We are trying to find a place to live in St.Paul, while living in New Orleans and Baltimore. This Friday we will actually be going to St.Paul to look at places, but we need to have a good list of places to look at when we arrive. To that end, we’ve been using some online services, combined with a realtor.
The advent and recent expansion of Google StreetView has changed this process dramatically. Whereas before we were limited to seeing street layout and satellite images in Google Maps with Housing Maps (a mashup with CraigsList), it is now possible to take an address from an ad and go for a virtual stroll through the neighborhood.
It’s a lot easer to get a feel for a neighborhood by looking at storefronts, cars, intersections, parks, and yes, even people out and about, than it is to do so by map or satellite. Some people are up in arms about StreetView, and not without good reason, but the benefits are pretty tantalizing. People are antsy about being caught on camera, but I’ve only seen 10 or so people using the service. Most of the time residential streets are empty during the day — everyone’s at work and school. The people that I have seen are generally just walking down the street or riding bicycles. However, I did see some people with police cars parked out front of their house, apparently discussing something with officers and several family members. I couldn’t tell if it was a burglary report, a domestic violence complaint, or murder investigation, but those people probably didn’t want the whole world watching.
Have you used StreetView?