How to use Google Earth to find property

This is the first post in a series where we look at how online tools can assist agents, investors and owners in their property search.

For some time now Google has been adding a range of tools designed to assist real estate professionals to its extensive list of service offerings. Following from Australia’s apparent obsession with property, Google’s Sydney office was the first of the global behemoth’s team to release an integrated product linking the popular Google Maps with the real estate industry. As a result, publishers and industry professionals now benefit from being able to share their content through Google Maps’ various search features.

Since this development, using Google Maps to assist in a property search has become commonplace. Users benefit by being able to access the vast Street View database, enabling a virtual exploration of a 360-degree, street level view from the comfort of an armchair.

It is worth noting that the perils of relying solely on this content can be severe – the view may be outdated as it is dependent on the last available update from Google. There are well documented incidents of investors basing decisions on redundant information and getting burnt in the process. This is where the services of a Buyer’s Agent can be priceless, particularly for international or distant investors who may not have the luxury of accessing a property personally.

In this post we explore the functions offered by a lesser known tool that is available in Google Earth.

Using Google Earth to research property

Many users, including real estate agents and property buyers, are unaware that it is possible to access historical aerial imagery using Google Earth.

Whilst Google Maps already provides the ability to view aerial imagery, historical content gives the user a much greater understanding of a particular location’s development over the course of time. Although records are not available for all locations, most Australian cities have data dating back to 2001.

The example below demonstrates this feature by showing the progress of Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium redevelopment, however I typically use it to investigate suburban growth trends around key pieces of infrastructure. In some cases, if Google has captured the relevant time instances, it is even possible to evaluate the impact of a natural disaster. An interesting exercise is to compare different regional areas before, during and after the devastating January 2013 floods.

Example: how to view location history using Google Earth

Step 1   In your internet browser, navigate to the Google Earth website by entering the following URL: http://www.google.com/earth/index.html

Step 2   Click on the blue button to Download Google Earth

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Step 3   Read through the terms of service and if you agree with them click on the button Agree and Download

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Step 4   Google Earth should start to download. Once the download is complete, install the program. To do this on a Windows computer, run the file GoogleEarthSetup.exe. On a Mac, install the GoogleEarthMac-Intel.dmg file.

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Step 5   After installing the program, click the icon to launch Google Earth and you will see the main screen load, it looks like this:

google_earth_start

Step 6   In the top left corner there is a search box. Enter ‘Suncorp Stadium, Milton, Queensland’ and either left click the Search button or hit Enter on your keyboard. This is what you should see:

google_earth_search

Step 7   By default, Google Earth will display the most recent imagery. In order to access historical imagery either

    • in the menu bar, click View and select the Historical Imagery option, or
    • find the clock icon at the top of the page and click on it to display a date selector.

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Step 8   Now that you have enabled Historical Imagery you can use the slider to view available snapshots. For this example we have selected a view from 24 June 2001 when Suncorp Stadium was still known as Lang Park.

google_earth_slider

Once you have successfully completed these steps, continue practising with Google Earth historical views by searching your own residential street, work place or an area you are interested in.

For further information on how to use the other features of Google Earth visit: http://www.google.com/earth/learn/

About the Author: David is an avid web, finance and property geek who decided to combine these interests and found BAG in his spare time. If you have thoughts, issues or questions you can find him at LinkedIn, Google+ or alternatively drop him an email david at buyersagentguide.com.au

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