When buying a home, you’ll inevitably find yourself inundated with paperwork, complicated documents full of information about your next potential home. One of these documents is the plat map, and it’s normally given to you when you’ve carried out a title search on a particular property.
You may be tempted to put it to one side and let someone else worry about it. However, a plat map is an extremely useful tool for home buyers, and with a little knowledge, you can often use it to your advantage. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a plat map?
A plat map is essentially a map of a larger area, typically a neighborhood, that has been subdivided into a number of separate plots of land. In a residential neighborhood, most of these plots will typically be used for building homes on, though public plots are also listed. These show where things like parks, playgrounds, and public utilities are to be placed.
What’s on a plat map?
Besides the individual plots of land, a plat map will also show all nearby streets, boundary locations, potential flood zones, and importantly, any easements on a plot of land. A plat map will also show the dimensions of each plot, as well as the house number on the street, the parcel number, and the lot number. Additionally, each plat map will list the ‘tract orientation’, which displays the direction the property is facing.
How a plat map can help a home buyer
Having all of this information at your fingertips is extremely useful when you’re buying a home. It essentially allows you to double-check that what the seller is claiming is true. There are 3 major ways a home buyer can use a plat map to help them make the best choice about buying a property or not.
Property size and boundaries
It’s not uncommon for the plot size to be listed higher or lower than it actually is, so by double-checking the plat map, you can be sure you’re getting everything you’re paying for. It’s also useful to check exactly where your boundaries start and end, as you might notice either that a neighbor has built on your future land, or that your own future plans encroach on your neighbor’s territory.
One of the most important things to check is whether there are any easements on the land you wish to buy. Easements grant access to your land either for the general public, or for utilities, and it’s good to know about them in advance. They can also indicate whether public access is to be granted in the future, and can allow a future roadway to be built through your land.
Knowing exactly what, if any easements are granted to your land, can have a huge influence on whether you buy the property/land or not. Sellers don’t always tell you outright about easements, and often, looking at a plat map is the only way to be sure you won’t wake up to find the construction of a new road is starting in your backyard a few years down the line.
A plat map will let you know for sure which direction the property you’re interested in is facing. This can be extremely important in a number of scenarios. For example, if you plan to install a solar panel array, it’s important to have southern exposure to make the most of the sun’s rays. Alternatively, perhaps you want to ensure you can see the sunrise from your kitchen window each morning, or avoid the most powerful rays from getting into your bedroom at dawn. A plat map can ensure your future home ticks all the right boxes.
So, if you’re planning to buy a new home, be sure to take a good long look at the plat map before you sign on the dotted line. An experienced realtor can help you read the map if you’re having trouble, but for the most part, they’re fairly easy to understand, since only important information is listed.