been surveyed?
A: Yes. Send us the information about your property and we will tell you if our system can process your land.
Q: Can your service make a map for property that is 1,000 or more acres and that is spread over several sections?
A: Yes. Here is an example showing 1,401 acres in South Dakota.
Q: Can your service give me a online map link that will show the approximate property lines for a mining claim?
A: Yes. Send us as much of the information as possible that is listed on our order page. Any kind of survey is particularly useful.
Q: I own a lot in a subdivision. Can you produce an online map link for my property?
A: Yes. If at all possible, please send us a legible scanned copy of the entire survey for the subdivision. Alternatively, you can send us a legible photograph of the survey showing your lot and several of the adjoining lots. If you send us a photo, please tell us it is a photo and not a scan. We will do our evaluation and might request some additional information.
Q: I have a property line dispute with my neighbor. Can your service help me?
A: Maybe. Take a look at some of the example maps. On average the property lines on those example maps and the GPS coordinates that we produce should be within 30 feet of accurate. No, the data we produce is not survey-grade, however for many purposes it is close enough. But if you need to know exactly where your property corners and lines are, then you need to contact a surveyor. While the online map links we produce are not surveys they can help you decide whether or not you need to hire a surveyor.
Q: Are there some properties where your system cannot produce approximate GPS coordinates?
A: Yes. It all depends on the information we have to work with. Approximately 5% of the time we have to tell the client that there is some problem that prevents us from producing coordinates for their land that meet our standards. There is no cost or obligation to you for having us review the information about your land and tell you whether or not we can produce coordinates for your property.
Q: Can you provide an example of a legal description for which you might not be able to provide approximate coordinates?
A: Consider the following legal description:
Beginning at a concrete monument on the west line of land owned by Kearse and then westerly for 600 feet more-or-less to the center of a stream and then northerly along the center of the stream to land owned by Sweeney and then easterly 325 feet more-or-less along the boundary line of the Sweeney land to the land owned by Kearse and then southerly and easterly along the edge of the Kearse land to the point of beginning.
It is impossible for us to make a decent map of this land if the only information available is this legal description. The property lines for the subject property are based on the location of land owned by Kearse and land owned by Sweeney. However, no information at all about these other parcels is disclosed. Also this legal description does not have a single actual compass bearing. Sometimes we can take a legal description like this one and combine it with other information and then produce approximate corner coordinates and an online map link. That additional information might include things like an online GIS and/or useage lines (field edge, tree line, roads, etc) that are visible on the Google aerial.
Q: My property has never been surveyed. Can I use the coordinates you provide to mark my property corners on the ground?
A: No. There are two reasons for this. First, the coordinates we provide are only approximate. Second, it might be a violation of state law for anyone, even the property owner, to mark their property corners on the ground unless they are a licensed surveyor. If your goal is to get your property corners accurately marked on the ground then you must hire a surveyor.
Q: Can I use your coordinates to determine if my neighbor's building or my neighbor's road is on my land?
A: No. The only way to know for certain whether anything like a building or road is on the wrong side of the property line is to know the exact location of the property line. The only way to know that exact location is to hire a surveyor.
Q: Do the approximate corner coordinates your service produces establish the corners for a piece of property?
A: No. In order to establish property corners on the ground you need to be a licensed surveyor. Instead, each coordinate we produce corresponds to a spot that is located at (1) an unknown distance and (2) unknown direction from the actual property corner. In other words, each coordinate establishes an area of an unknown size that contains a corner at an unknown location within that area. Our goal is to produce coordinates that on average are within 30 feet of accurate. However, there will be times when the information you provide to us together with our own online research does not let us achieve that accuracy goal.
Q: What are your 'Terms of Service'?
A: Please see:
General question about ordering GPS coordinates for your property corners
Q: Why can't I pay you at the same time that I send you all the information about the property?
A: There will always be some property where there simply is not enough information for us to be able to produce approximate corner coordinates that meet our standards. We want to review your information and tell you whether we can do the work before you pay us.
