Maryland is offering developers, brokers, community
activists and inquisitive neighbors a simpler, cheaper way to sift through
computerized property records.
New software called MdProperty Map doesn't require a heavy-duty - and
sometimes headache-inducing - geographic information systems program to
run, unlike earlier products developed by the state.
Maryland Department of Planning officials expect to
reach a wider range of people, including the casual computer users who
would nonetheless like to pinpoint all the properties recently sold in
their area, zoom in and out on land maps, see how much that mansion up the
street is worth and import records into spreadsheets for a little number
"In a morning, someone can be up and using it," said Michel A.
Lettre, the department's director of planning data services, comparing the
new offering to the older MdProperty View. "This is ... like riding a
bicycle - the other was much more like balancing on a trapeze."
The department officially launched MdProperty Map yesterday but has been
selling it since July. So far 110 groups and companies have bought more
than 460 compact discs - each county and Baltimore City comes on a separate
The software is free, but the annual subscription for the information is
not. MdProperty Map Web Companion - the basic version - costs $75 to $150
per subdivision. The more extensive version, MdProperty Map FINDER, ranges
between $95 and $195.
Though hardly cheap, it's not as expensive as the MdProperty View
subscription - and that data only runs with a $1,500 geographic systems
information (GIS) program.
Anyone can see property values at no cost on a state Web site,
www.dat.state.md.us, but the state knows of no free program combining the
numbers with computerized interactive maps.
The state is still selling MdProperty View, but Lettre thinks it is
impractical for many potential land-record consumers since the main GIS
user is the government. He said the new software is already making inroads
into new markets.
"This is reaching people that the other never reached," Lettre
said. "This is priced where, in theory, even neighborhood associations
or community activists could use a product like this."
Most of the people who have purchased MdProperty Map are real estate
professionals such as builders, appraisers and brokers. The planning
department also distributed copies to government agencies that already
subscribe to the older program.
Laura Foussekis, special assistant to the state Department of
Assessments and Taxation director, said she appreciated MdProperty Map's
ability to combine its tax maps with imported data predicting what areas
would be washed out by Tropical Storm Isabel.
"This helped us identify potentially flood-damaged
properties," she said. "We love it."