Do you want to know the longitude and latitude of the corners of a parcel you are considering purchasing? The best way to determine corners is to hire a surveyor. But that costs money and you don’t even own the parcel yet!
Fortunately, you can use online resources to find the approximate coordinates of corners for many parcels. I’ll show you how.
Let’s explore an example. I have a property I was selling previously in Portland Oregon on SW Scholls Ferry Rd. We’ll find the longitude and latitude of the corners for that parcel.
Step 1: Go to Google Maps
In Google Maps there is street mode and aerial/earth mode. You may find that the satellite images in aerial mode are useful in visually locating the parcel. However, parcel boundaries and corners will only appear in street mode. You can toggle back and forth between the modes by clicking on the box in the lower left corner of your screen. Once you locate the parcel and you’re ready to find the corners you will need to be back in street mode.
Note that Google shows parcel boundaries for some parts of the US and not others. As one example, boundaries are not visible in Bend Oregon for some reason. If you’re not seeing them, verify that you’re in street mode. If you’re still not seeing them, you’re not crazy. It’s a Google limitation.
Step 2: Locate your parcel using Google Maps, your eyes, and your brain
If you have an address, enter that into Google Maps.
Or, if you don’t have the address, enter an address for an adjacent or nearby property along with the city and state. In my case, the lot I’m selling has no assigned address yet, but I do know the address for a house across the street. It is 2900 SW Scholls Ferry Rd, Portland, OR. So I enter that.
If you don’t have any addresses at all, enter the street, cross street, city and state. For example, I could enter “SW Scholls Ferry Rd and Woods Ct, Portland OR”. This will cause the map will center a block away from the lot I’m interested in.
If you don’t know the cross street, enter just the street the parcel is on, along with city and state. For example, I could enter SW Scholls Ferry Rd, Portland OR. This will cause the map to center somewhere on the correct street. In this instance, Google centered the map over 2 miles away. This strategy works best when the street is short.
If your parcel is not on a street, e.g., because it’s landlocked, do not fret. Just enter the names of any landmarks, streets, cross streets or preferably addresses that are nearby.
The goal of all the above strategies is not to pinpoint your parcel exactly. The purpose is to convince Google to center the map roughly where the parcel is located. After that’s done, you can switch back and forth between street mode and aerial mode to locate the parcel using your eyes and your brain.
After you’ve located the parcel in Google Maps, you can proceed to step 3 and begin finding coordinates of the corners.
Step 3: Find the coordinates of one corner
Study the map and consider which corner(s) you really want to know the coordinates for. All four? Just the two corners by the street? On the Portland parcel, I will start with the northeast corner by the street.
Zoom in as far as you can on the first corner. Position the pointer at the corner. Click on that corner. A box will pop up. The coordinates appear at the bottom of the box. In the Portland example, the first number 45.502362 is the latitude and the second number -122.740488 is the longitude. These are the coordinates for the first corner. Note that longitude is a negative number.
Notice that a street address also appears in that box. That address is sometimes unreliable.
Click on the longitude and latitude. A box pops up. It shows the same longitude and latitude but this time it is in two formats.
The first format is decimal:
The second format is degrees, minutes and seconds:
These are equivalent. Consider which format you want to use. I prefer the decimal format.
Step 4: Click on the remaining corners
Now click on the other parcel corners that interest you to see those coordinates. Be sure to zoom in so that you will click accurately.
Step 5: Save it all
Below the blue box in Google, there is an option to send the coordinates to your smart phone. Or you can cut and paste the URL for the longitude/latitude and e-mail those yourself for safe-keeping.
As another option, you might print out a paper map of the parcel. You can do this from Google Maps or perhaps you have a plat map. Get a big black marker and write the longitude and latitude of each corner near that corner.
Remember to write down the negative sign in front of longitude. In the case of the parcel in Portland OR, forgetting the negative sign would send my land buyers to the middle of some crops in a rural area outside of Megdagang Zi China!
Using the steps outlined here you can find the longitude and latitude of corners for most parcels. Bear in mind that any coordinates you get from the Internet are only approximate.