Part 1: How to use the Buncombe County GIS web site to look for Asheville real estate.
2/2009 EDITOR’S NOTE: In late 2008 the Buncombe GIS application came out with a new version. You can still search using the older website format, which this article describes, and many of the principles in this article still apply to the new format. But this “how-to” and the current GIS site are now a version out of step - we’ll be updating this guide in the future
Ever drive by a building and wonder, “Who owns that?” Today we’ll find out. This article is part of a series on Asheville’s best free real estate tools.
The Buncombe County GIS web site is a database of property card and tax information for every land parcel in Buncombe County North Carolina. This information is tied to a map interface and using it is easy once you get a little practice. Here’s my workflow. I use this website to help build a dossier on each property I am interested in - for free - so that I have a better idea of what I’m getting into…
The GIS web site: http://www.buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/gis/disclaimer.htm
First, note that the map application has a maximum screen resolution. If the map errors out mysteriously, check to see if your screen is set to a high resolution - mine errors out at 1650×1280 and I have to change it to 1280×1024 before going to the site.
It helps to have a particular tract in mind. Just to practice, let’s use your own house. At the top of the map screen is a row of buttons. Each of those buttons will either select what the cursor is capable of doing or they launch a pop up window. One of the buttons is a “search” window that lets you search by address, owner name, and a few other ways. I’ve had trouble making the search feature return usable results. The only one I have any luck with is owner name and most of the time I end up drilling down on the map to find a property anyway.
If you clicked the search tool, change tools by selecting the zoom in tool and we’ll skip the search. Click (pausing to let the map refresh) several times to zoom in, on the map, on your house. Property lines will come into view as you get close.
Once you see the property lines and have enough room to click between them, you have a couple of options. I usually choose, from the right hand menu, “2006 aerial imagery” and then I glance at my target property with the satellite image in place. You can print this if you like. Then I turn off the satellite image and, from the top menu, select “Identify.” Your chosen option will be highlighted red. With “Identify” selected, click inside the lines of your house on the map.
A horizontally scrolling window pops up with information on that property - owner name, address, tax value, and other tidbits. Useful for a quick check.
Once you’ve clicked the property with the “Identify” tool, the property should be highlighted on the map. Now, at the bottom of the map, select “Property Card.” A pop up will show with detailed owner, address, tax value, building type, and other information. It looks similar to a set up sheet from a realtor. This is also something you might print for reference.
On the property card, note the “Deed book / page” numbers. Those identifiers will help us to learn even more about the property using the Tax Registrar’s web site.
That’s it! Now you can find out who owns what, what the contact address is, when it sold last, and what the tax value is for properties around Asheville. With careful reading there is a way to calculate the last sale price as well… but more on that later. Time to explore!
– Clark Mackey, Sparkdog