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Why you should check Google Street View before listing a property

(MARKETING) Before you list a property, there’s one unexpected factor to check: What does it look like on Google Street View? And is it blurred out?

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Bird's eye view of neighborhood homes on Google Street View.

So, you’re ready to list a property.

You’ve got the tower of documents signed, photos and videos uploaded, and the sign with a QR code and fliers in the front yard, where the landscaping has been meticulously tidied up. Take a breath… then think about one more thing you need to do.

What does the property look like on Google Street View? More importantly, is it even visible or is it blurred out?

Homeowners have the ability to tell Google to blur out photos of their homes. They might do it for privacy reasons. Some people just don’t like the idea of anyone in the world being able to see their homes. Some might do it for personal safety, say, in a stalking situation. Or there might be information that’s too revealing, or a person whose presence could be embarrassing in the photo.

Whatever the reason, you want to know whether the seller or a previous owner asked Google to blur the property. Prospective buyers might see it and wonder what’s gone on there. Is it a crack house? Did some kind of violence occur? Were the windows at one time covered in tin foil?

You want prospects to imagine living happily in the home, not imagining something out of a bingeable TV crime drama.

But there’s a problem: Once Google agrees to blur a house, it’s permanent. They’ve deleted the photos. They’re not going to send out the car or the person wearing a backpack with the 360 cameras again to photograph that property.

But don’t give up on perfection just yet! Here are some possible workarounds:

Direct prospects to another search engine such as Bing, which has its own Street View function on its maps.

Try to upload a user-generated photo to Google Street View (Caveat: We have not done this, but it seems like it’s worth a try). Google allows user-generated photos to be uploaded into Street View according to their image policy. (To do your own 360 photos you would need a specific type of camera, which Google lists. Those are in the $4,000 range). However, we could not find any mention in their privacy policies or Maps’ terms of service that specifically say what will happen if someone uploads a photo of a property that has been blurred. Hey, no risk, no reward, right?

Ask Google for help. A search through Google’s user forums on this question offers little hope that a human will respond to an inquiry, but who knows? The Google gods just might look upon you with favor.

In any case, be ready to answer questions about why the property does not show up in Google Street View. A straightforward “A previous owner asked Google to blur the photo because of privacy concerns” should probably do the trick. Everyone understands privacy concerns in the digital era.

Your job is to offer as much transparency as possible while making sure your client’s property is presented in the best light. Checking out Google Street View is just one more detail that will ensure both of those happen.

Lisa Wyatt Roe is an Austin writer and editor whose work has been featured on CNN.com/Travel, in Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine and in the book “Seduced by Sound: Austin; 100 Musicians on Why They Make Music.” Travel and live music feed her soul. Volunteering with refugees feeds her sense of purpose. And making friends laugh feeds her deep (yet possibly sad) need to get all the laughing emojis on Facebook.

Real Estate Marketing

Incentivizing recycled materials puts this shoe startup a step ahead

(MARKETING) Thousand Fell integrates sustainability into their brand structure by paying customers back for their recycled shoewear, which they then use to make more shoes.

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Thousand Fell Shoes, a startup incentivizing using recycled materials.

The startup shoe retailer, Thousand Fell, has a line of classic white lace-up and slip-on shoes. Based in New York City, the company was launched by Founders Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum last year. But, the brand isn’t just a regular sneaker company. It’s a full-circle economy shoe company that’s creating zero-waste footwear.

According to the company’s website, about 2.4 billion pairs of shoes are sold in the U.S. every year. As many as 97 percent of all shoes will end up in a landfill each year. It takes leather soles about 40 years to decompose in the landfill, and rubber soles take twice as long to decompose. Thousand Fell recognizes that waste is a huge environmental issue and wants to be a part of the solution with its biodegradable footwear line.

The company’s shoes are all made with materials that can either be “biodegraded, recycled to make new shoes, or upcycled into materials for new projects.” The company uses items like recycled rubbers and bottles to make soles, leather-like uppers, and next generation laces. Other ingredients such as aloe vera, coconut husks, and sugar cane are also used to offer a soft-touch feel, stability, support, and comfort.

Thousand Fell’s mission is to be sustainable and to never send another sneaker to the landfill. And to get there, it’s incentivizing its customers to recycle their purchased products. When you’ve worn out your shoes, or simply don’t want them anymore, you can return your shoes to Thousand Fell at no cost.

“Thousand Fell owns the material feeds and covers the cost of recycling, as well as the resale or reintegration of recycled material back into new shoes and the issuance of the $20 recycling cash that is sent back to the consumer once they recycle,” wrote Ahlum in an email to TechCrunch.

