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In 2020 most people begin their search for a home via the Internet, and that is especially true since the COVID-19 pandemic made viewing homes trickier.
But while many start by perusing MLS listings there is another, very overlooked, internet resource that can be very helpful to would be homebuyers: Google Earth.
Like most of the online tools, Google has made available, it’s 100% free – and considering everything this software can do, that’s a pretty remarkable thing. Today we wanted to show you a few of the ways that this free but powerful tool can help you in the early stages of your home search if you, like so many, are beginning it online.
See a Property and Its Surroundings Online
This is an excellent tool at a time when people are being told to limit their ‘unnecessary’ time outdoors. If you’re buying or selling a property remotely, Google Earth can be VERY helpful in getting you more familiar with the surroundings of the property.
It’s called Google Street View, and you’ve probably seen it before. This imagery isn’t always current, but at most, it’s usually a few years old – and if you’ve got no other way to see the property in real life, it can be a very helpful perspective to have.
Research a Property’s History
Another great thing about Google Earth is that in most areas, the satellite imagery is available for several years into the past – and you can use this historical imagery to see what the property looked like 2 years ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago, or even 20 years ago. As the Waterloo Region has long been associated with Google this is especially true in our area.
Why is it helpful to see this far into the past? A couple of reasons immediately come to mind…
It can help you understand whether or not a property is in the path of growth. If you zoom out to see the surrounding few square miles (or even the entire county) – you may notice that some new building and development has taken place over the past 10 – 20 years.
On the flip side, you may also notice that literally, nothing has changed. Either way – you should be able to draw some conclusions about whether things are likely to grow in the coming 5, 10 or 20 years.
This kind of historical satellite imagery can help us understand what activities may have taken place on the property in the past and/or what that property was used for. Has it ever been contaminated? Did it use to look better or worse than it currently does? Has this property improved or deteriorated over time?
Chances are – if anything dramatic has changed in the past decade or two, the historical satellite pictures will help tell you the story.
Measure Lot Dimensions
You can easily use Google Earth to determine approximate distances from one point to another. Why is this helpful? Because you can figure out how much road frontage a property has and/or what the dimensions of a property are. If you want to calculate the acreage or square footage a property is, this can come in handy as well.
Google Earth has a great little measurement tool that will allow you to measure these distances and dimensions very easily. This video demonstrates step by step just how this is done.
This is also a great way to determine walking and driving distances between important to you places like schools, parks and hospitals and the property you are interested in, things that are very important to most home buyers but are not usually included in a short MLS listing.