5 Reasons to Google Your Address

Search-engine sleuthing is worth the effort to unearth the niceties — and perhaps negatives — about a prospective home.

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There’s probably not a day that goes by that you don’t Google something — the weather, a foreign phrase, directions, or news, just to name a few. With all the intel Google can provide, it’s practically a crime not to Google your address, especially when you’re searching for a new home (whether you’re hunting Bradley Beach, NJ real estate for a grand wrap-around porch or Point Pleasant homes with ocean views.

Here’s what you could find:

1. Scope the “street-view” situation

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.

“This allows you to view up and down the street, see the homes next door, [or learn] whether the home is on a busy highway or next to a local convenience store,” says Patrick Parker, Broker and Owner of Patrick Parker Realty in Bradley Beach, NJ.

Other factors to note while on your Google stroll? Linda, a current Jersey Shore house hunter, suggests scoping 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, suggests Linda of Ocean Township, NJ. “While it’s not 100% accurate all the time, it can give [you] a quick sense of if a home is going to need a new roof soon.”

A caveat: Google Street View can be outdated, so it’s possible you could be looking at old news.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. “My house is an example of this,” says Jennifer of Highlands, NJ; search-engine expert with PHANTOM POWER Marketing. “If you search for my address, you’ll see photos of a house with no landscaping instead of the beautiful house we renovated.”

2. Find out if the home is a “flip”

Unless you’re buying a new-construction house, the home you’re searching has probably acquired some history. And since the walls won’t talk, you’ll need to be a bit creative in your sleuthing to detect just who owned the place last.

Perhaps take things one step further suggests Deb Collins, Broker and Manager at Patrick Parker Realty.   DIY’ers can take it a bit further to get to know the current owners. Look up owner names from the property-tax records and Google them.  You may want to know whether the sellers are investors or folks who have lived in the house for 20 years. “Some buyers choose to approach homes being sold by investors a bit differently from those who have been living there and caring for the home for decades,” says Collins. “But even if Google leaves unanswered questions, your real estate expert will help you navigate this process,” Collins continues.

3. Avoid health concerns

The last thing anyone wants is to find out their dream home is located near a former meth lab or directly under a busy flight path. These aren’t just concerns for comfort; in unfortunate (and rare) cases, homes can be health hazards. When house hunting, be sure to search for whether or not the home is in a safe area. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration maintains a database of homes that have been identified as drug labs, and some of these properties require intensive, expensive cleanup before they can be healthfully inhabited. Radon and industrial and airport zones are also pretty easily discoverable with a Google search and, in most states, via disclosures that most sellers will provide. (Some people find living near an airport or other noisy zone impacts their sleep, even if there is no chemical concern.)

One important note mentions Patrick Parker Realty Broker Dan Black is that “seller disclosure laws are different across states but any question you ask – whether it is required to be disclosed by law or not – must be answered.”

4. Imagine your life there

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 it might still be difficult to really imagine yourself there. Googling can help.

“While walking through some homes recently with a young family exploring new Ocean Grove real estate from the New York City, their 7-year-old was asking, ‘Can I play on the trampoline at the next house?’” says Yvette Ambrose of Patrick Parker Realty. “Had he wanted to, that child could have mapped his route to his future elementary school and checked out its test scores, all while sitting in the back of his parents’ car.”

RELATED: Choosing the Perfect Neighborhood for Your Family

And while 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 Jersey Shore farmers market nearby, check out proximity to shopping and restaurants, distance to New Jersey Beaches or major transportation.

5. Scope out potential growth

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 Googling the city or county planning departments. This can help you discover Monmouth County community plans for expansion in that area. 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?  Are you excited for the upscale transportation hub coming to Long Branch, NJ or new home construction in Bradley Beach, NJ?

RELATED: How to Spot a Neighborhood on the Rise

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.

YOUR TURN

What surprising information has Google revealed about a home during your house hunt? Share your stories on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, Twitter Feed or on LinkedIn.  Plus don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty email newsletter  for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.