In partnership with TerraCycle, customers can easily recycle their purchased products through the company’s “Thousand Fell Recycling Program”. All you have to do is place your shoes in any box you have. You create an account, request a prepaid UPS shipping label, print it, and affix it to the box. Then, you can mail them via UPS. Once your shoes are scanned for return, you’ll receive $20 that can be applied to your next Thousand Fell order.

When the company receives the shoes, they are catalogued, sorted, and broken down to be used to make raw recycled materials

“We create sneakers with a life cycle you can follow—and feel good about,” the company’s website states. By taking a step forward to create a zero-waste product that can be used and reused to create a new one, Thousand Fell is going full-circle and doing just that.

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Real Estate Marketing

Midtown’s empty offices could be turned into affordable housing

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) With remote work quieting Midtown, there are plans to create affordable housing in Manhattan’s high-income business neighborhood.

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New York Midtown, where office buildings may turn into affordable housing

Since the start of the pandemic, Manhattan’s business districts have become something of a ghost town. With almost no one going to work at the office — or going out to eat or drink after work — entire blocks that were once busy and bustling have become empty. With so many New Yorkers currently struggling to pay the city’s famously high rent prices, this begs the question of whether or not Midtown should be rezoned – should some of the city’s (now obsolete) high-end office buildings be converted into affordable housing?

As someone who has always wanted to move to New York (but also values having affordable rent!), this potential rezoning plan sounds utopic. Imagine: A live-work-play neighborhood with fantastic transit, top-notch restaurants that cater to locals, and all the amenities you’d imagine for a residential area in NYC. I’m packing my bags as you read this.

And yes, it may seem far-fetched to reimage Midtown as a place to raise your family if you aren’t multi-millionaires, but, at this point, the city is trying to be creative.

Since September, only 10% of New York’s workforce has returned to their Manhattan offices. Essentially, office and hotel buildings (the former being notoriously easier to convert into affordable housing than the latter) have been collecting dust – and they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, as work from home has proved itself to be a viable, economically sustainable option.

Historically, there have been major tax breaks for commercial-to-resident conversions, as was seen in the mid-1990s 421-g program, which revitalized Lower Manhattan. This is part of the incentive for developers, who would ultimately be rewarded for taking a risk during the economic uncertainty COVID-19; building permits in NYC during the first half of 2020 have hit historic lows.

And that’s not the only incentive. Did you know that many of the city’s older buildings still run on steam heat, which is extremely inefficient? Converting these buildings into residential units would result in a massive environmental win for the city, as they would need to abide by the city’s strict new building code. Cheap rent for me and lower emissions for the city? Sign me up!

It will be interesting to see how the city ultimately decides to react to the COVID-induced ghost-townification of Midtown. I do believe, however, that the vain in which they decide to rebuild will be defining of the next decade of NYC. The city will never die, that’s for sure. How it continues to live is the question.

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Real Estate Marketing

7 signs that your website design is out of date

(MARKETING) Just as styles of clothes come and go, website styles can date your business. How can you tell if your design is stuck in the past?

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Just as styles of clothes come and go, website styles can date your business. How can you tell if your design is stuck in the past? Here are 7 things to consider about your design style:

1. Sans serif or not? With 4K in full effect, serif types are coming back into vogue. A serif typeface is one with small lines attached to the end of a letter.

Sans serif typefaces, those without those small lines, were introduced for readability on mobile devices which used to have much lower resolution.

2. Are you constantly changing colors to keep up with trends? Although the “best” color for marketing changes annually, it’s not really about what color you use. It’s about consistent design with color saturation.

3. Where do you work? Sitting at a desk waiting for inspiration is a thing of the past. Get out in the world and work on your tablet to enhance your ideas and take pictures to bring more elements into your design.

4. What’s your perspective? Look through your social media account and look for variety in your photos and posts. Find a new angle for photos and text to give more interesting content.

5. Are you using trends to brand your company? Coloring books have been the hot ticket item in 2016 and 2017, but the population has already moved on to the next thing, so why would you hop on an old trend and send out branded coloring books?

Use trends in marketing, but not for branding.

6. What’s your design style? Flat design is a trend that is going by the wayside. Get one step ahead by using elements to add depth to your site.

7. Do your templates look like templates? WordPress is great for small businesses, but when you use one of the templates without any customization, you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

Spend a few dollars and get some help implementing your own images and graphics to fully adapt your site.

This assumes that your site has already been on the cutting edge. We’re still seeing a number of small businesses who don’t have much content about their business.

Having a website is vital in today’s economy, and even if you’re the only one in your community that provides your service or product, you cannot expect to stay on top by just having a minimal website.

Make it a part of your marketing strategy to update your site weekly and keep your customers engaged.

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