Thursday, February 5, 2009

Doing Your Real Estate Homework: Google Earth

Source: Cirios Real Estate Inc., San Francisco, CA

Just because you don’t have a real estate license and are smart enough to know that Zillow’s Zestimates are about as accurate as the Warriors are dominant in the NBA, doesn’t mean you can’t find valuable real estate information online.

One of the most useful tools for valuing properties is Google Earth. Location still drives the value of real estate, and Google Earth makes it easy to examine a property and its surrounding area. The more research you can do from home, the fewer wasted property visits you’ll end up making.

Always analyze the following characteristics of any neighborhood:

? Lot (corner lot? back yard, front yard)
? Street (cul-de-sac, tree-lined, major artery)
? Negative Obsolescence (power lines, rail road tracks, airport flight path)
? Transportation (freeways, bus routes)
? Amenities (schools, dining, entertainment)
? Street view (house, street)
* Keep in mind the street view may be dated, so details could be different

Here’s how we use Google Earth to examine a specific property.

Property Address:
8579 Beverly Lane, Dublin, CA 94568

Lot: The house looks small, but the large lot leaves room for a possible addition in the back.

Street: The subject’s street likely gets little traffic since there is no direct access from Village Parkway (the main thoroughfare in the area.)

Negative Obsolescence: The property backs up to Village Parkway, and although there is no direct access, noise pollution could be a problem.

Transportation: Using Google Earth’s transportation option under the Layers tab, you can see the nearby public transportation routes and stations. The subject is very close to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station as well as the 680 and 580 Freeways.

Amenities: Using the Dining option under the Layers tab, you can see Village Parkway offers options like Taco Bell & Sangam Indian Cuisine. An In-n-Out Burger is less than a mile away; this should be considered a major positive.

Street View: The street has similar looking homes that are comparable to the subject. The wall between the subject and Village Parkway is very low, which could mean more noise pollution than we might have initially thought.

Conclusion: Without stepping foot outside, we learned 8579 Beverly Lane’s neighborhood is close to 2 freeways, BART and an In-n-Out Burger. Street noise from Village Parkway, however, could be a problem. Armed with this information, you can make an informed decision about whether an on-site visit is your next step.

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