Q: How long does this take?
A: After you send us the information about your property we will respond within 24 hours and tell if we can provide you with approximate GPS coordinates for the property corners that meet our standards. In some cases we might ask you to first send us some additional information. After we have reviewed all the information and determined that we can process the property, then our goal is to send you the results within 24 hours from when we receive payment. Special order maps might take an extra day. When you make your payment, PayPal automatically sends us an email.
Questions about surveys, legal descriptions and other information we ask you to send to us
Q: I do not have a survey and am going to send you the legal description instead. Where can I find my property legal description?
A: The property deed is the best place to find the legal description. The second best place to find the legal description is the local property tax records. Sometimes tax records use an abbreviated form of the legal description that leaves out important information that appears on the deed.
Q: My property was surveyed but I do not have a copy of the survey map. Can you provide GPS corner coordinates?
A: Yes. Send us a copy of the legal description for the property.
Q: How can I tell if my property has been surveyed?
A: Look at your legal description. If you see a series of distances that are given to the nearest 1/100th of a foot (i.e. 251.78), then your property was surveyed. If you do not see distances like that, then you cannot make any conclusion about surveys.
Q: If I send you a copy of my survey, what do you do with it?
A: We use our proprietary software to make an approximate digital copy of your survey. Our internal processes then use that digital copy of your survey to produce the approximate corner coordinates for your land.
Q: I can take a nice photograph of the survey and send you that picture. Why do you prefer a scanned copy of any survey?
A: If we have a scanned copy of a survey then we will import that file into our software where it is processed. We cannot do that with a photograph since no matter how careful you are it is impossible to take a photo of a survey without distorting the lines. The newer copy machines now let you save your copy on your own memory device that you plug into the copy machine.
Q: I am going to take a photograph of my survey for your initial review. Do you have any advice?
A: Please take one photograph per page. Include the entire page in the photo. Photograph all of the pages even those that only have text. Review the photos before you send them to us. If you cannot look at the photo and read the fine print on the survey then neither can we. If the survey is quite large you could take several overlapping photos.
Questions about the online map link
Q: Your homepage says that most online maps use something called "map-in-a-link". What does that mean?
A: The online map is displayed by the free Gmap4 software we developed. We provide you with a link that you can open with your smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC. That link will start Gmap4 and display a map with your approximate property lines. The corner corner coordinates that help to produce that map are built right into the Gmap4 link that we deliver to you. This is what we mean by "map-in-a-link". A separate data file is *not* needed to hold your approximate coordinates. Below is an example showing you how a typical "map-in-a-link" looks.
http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php?t=h&label=on&tilt=off&checkheader=off&markers=//Not_a_survey___Coordinates_are_approximate|| description=plm2|| label=on|| line=on|| 44.569128,-85.134233^1|| 44.569105,-85.12916^2|| 44.565483,-85.129117^3|| 44.56551,-85.134168^4|| 44.569128,-85.134233
Q: Can I add my own information to the map?
A: Yes, you can customize your map . The link in this answer is a pdf file that contains an example and walks you through the process for customizing the online map we produce so it includes information you add to the map.
Questions about the Gmap4 software
Q: What is Gmap4?
A: Gmap4 is an enhanced Google map viewer developed by Joseph Elfelt, the owner of www.PropertyLineMaps.com. It can display more basemaps and has more features than ordinary Google maps.
Q: How can I learn more about Gmap4?
A: Go to the Gmap4 homepage and look at the FAQ and examples. Also, the Gmap4 Help page has "Quick Start" information. This link displays the default Gmap4 map of the world.
Q: How can I display contour lines on top of the Google aerial?
A: Each map has two buttons in the lower right corner (mobile) or upper right corner (laptop/desktop). One button says "Menu" and the other button has the name of the current basemap.
- Touch/click the basemap button.
- The Google aerial is called both "Satellite" (no labels) and "Hybrid" (with labels). Select either aerial.
