Taking It to the Streets, Google Style

Google Maps' Street View gives buyers one more tool to check out a potential neighborhood before actually going there with you.

April 1, 2008

Real estate pros have become accustomed to using Google Maps or similar services on their Web sites to let potential buyers know where listings are located. Now there’s a new twist on the map option that will not only show visitors to your site where a listing is but also help them feel like they’re standing right in front of it, looking up and down the street where they may eventually live.

Google has made this latest mapping innovation, Street View, available to individual real estate sites.

Street View allows you to see a 360 degree streetside view of any location that has been enhanced in this way. Check Google Maps for a list of cities where Street View is currently available—about 40 as this issue went to press.

Google has been using Street View on its maps application, but it wasn’t available to third-party users of Google Maps until early this Spring. That’s when Google formally released the Street View application programming interface—tech speak for the instructions Web designers need to plug Street View capabilities into other sites.

Within three days, individual real estate sites were starting to incorporate Street View into their listings’ Google Maps. Kevin Tomlinson of Miami Beach, Fla., was among the first to feature Street View for his listings, for example.

Expect to see many more real estate sites incorporating Street View. Indeed, Trulia.com recently announced it was incorporating Street View into the maps of the areas that have it available.

If you are interested in using Google Maps’ Street View on your site, check with your Web developers; chances are they already know how to do it. Incorporating the code needed isn’t a job for you unless you’re tech savvy enough to maintain your own site.

Google pulled off some magic with Street View. Using a horde of vehicles mounted with cameras that take panoramic photos, it has photographed streets across many of the largest U.S. cities. This technique, along with a highly intuitive user interface, gives the sensation of really being there.

The implications for potential buyers getting a better feel for the surrounding neighborhood of a listing are immediately apparent.

Using Street View is as easy as clicking on the Street View option for a map location. The area streets that have been continuously photographed will show up in blue outline.

When you click within any of the blue outlined streets, an icon resembling a person shows up along with a window containing the actual street view. You can rotate this image by dragging your mouse.

Google Maps’ Street View gives buyers one more tool to check out a potential neighborhood before actually going there with you.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.