For every Illinois home sold, the Prairie Research Institute (PRI) provides data needed for banks, title companies, insurance companies, and consumers to make informed decisions about home ownership. The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) and the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) work in tandem to accurately articulate the landscape of Illinois above and below the surface.
What is the legal location of your home?
The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) is the surveying system that subdivides and describes all land in the U.S. Using a 6-mile by 6-mile grid, ISGS maps out the legal locations and legal descriptions of land across Illinois. This information is used by the insurance and banking industries for the sale of all homes in the state.
Are earthquakes a threat?
Illinois isn’t synonymous with earthquakes, but the state is flanked by two active seismic zones — the New Madrid seismic zone and the Wabash Valley seismic zone. The historical record for earthquakes in Illinois began in 1795, and since then Illinois has experienced over 600 earthquakes as of 2017. Many of the earthquakes on record in Illinois have small magnitudes of 2 to 4 that do not cause damage but are felt over large areas. If you believe that you have felt an earthquake, you can report it to the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Did You Feel It? website.
Every property has a unique combination of geologic and structural factors that must be considered to determine how a house might hold up during an earthquake. ISGS provides information on the geologic and structural factors to mitigate these hazards such as type of underlying material, depth to bedrock, slope of the land, design of the house, and what materials were used in construction.
Are there coal mines in your area?
This data is required to sell a house in Illinois, and worth knowing when purchasing. With over 100 years of mine observation data, mine maps, and geologic records, ISGS provides the public, government, banking, and insurance industries information about mine locations and mining records across the state.
Get to know the mines in your area through the ILMINES website at the ISGS. Type in your street address and the red indicates the presence of underground coal mines, yellow that you are in close proximity. For downloadable county and quadrangle scale maps showing mined out areas go here.
(Disclaimer: ISGS and ILMINES document the location and historical information of currently known mines. While ISGS has a significant database of mine information, additional mine maps and mine data is discovered every year.)
Does your home use a well?
Buyers considering rural areas often encounter homes for sale that get water from wells. In Illinois, no laws require that private wells are tested for contaminants. When obtaining a mortgage loan, banks and federal programs often require testing, but the analysis may not cover certain contaminants that have caused a local concern. New homeowners who are interested in learning how to maintain their own wells can take the Private Well Class, offered by the ISWS. The class is a free, step-by-step online education program to help well owners understand groundwater basics, well care best practices, and how to find assistance.
New Homeowners' To-Do List Should Include Well Water Testing
The ISGS and ISWS work together to maintain an official repository for records of wells drilled in the state of Illinois. The ISGS and ISWS keep a record of the drilling of all wells measuring the total depth and interval. View the map here.
Will you need flood insurance?
Homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage, although floods are the most common natural disaster in Illinois, accounting for well over 90% of declared disasters. Financial losses are not reserved to big disasters—just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to a home.
ISWS partners with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to produce Flood Insurance Rate Maps for Illinois. The maps, used to regulate development in Special Flood Hazard Areas, help homeowners and renters identify flood risk and inform mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements. You can access information for any address at FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center.