The first step to using Google Maps for house hunting is to create a map to share:
- go to maps.google.com (or your local country's Google Maps service, if available)
- sign in using the link at the top right of the window
- click on the My Maps tab at the top left
- click 'Create new map' and give it a relevant title like "House Hunt"
- set the privacy settings to 'unlisted'
- click 'Done" (next to Collaborate)
The first thing is to search for your target suburb and then click back on the My Maps tab. Now click on the 'Draw a shape' tool at the top left of the map and draw around the area in which you want to restrict your search. Now head off to your local online real estate portal, such as www.domain.com.au in Australia, and run a search on houses for sale or rent in that suburb. When you find an upcoming property of interest, or one that recently sold, copy the street address. Now paste it into the search bar on Google Maps and click 'Search Maps'.
Google Maps will now hone in on that location and generate a pop-up on the map. Click 'Save to My Maps' and select your newly created Map. A pin will be added to your map and the pop-up box will let you add notes, such as expected price, date of auction and URL. You can also click on the icon on the top right of the pop-up to change pin colour, allocating different colours for upcoming auctions and recent auction results. Click okay and you've finished adding your pin.
That's fine if you're on a solo house hunt, but what if you want to want to coordinate your search with others? Here's when the new collaboration features kick in. Firstly select the map from your list of maps at the top left of the screen. Now click collaborate further down, then send an invite to your partner to collaborate on this map (they'll obviously need a Google login). They'll be sent a URL, which will take them to the map.
In theory the map should now appear under 'Created by others' whenever your partner logs into Google Maps and clicks on the 'My Maps' tab. Unfortunately there seems to be an intermittent bug which means it doesn't always appear. If this is the case, the only way they'll be able to see the shared map is by clicking on the URL in the original invite.
To add a placemark, your partner needs to click the link in the invite and then search for a property by street address. Now they click the My Maps tabs again and click 'Edit" (next to Collaborate). The pop-up window above the placemark on the map now includes a list of options including 'Save to My Maps', but surprisingly this won't let your partner save the placemark on the shared map you created, it only works with maps they've created. The solution is for them to click on the placemark icon at the top left of the map (next to the hand icon) and drag a placemark to that location. The placemark should automatically be added to the shared map and show up in the list of placemarks on the left of the screen. Now they can fill in the relevant details and then click okay at the bottom of the pop-up window. Now they need to click 'Done" (next to Collaborate) in order to save the changes to the shared map.
If they're into multimedia, they can even even add photos or video of the property to the placemark using these instructions.
Hopefully Google will soon iron out the bugs and allow users to save a placemark to a shared map directly from the 'Save to My Maps' option. Meanwhile, Google Maps now offers a great way for couples to coordinate their house-hunting efforts. If you've got a knack for building Google mashups you could take things even further by sucking in auction data from real estate sites. Happy house hunting.