- Touch/click the basemap button again.
- Mobile user: Scroll down to the "Overlay" section and touch "USA_contour_lines".
- Non-mobile user: Look at the column labeled "Overlays" and click "USA_contour_lines".
Q: Can I use the Gmap4 software for other things besides viewing property line maps?
A: Absolutely. The Gmap4 software is free for non-commercial use and is popular with all kinds of active people that enjoy the outdoors.
Q: Can I use the Gmap4 software for free even if I do not use your property line mapping service?
A: Yes. Anyone can use Gmap4 for free as long as the use is non-commercial.
Q: How can you afford to provide the Gmap4 software as a free service?
A: Gmap4 is supported by donations from the user community. No one is under any requirement to donate. However, if you feel that Gmap4 has been particularly useful to you then you will find a donate button on the Gmap4 homepage (see link above). Another way to support Gmap4 (and this property line mapping service) is to say something nice about it online.
Questions about the GPX file
Q: What do I do with the .gpx file I receive?
A: You do not need to put that file online. Instead, just save it on your harddrive. Use this file if you want to load the corner coordinates into a handheld GPS.
Q: How do I use the .gpx file to get the coordinates into my GPS?
A: There are a number of different programs that can load waypoints into a GPS. For example, each Garmin GPS comes with a copy of the Basecamp program. We do not provide support for those programs. In general, here are the steps for copying the coordinates from the .gpx file into a GPS:
1. Download the attached .gpx file and save it
2. Connect your .gpx to you computer
3. Turn your GPS on
4. Start Basecamp or other software
5. Use Basecamp to open the .gpx file
6. Load the waypoints and route into your GPS
Q: I am having trouble loading the coordinates into my GPS. Where can I get help?
A: If you have a Garmin GPS the best place to get help is in the Garmin forums.
Finding 'lost' survey corners
Q: In addition to the right kind of smartphone or GPS, what other tools are useful for finding survey corners?
A: Surveyors typically pound a length of iron rebar into the ground to mark a property corner. The top of the rebar often gets covered with a bit of dirt/grass/leaves/branches. After you get close to the property corner using the coordinates we provide, you might need to search for it with a metal detector (check the local rental shop) and then scrape away some dirt. Sometimes a garden trowel is all you need.
Q: I used the coordinates you provided and found survey markers close to each of those coordinates. Do those survey markers show my property corners?
A: Typically the rebar that the surveyor pounds into the ground has a plastic cap. That cap has the surveyor's identification number assigned by the state. If you find rebar close to all the approximate corner coordinates we provide and all that rebar is capped with the same identification number, then the odds are good that you have found your property corners. But keep in mind that corners on old surveys may have been marked with a stone or by some other means. And of course if you need to be 100% absolutely certain that the rebar or other markers you found are in fact your property corners then you need to hire a surveyor.
Q: If the survey corner I found is not my property corner, then what is it?
A: Maybe an adjoining parcel also has a corner nearby and both corners have survey markers. Which survey marker did you find? To help find out if there are other property corners near any of yours you should try to obtain a copy of the parcel map for your area. To find out if a parcel map is available, check with the county courthouse or the local tax assessor. If you found a survey marker next to a road, maybe that marker only shows the road right-of-way and not your corner. Maybe the marker you found is not really a survey marker but instead is something that was placed in the wrong location by a prior landowner.
Q: Why do you only accept payment through PayPal?
A: That is the easiest, most efficient and cheapest way for you to pay us. It costs you nothing. You do not need a PayPal account.
Q: If I pay you and for some reason you discover that you cannot do the work after all, do I get a refund?
A: Yes, you get a prompt 100% refund.
Q: Do you accept checks?
Q: Do you have a business license?
A: Yes. Our Washington State business registration number is 602959597 and our business name is Mapping Support.
Q: Are you required to collect Washington State sales tax?
A: No. The Washington State officials reviewed our business and determined that our services are exempt from the state sales tax.