Part 1: The Basics
One of the best tools for scouting out new land to buy, or exploring the piece of land you’ve already purchased, is Google Earth. Google Earth is a free download, and it is similar to Google Maps, but it has many additional features that can be very valuable to a landowner.
Step 1: Find your property.
You can search by street address or by latitude and longitude. Google Earth will zoom to an aerial view of the target location.
This aerial view will show you several things right away, including:
- How many houses are in the area and what they are like
- Imagery date (how old is the view you’re looking at) – this is in the information bar at the bottom right.
- Interesting terrain features – rivers, mountains, etc.
- Road conditions in the area
Step 2: Labeling options
Google Earth uses a default, red tab icon for the location you searched. You can change this by right-clicking on the icon. This will bring up the Edit window. You can change the label text, the style and the color.
You will also see a yellow push-pin icon on the menu bar at the top of the screen. This will let you mark any point you wish on the Google Earth screen. You can label land you want to research, geographic features of interest or anything else you want. Any pins you create appear in the left sidebar, and you can save them as long as you would like. When you click on the pin in the sidebar, Google Earth will automatically zoom to this location.
Another way to label things of interest is to draw an outline around them.
You can use the “Add Polygon” tool (the third icon on the upper toolbar) to draw a box around any feature. This can be useful for defining the boundaries of the property at which you are looking.
Step 3: Tilt and Zoom
Here are some basic navigation controls:
- Use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out to get a closer look at specific areas.
- Click the left mouse button and drag to move around the screen.
- Hold the mouse wheel and drag to tilt the screen
You can also use the wheel and slide-bar on the right side of your screen to navigate. These tools can help you get a better view of the specific property at which you’re looking. One advantage of this is that it helps you to look at the slope and other terrain features.
Step 4: Street View
One of the best tools you can find on Google Earth is their Street View option. Just grab the little orange man on the right side of your screen, and drag him over the main map. Every street that has a street view option will turn blue. Drop the man icon onto one of those streets, and you will enter a 360 degree, street-level set of photos that will show the area as if you were standing there.
Download Google Earth and explore some of these basic tools for yourself. They will help you become familiar with your land and the area surrounding it. And stay tuned, next time we’ll discuss some more advanced Google Earth options.