Buffer & Shapes: Power Tools That Can Help You Do More

ParcelQuest makes it easy to find California property data quickly. With a simple buffer search on an area map, you can find the information you need using a few drawing tools to collect the data in a parcel search. Below, we explain how and when to use them to complete a parcel map search.


The point tool lets you click on any area of the map to see the geographical information associated with a point. Just left-click on the desired location to start your California parcel search. A red marker will appear, which you can then click on for more information. A data box will pop up with information about the point’s exact latitude, longitude and elevation.

Point on property map

The nice thing about these points is that they don’t immediately disappear as you move around the map and click on different areas. You can pin multiple locations and open each one to view the data without losing your previous markers. To remove a location you no longer need, simply click on it and then click the remove button.

When Do You Use the Point Tool?

While you can use the point tool to mark locations in both urban and rural areas, it is extremely useful in rural areas where properties are harder to locate and parcel boundaries can be less precise.

For example, the point tool can be a valuable resource for those working in the agricultural industry attempting to match growing fields to a specific parcel. You can pinpoint a location on the map, retrieve its longitude and latitude, and then find out more information about the parcel.


To use the line tool, simply click on a starting point, then click again at your endpoint. If you only need a straight line, click the green dot that represents the starting point to complete your line segment. Click anywhere on the completed line and the final line measurement will appear in the pop-up box.

Line tool on property map

You can also edit your completed line shape and extend the line to include more than two connecting points. For example, you can create a partial outline of a parcel or click along a road as it turns a corner to find the total distance. Whenever you wish to end the line, click the green dot at the starting point.

When Do You Use the Line Tool?

This tool is pretty straightforward, and you’ll use it whenever you want to measure distances. Perhaps you want to know the length of one side of a park or the distance between various parcels. Either way, the line tool will do the trick.


The area tool functions similarly to the line tool. Take your mouse and click on each corner of your desired shape. You don’t have to limit yourself to just squares and rectangles. Feel free to create oblong forms as well.

Buffer and shapes property map

When you complete the shape by dragging the mouse to the starting point and clicking on the green dot, you’ll see a red outline with the center of the form shaded a light gray. Each side of the figure will have the length clearly marked, and when you click on it, you can see the total area.

If you would like to edit the shape you made, select the “edit shape” tool, which will mark all the corners and edges with a black point. Click and drag any of those points to modify the form.

When Do You Use the Area Tool?

You can use this tool to measure the area of multiple parcels, or you can create custom shapes that cover specific areas that you would like to buffer (which we’ll go over below).

To save the shape you made, click the save button in the tool window, give the form a name, and voila!

If you need to routinely track information about parcels in the same area, load that same shape when you open up our map tool. Just click on the button labeled “manage shapes,” choose one of your saved figures, and click load.

Whether you need to track information for taxation purposes, create an appraisal for a nearby parcel, or send information to multiple businesses at once, these shapes can save you a lot of time and effort.


Now, we’ve gone over the straightforward uses of each tool, but there’s another beneficial use for each of them: buffering.

When you have a point, line, or area on your map, you can apply a buffer to highlight all the parcels within a selected distance from your drawn shape.

Below the main toolbox and the section labeled “subject,” you’ll see a small box titled “distance.” When you type a value into that box then click on the “buffer” button below it, all of the parcels next to your drawn shape will be activated based on the distance chosen.

For example, if your company will be redoing the sewage line beneath a main road, take your line tool and select the whole area that will be under construction. Then, select a distance of 50 or 100 feet (or whatever distance you need) and buffer it. Scroll down to below the map to see a complete list of all the businesses and residential areas that you’ll need to notify about the construction.

If you want to find all the parcels within a certain area, use the area tool to draw a custom area shape, type in a distance of zero, and buffer it. This trick will give you all the parcels located within your drawn area.

zero buffer tool on property map

When Do You Use the Buffer Tool?

The buffer tool is kind of like a magic wand, (except there’s no magic and it’s actually a curser). But seriously, it has many applications that will help you get your job done right and right away.

Let’s imagine you are working on a home appraisal. Rather than running a standard comp based on a pre-selected distance from the subjected parcel, you can find comparable sales using our area tool and buffer feature. To come up with an accurate valuation, you’ll need the information about nearby houses to give you an idea of what similar properties are worth and what amenities they have. You’ll have all that information at your disposal in just a few minutes with the buffer tool.

First, select the subject parcel from the map, and then perform a parcel-based buffer to include the surrounding area based on a distance of your choosing. When you scroll down to the list view, click the gear button in the upper right-hand corner to choose the data fields you would like to include in the list view. From there, you can sort the list based on the fields that are most important to you for your analysis. For example, you can do a buffer search and sort your list based on things like ‘Use Type’ or ‘Year Built.’

These helpful (and, might we add, super cool) tools aren’t limited to appraisers and house-flippers. California professionals in a myriad of industries can benefit from them. Whether you work in construction, agriculture, engineering, law enforcement (you get the point), these drawing tools on our area map can give you endless data before you can say, “Thank goodness for ParcelQuest.”

Drawing tools to draw better conclusions

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