Here are 10 very good reasons to look up your home address or the address of a home you are considering buying!
1. (Buyer) Get a sense of the neighborhood using Google’s Street View
We can’t transport ourselves Star Trek–style to other places … yet, so the next best experience may be Google’s Street View, sort of a pre-virtual-reality experience. Simply type in an address, and if there’s an image of the property in the results, click on it. Other factors to note while on your Google stroll? Scope out yard size, proximity to neighbors, how many trees are on the property and the privacy provided by them, a view of the front of the home, a view of the neighbors’ homes (such as any nearby eyesores or hoarders), and the size of nearby roads. Don’t forget to use the aerial view while you’re at it, because it might let you know the condition of the roof (but keep in mind the image could be old.)
A caveat: Google Street View can be outdated, so it’s possible you could be looking at old news. The house you’re interested in might have been newly renovated, but you wouldn’t know that if the remodel happened after Google was there.
2. (Sellers) To Detect Scammers Trying to Rent or Sell Your House. In one of those if-only-they-would-use-their-powers-for-good-not-evil scenarios, Internet scammers have taken to ripping off home information and putting together fake listings offering other people's homes for rent or, often, lease-to-own. They often list the home on extremely cheap and easy terms, then ask the would-be-buyer or tenant to please wire or send the deposit money overseas, where the faux-seller can get it while they're traveling in -- you guessed it -- Nigeria. (And, BTW, I have friends from Nigeria who even distrust emails they get purporting to be from Nigeria!)
These scams come to light, most often, only after the homeowner or current resident notices all the bargain-hunting wanna-be tenants start peering in the windows and tramping through the backyard, checking the place out. If you are getting an inordinate amount of street or foot traffic to your home, or someone knocks on the door asking if they can see the place, you may want to Google your address. If you find a fraudulent listing, contact us, identify yourself as the home's rightful resident and ask us to take the scam posting down - stat!
3. (Buyer and Seller) To See If Megan's Law Registrants Live Nearby
Safety first, folks. Megan's law requires law-enforcement authorities to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders in their neighborhoods. Nearly every state that has a Megan's law-type sex offender registry has an online version that serves up the names, addresses, sex-offense history, and even photos in many cases, of convicted sex offenders who are registered as living at a certain address. Googling your address and "Megan's law" -- or even your city or zip code and "Megan's law" -- will turn up a quick list of nearby registrants. Alarmism is not a good look -- ever, but many homebuyers with young children highly value this information, especially while they are still in their contingency or objection period, before their home purchase is finalized.
4. (Buyer) To Find Crime Reports and Data for Your Home and Environs
Cities, counties and state law enforcement agencies all post crime data online, but a Google search for your address or city and "crime reports" is most likely to turn up your local police or sheriff's office's crime map. Or, you can check out the crime stats around a specific property on Trulia’s Map & Nearby tab on the detailed page for your home's address. In my town, for example, you can see a crime map of recent incident reports for the whole city, by zip code, by neighborhood or by address. You can zoom in and out, and the map is in color and letter-coded with little icons representing different types of crimes: red is for violent, blue is for drug crimes, green is for property crimes; and the most common specific offenses reported get their own two-letter code. Whether you own or rent your home, if you hear a siren and wonder what happened, Google might be a good place to look.
This is also a good strategy for home buyers to leverage. In fact, when new homeowners Robert Quigley and Jennifer Friberg started developing headaches and other strange physical symptoms after moving into their first home, a neighbor dropped the informational bomb that the home's previous resident had been cooking methamphetamine in the home. In a panicky effort to sleuth out the truth, they Googled their address and - yikes! - found it listed on the Drug Enforcement Administration's database of meth labs! If you're considering buying a home, or moving to a neighborhood with which you are not completely familiar, doing a quick address search on Trulia or Google holds the potential to reveal some disturbing or comforting crime activity information.
5. (Buyer) Imagine your life in this home and its neighborhood.
One of the deciding factors for saying “yes” to a house is if you can imagine yourself living there. Seeing listing photos and stats can let you know whether the house meets your specifications, but sometimes — especially with a long-distance home search — but to really imagine yourself living in that neighborhood could be difficult. Googling can help). Kids can scope out their potential new school and spot signs of other kids living nearby, you might map your drive to the office, learn whether there’s a local farmer’s market nearby, or look to see whether the house is in a danger zone.
The Cascade Team has made it easier than ever to learn more about your local schools and neighborhoods. Our School Reports include both public and private schools and make it easy to compare them side by side. Community Reports are filled with all kinds of useful information to compare and help you make informed decisions about where to live.
6. (Seller) To See Your Home's Property Records. It's a story as old as homes -- well, at least as old as websites that display home records and listings. Your home's records online are populated from the public records about your home, which are either so old they don't include the upgrades and additions that have been done over time, or they're just flat out wrong for a number of reasons. My last home, while large, certainly did not have the 25 bedrooms one site listed it as having. On the other hand, it also was not a boarding house, which is what that site listed as the property's County-designated use. If you Google your address, or search for it on Trulia, and find that your home's description is riddled with errors, contact us or your County public record agency to correct them; this is particularly important if you're planning to sell your home anytime soon.
7. (Seller) To See Your Home's Google Street Views. When you're selling your home, it's especially critical to see everything that prospective home buyers will see. That means checking out how your home's listing looks on all the online real estate sites (yes, even on Trulia), checking out the flier - even stopping by to check out any staging your broker or agent did if you've already moved out. One thing even most savvy sellers don't check out is the way Google Maps Street Views depicts your home. If you're unfamiliar, Google actually hitches up cameras to cars and sends them up and down public streets worldwide, so that Google Maps users can go from an overhead view of a street via satellite to seeing panoramic pics from the street from curb level with one click.
8. (Buyer) Get valuable details about the HOA.
When you buy a home that is part of a homeowners’ association (HOA), you should receive the bylaws in advance of your purchase. But if you dig a little deeper by Googling the association’s name, you could find out that your new HOA is one of a surprisingly large number of HOAs that have been reviewed online. Grab your popcorn, because you’ll most likely find a variety of rants (and raves) about the subdivision, complex managers, neighbors, and amenities.
9. (Buyer) Scope out the neighborhood’s potential growth.
Will you jump for joy to learn that Whole Foods is coming to town? Or is that just the sort of growth you’re trying to escape? Google your potential new neighborhood’s nearest major street or intersection for permit applications that have been filed recently. You might get lucky. If not, try searching the city or county planning departments. This can help you discover community plans for expansion in that area. Reading the online applications — and any notes from city council meetings discussing the permits — might help you understand the landscape of community-development issues at hand.
10. (Buyer and Seller) To See What The Neighbor's Place Sold for!
No matter if you are buying or selling you need to know what's going on with home prices in the neighborhood. Many of the auto-valuation sites can be off by 10% or more particularly in "Hot Markets" where prices are closing higher and higher on nearly a daily basis. Market Snapshot from The Cascade Team actually pulls REAL closed home sale data from the local MLS and provides you the exact information.
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