Online property information from the the City of Nanaimo map

Ryan Coffey
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There is lots of information in an MLS listing, and there is more that us Realtors can figure out by asking a few of the right questions to the owner or listing agent. There is a lot more we can find out by looking at various documents and then having an inspection done. And, you guessed it, there is even more information to be found via a way that I am about to share with you.

Let me explain the usefulness of this online tool by use of a common example.

When I have a client who is looking at a property, I am frequently asked where the lot line is. This is a reasonable question but it is one that I cannot generally answer with certainty.  At least, not without doing some research. White pegs may be there if it’s new, but they don’t usually last long. In most cases, the lot line is where it appears to be; in line with the fence, a pole, where the grass is trimmed differently, but there are exceptions.  There is always a chance, however slim, that it is not where the fence or line in the grass/dirt is. That fence may have been put in the wrong place or the understood boundaries between neighbours may have slowly drifted over the years and the only sure way to find out is to get a survey and that costs the Buyer hundreds of dollars. Sometimes there is an old one on hand but usually not.  If I’m you’re Realtor, you don’t want me giving you my best guess when I answer a question. You want to know that the information is correct and if there is any doubt about it, how much doubt there is and why.

So, my stock answer is something along the lines of “I don’t know, but the city’s website has a pretty useful map.” I can often feel the stare of my client at this point. Clearly it’s something they had expected me to simply have in my head so at first they don’t like my answer but then upon thinking it over (I hope) they realize that it is not out of laziness or lack of knowing what I’m doing, but out of doing my job in the best way I can.

But, we still don’t know where the lot line is and it’s slightly crazy to get a survey done for every property you look at. If there is an offer on the table and a reason to be uncertain about the location of the lot line, then it might be worth doing. But thanks to satellite imaging, some clever projects at the city and the magic of the intertubes we have what is, in my understanding, a pretty accurate map of all of these things that you can access from your computer right now. Saves us worry and hassle. We just have to keep in mind that it is not absolute as there may be things in the works that aren’t showing up on the system yet which is why I recommend calling the city with questions when you have them.

It’s not just lot lines and aerial photos though. That’s just the tip of the iceberg and I use lot lines as an illustration because I think it’s something most people can relate to.  You can also use this tool to look at zoning maps, find out what garbage route it’s on, see where the drains, sewers, rights of way, elevations, slope and even the street lights are. It’s so detailed that when I go into city hall looking to ask detailed questions about a property, they are generally looking at this same source of information on their computers. There is a lot of other sources of info regarding properties on the city website as well, but each one of those is another post.

Just click here and visit the Nanaimo map.

Ryan Coffey