The Unconditional Blog

The impartial voice of the industry


Birds eye view of properties on the web

Posted on: February 25th, 2008 | Filed in Cool sites, Online marketing, Website searching

I was drawn yesterday to the very large images splashed across the front page of the Herald on Sunday as I went about my weekly supermarket shop – Graeme Hart’s $20 million make over was the story. The images clearly were taken by some rather nosy helicopter-accompanied photo-journalist. However whilst fascinated as to what Graeme Hart decides to spend his money on may interest some people, my bit of voyeurism prompted me to solicit some opinion from readers of this blog as to whether it is a good thing or not that ever more detailed images of properties are available on the web for literally any property in the world.

Now I am not of the same league of Graeme – being of somewhat more modest means. But that does not stop me searching online to find images of my house, my neighbours house, my last house and most every house we have on the site. Now Google in NZ provides very good high resolution images from satellite to show a view from effectively say 500 feet, and we utilise this service to power the maps and satellite images for properties on the site.

Very good as this is – it is nothing compared to parts of the US and UK that are now searchable using Microsoft’s Virtual Earth “birds eye” view. This as you will see provides a very much more detailed view of property than we have yet in NZ. The property featured below is actually the first house I bought in the UK – many years ago! It is found on the website which is a sister site to the leading UK property site –

Birds eye view of property curtosy of Microsoft virtual earth

I like most people when presented with this kind of technology, tend to leap at the opportunity to check out current houses and past houses just to see what people have done since you sold up; in this case added the ubiquitous English conservatory! It is almost as popular as doing Google searches on old school friends and ex-girlfriends!

Now the power of Virtual Earth “birds eye” is the fact that the images are taken from a 45 degree angle so instead of seeing just the roof you get to see the side of the house from the North, South, East and West.

The question I am interested in hearing comments on, is given the leaps in technology it will only be a matter of time before the images can be so clear as to see colours of rooms as well as how well cut the lawn is, and if the car in the drive has been washed! Is this service a heaven-sent opportunity to provide us with a richer property searching analysis or a further invasion of privacy.

And finally I could not help but highlight that what we saw on Graeme Hart’s house – as if a rare treat, is common place in the US – try out Zillow’s section of their site highlighting TV star homes – see the home of the Soprano’s in New Jersey, of course who would not recoognise that gothic house from Six Feet Under or where the actual Friends NY apartment building is!

As to when we will have such high resolution, low level imagery in NZ ? – I did ask Microsoft at a recent conference, they were not specific, but their ambition is to map the whole world at this level by the end of the decade. Google are hard on their heals with their Google Earth product.

Article Discussion

  1. Ross Brader says:

    We have been putting all our properties on our own Google Map page for quite some time and it has proved very popular.
    When buyers come into the office we have Google Earth live in the meeting room on a big screen, which most find fantastic – it’s also a great interactive way of showing people the amenities in our area – even if the resolution is a bid low.

  2. Kate says:

    I use Google Earth constantly – particularly useful with respect to topography. For example, to assess the steepness of the terrain behind a dwelling, to follow the upsteam path of watercourses, to look for slips in the wider geographic area etc. Fantastic tool.

  3. Paul says:

    I think anything is useful to help get an idea of what is ont he market. It is a shame
    that some NZ agents only put up one photo (or none), or they are useless meanless images that do not help a propective buyer get a good idea of the property. It is the 21st century after all.

  4. Ross Brader says:

    Paul – many of the homes for sale are rented and tenants often refuse to permit interior photos to be used – nothing we can do with those properties other than using exterior shots. To put no photos at all is inexcusable and the websites should refuse to publish until photos are provided.

  5. Ross & Paul

    I completely share your sentiments. The statistics we have reviewed clearly speak to the fact that a listing with 1 or no pictures generates very little interest from the public, this fact I have shared with the industry on number of occasions as I present to groups of real estate agents around the country.

    To answer the point you made Ross as to whether we should even accept listings for which there is no photo actually presents us with a dilemma. We charge offices a monthly for unlimited access to the website and as a publisher undertake no audit of the content which is both realistic (we get over 10,000 new and revised listings per day) and appropriate as if we did carry out an audit and review we would be deemed liable for any errors of information which would be inappropriate in our position.

    So to try and minimise the impact of listings with no picture we do a sweep across all searches and “demote” to the bottom of each search all listings with no photo.

  6. Ross Brader says:

    The bottom of the list is the best place for them, maybe that section should have a banner above it saying “If you want to see photos of these homes please email the agent and request them to post them on the site asap”

  7. Nice touch Ross – I can clearly see your views of this under-delivery by some in the industry!

  8. Ross Brader says:

    Perhaps next time when signing agencies up for another year it should be a requirement/condition of subscription that listings must have at least one photo attached.

  9. Ross Brader says:

    Alistair did you notice clicking my name now links through to my voices Pt Chevalier blog?

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