When I wrote about the Dallas Central Appraisal District website back in March, I had no idea that big changes to the property map section were in the works. It’s the only section that has changed. Of course, that’s the section many of us use on a regular basis as we do background research on different properties. The good news is, the information we have come to rely on is still there—and more. However, the new format will take a little personal training time to learn how it works.
When I spoke with Cheryl Jordan, community relations officer at DCAD and John Fell, GIS administrator (who kindly and patiently answered my questions), they explained that the website software dated back to 2002 and was no longer being supported. DCAD had no choice but to make a change. Their goal was to create a website with the look and feel of sites like Google and Bing Maps. They wanted the site to be friendlier, but at the same time more sophisticated. They determined that the best time to launch the new site was early August, after the appraisal protest period had passed.
I’m still learning how to use the site. Some of the new property map features are not intuitive. My strongest recommendation is that you give yourself a personal tutorial by working your way through the Online Help Table of Contents. You can find it on the property map page in the upper right hand corner with the “?” icon.
Here are a few new features and tips:
• The site is designed to be viewed on multiple devices similar to using GPS on your phone.
• Go to the “Find Property on Map” first. In the past I never started my research with the “Find Property on Map” but now I have discovered that is the place to start. Just type in the address, owner or account information. The parcel information and map immediately show up.
• All the properties on the street are listed, instead of having to work your way through 10 properties per page. You can easily research the other properties nearby. It also defaults to the most popular address and remembers your previous search if you need to go back.
• The aerial map is still there only much better. It now shows 2013 Hybrid and 2015 Hybrid aerial maps to give you a chance to see how the area has changed over a two-year period. What is really nice is that the aerial remains no matter how far out you zoom. The weakness is that that you can’t zoom in as close as before. DCAD is working to correct that issue.
• Another tweak in the works is adding back the measurements that used to appear on the aerial. However, doing your own measuring is much easier. The site can give you the results in a variety of measurements, including square feet, acres, hectares, meters, and so on. It will even give you the longitude and latitude. However, DCAD reminds us that their property map and other data should not be used for legal purposes, as it is designed as a reference tool. (Be sure to read the disclaimer: “This product is for informational purposes only and may not have been prepared for or be suitable for legal, engineering, or surveying purposes. It does not represent an on-the-ground survey and represents only the approximate relative location of property boundaries.”)
• The topography map is now based on FEMA information. You can easily see if the property is located in a flood plain. DCAD is also working to make this feature better by intensifying the color to stand out more.
• Printing is a lot easier. You can title your map, position it exactly how want it to appear, select a layout, and print it in a PDF format. There is also measuring information shown at the bottom of the map.
The property map section is still being refined, and DCAD welcomes feedback. The pencil icon at the top of the map pages lets you communicate directly with DCAD about the site or any questions you may have about a particular property. Your question or comment will be directed to the appropriate staff person.
I am very excited about the new DCAD map section on the website and I think you will be, too, if you take the time to work your way through the Table of Contents. Don’t try to skip it!
Eliza Solender is the President of Solender/Hall, Inc. a commercial real estate brokerage firm that specializes in representing nonprofit organizations. Contact her at [email protected].