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Google Maps: An Essential Tool for the Real Estate Investor

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Milwaukee Google MapI’m a man.

As a man I follow certain man codes. One of the most well known man codes is never ask for directions.

This unwritten rule is much easier to obey now that I have a smartphone, although I admit I’m too proud to look up directions on it with my wife in the car. That would be embarrassing. I’d rather drive around in circles for a few hours than confess I didn’t have a clue where I was going. Okay, maybe not a few hours. But I would need to make at least a dozen U-turns before asking a computer for help.

Like most people I use Google Maps to plot my course, before and occasionally during, my journey. I use this free website a lot, especially when on the road. But when our company started investing in Milwaukee real estate in 2012 I began using Google Maps almost daily. It’s an essential tool for us.


The earth view and street view options offer an abundance of information about a property without ever having to drive by and inspect it in person.

From the earth view I can see:

  • If the property fronts or backs to a busy street or intersection.
  • If the property front or backs to commercial or industrial space.
  • If the home has a detached garage.
  • If there is alley access to the property.
  • The size and shape of the lot.

From the street view I can see:

  • A 360-degree angle of the street and surrounding houses.
  • The general condition of the property and surrounding houses.
  • If the home has an attached garage on the front or side.

And occasionally, when I’m lucky, I’ll stumble across something like this:

Milwaukee real estate street view

How would you like to own the home on the right side of this picture? I’m sure those bikers are very friendly, most are in the Milwaukee area. But it’s not their personalities that concern me. As an investor I’m more worried about the noise their motorcycles create. If you think they’re loud during the daytime just imagine what they sound like at 2a when that bar on the left closes down.

Unfortunately for the owner of this home, who emailed me last week about selling it, there’s no price that makes this an investment property worth buying. The biker bar next door likely isn’t going anywhere soon and neither will the noise. It will always be difficult to find a tenant or buyer that wants to live in the house.

Unless, of course, they hang out at the bar every night.