For people selling their homes in this withering sales climate, every little bit might help. One place sellers might not have thought to look for an edge is Google, where there’s also now a new tool for buyers.
On July 8, Google introduced a Google Maps addition that calls up listings for real estate at or near a mapped address. So if somebody hears that it’s great to live near the high-performing Bell School at 3730 N. Oakley in North Center, for instance, a search on Google Maps at that address will pull up a map with red pins denoting properties for sale. On Tuesday, nine home listings came up within two blocks of Bell School, from a one-bedroom condo priced at $180,000 to a new six-bedroom house asking $1.425 million. (There was also one seven-flat listed.)
Using the Street View function, the home shopper can then check out the exteriors of the homes and the looks of the neighborhood in virtual form before physically going there.
Sellers and their real-estate agents can maximize their homes’ Google Maps exposure by sending Google the full listing information, at no cost.
About all that’s left for the house-hunter to do is go to the house to make sure it doesn’t smell like cat pee. Google doesn’t have a feature for that yet.
Jake Parrillo, a Google spokesman for the Midwest, suggests two other ways to use his company’s products to help sell your house.
The first is to videotape your own tour of the house or condo and post it on YouTube, which is owned by Google. Parrillo points out that this is a free version of the pricey video home tour that many real-estate agents now post for their listings. I’d add that it also lends a warmer and more personal tone to the tour. (In the home tours I post here every Thursday, I always find walking around with the sellers themselves makes for more personable tours. No offense, real-estate agents.)
Parrillo’s other suggestion is not free, but can be low-cost: Buy the key descriptive terms for your house on Google AdWords, so that when anyone uses Google to search for a house like yours, a targeted ad appears next to the search results.
If you have a three-bedroom home to sell in Edgebrook, buy the search “Three-Bedroom Home in Edgebrook/Northwest Side,” and see what kind of clicks you get. Parrillo notes that AdWords users don’t pay for every time the ad comes up, but instead for every time a visitor clicks on the ad, and the user controls the cost and duration of any AdWords buy. (Check the site for information on pricing; it’s minuscule compared with taking out an old-fashioned picture ad in the Sunday paper. No offense, Sunday paper.)