Every parcel in the United States has a unique code assigned to it which is used by tax assessors as a kind of inventory number for tax purposes. These are most commonly referred to as Assessor Parcel Numbers, or APNs, but may also be known as Assessor’s Identification Numbers (AINs), Property Identification Numbers (PINs), Property Identification Numbers (PIDs), Property Account Numbers or Tax Account Numbers. Originally created for property tax purposes, the APN is also a common way to search for parcel data.
Taxation has existed since the beginning of human civilization. Before money was invented, governments collected a percentage of the crops raised on a property. The earliest tax records ever discovered were records etched on clay tablets that date about 6,000 B.C. Since then, governing powers throughout history and around the world have had systems for keeping track of properties for taxation.
In the 11th century, tax assessors in England kept Domesday books to track how much someone owed and where they lived, which today are still referred to by some as ‘Doomsday books.’ The first known taxes in the United States were implemented by the Pilgrims in Plymouth, MA. A numbered map system was used by tax assessors in Boston in 1676, showing the boundaries of every property and its owner and listed its tax, value and assets. Corresponding records showed each taxpayer’s name, their land acreage and house values, the number of farm animals and their personal estate.
While assessor parcel numbers are still used to inventory property for tax purposes, their usefulness has evolved far beyond. Today APNs are used to connect parcels to their ownership history, sales data, lending history, fire, flood, and other natural hazard information, and information from just about every government and private entity influencing or influenced by, the property. We’ve come a long way from clay tablets. Today, digital, interactive APN maps are accessible on the interwebs at the click of a mouse. And ParcelQuest continues to innovate.
In California, APNs are used to inventory or identify a property. While the specific length and format can vary from county to county, APNs generally look something like the example below and help identify a parcel’s location on an assessor’s plat map.
Although individual plat maps (pages) are now digitized in most counties, they were once organized into groups (books) for filing purposes, hence the terms ‘book’ and ‘page.’ In the above example, the first three numbers in the series (006) are the map book which is the largest geographic unit within a county’s parcel numbering system. The next three numbers (015) refer to a specific map page within the map book. The seventh digit (3) represents a city block number found on that map page. (Note that not all pages have blocks. If this is the case, the block digit in an APN will be a zero.)
The next three digits (011) refer to the specific parcel on a block or on a page (if there is only one block on the page). Finally, the last four digits are all zero if the assessment represents a fee simple estate, or absolute ownership. Numbers other than zeroes are used if the rights have been divided for assessment purposes (for example condominiums, possessory interests, and tax segregations).
When searching for property information at ParcelQuest.com, there are several search options which make use of the APN. Whichever you choose to search by, we make finding what you need easier than Rickey Henderson stealing bases.
In our opinion, Assessor Parcel Numbers don’t get the recognition they deserve, yet they do a ton of heavy lifting when it comes to helping people like you find the property data they need. At ParcelQuest, we make sure every APN (all 13 million+ parcels of ‘em) packs the most punch to promptly get you the most accurate California parcel data possible.