Not Ready For Prime Time

I just spent 20 minutes or so checking out foreclosures on Google Maps.

My conclusion?

It’s hard to escape the feeling you are an unwitting beta tester (guinea pig) — plus, it’s apparent that Google’s real aim is use limited free data to goose subscriptions (translation: Google’s business model is cable, not TV).

That is, once Google’s data gets better.

Test Drive

The concept — visually show where foreclosures are most (and least) concentrated — is terrific.

At least for now, however, the execution is plagued by inaccurate and/or stale data, as well as purposefully incomplete information designed to get visitors to pop for the unabridged version.

To test out Google Maps, I drilled down on the neighborhood I know best: my own.

In my case, that would be Minneapolis’ Sunset Gables neighborhood just south of Cedar Lake, and just to the East of Fern Hill in St. Louis Park.

Here’s what I found:

Google Maps found (and mapped) ten foreclosed properties within about one mile.

So far, so good.

Of those, however, only two had specific street addresses; the other eight simply gave a street name, along with a push pin showing a specific location.

Chowen Ave Foreclosure? Where??

So, Google Maps lists “Chowen Ave S.”, a 3 BR, 1.5 Bath home for $486,823.

The corresponding push pin locates the home somewhere on the 2900 block of Chowen, just north of Lake Street.

However, when you search MLS, there’s nothing active on Chowen.

Instead, the closest home meeting that description is 2900 Chowen, a foreclosure that sold last July for a fraction of its $426,500 tax assessed value; see, “THAT Sure Went Fast (Too Fast??”).


I had even less success finding “Inglewood Ave. S.” in Fern Hill, which according to Google is a 3 BR/2 Bath home for $335,920 that it locates at the intersection of Inglewood and Sunset.

However, when I searched the corresponding stretches of Inglewood and Sunset on MLS, I found no listings, Active or otherwise, going back more than one year.

Which leaves me with the question,”where is Google getting its foreclosure info?,” and this conclusion: ‘if you can’t use Google Maps to identify specific properties for sale — which may not even be for sale — what good is it?’

My answer: Google Maps is useful, kind of, to give a broad overview of which Twin Cities areas have the highest (and lowest) concentrations of foreclosures.

Assuming, of course, that Google’s data is passably accurate — for now, a big “If.”

Try it Yourself

Want to try it yourself?

Here are the steps:

1. Punch in any US address into Google Maps.
2. Your options are Earth, Satellite, Map, Traffic and . . . More. (Select “More”)
3. The drop down menu gives you a check box option for “Real Estate.”
4. The left column will give you several options (You may have to select “Show Options”).
5. Check the box marked “Foreclosure.”

Good luck!

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

Leave a Reply