Tuesday, February 1, 2011

House Hunting

I have always prided myself on my research skills and have often been surprised at some of the things I am able to find out.  Sometimes I like the challenge of finding information that is obscure or buried deep.  I had the opportunity to do exactly that over the past couple of days.

Hopie and I enjoy watching several reality television shows and one in particular follows the lives of several people who live in an area she is familiar with.  As a way of introducing a particular character, the show often presents a shot of the front of her house.  Hopie always liked this particular house and wondered what part of town it was located in.  So, we decided to go on the hunt.

This past week the show shot several scenes in the neighborhood that surrounds the home.  From the scenes we could see the type of architecture in the neighborhood and a playground that had some easily identifiable equipment.  However, we needed more.  So Hopie kept her eyes open for any signs or text that might give us a clue as to where this neighborhood was located.  If you watch any of these shows you know they go to great lengths to blur out anything that might be used to track someone or result in legal issues.  Still, we were lucky enough to find an unblurred street sign in the background and freeze the scene.  The sign was partially obscured, but we were able to make out “ewis”.  I assumed the name of the road was “Lewis”.

Next we went to Google maps and typed in Lewis and the city we believed it was located in.  The search produced several results, such as Lewis Ave., Lewis LN, Lewis St., etc..  We clicked on each one and, using the aerial imagery provided by Google, tried to see if we could identify any parks.  One hit not only showed a park, but also listed the park’s name.  Next, we dragged the little person icon onto the street to access Google’s street view.  This is a handy tool that gives you a 360 degree view the surrounding area from street level, as though you were actually standing right there.  Panning around we looked at the park.  The equipment looked similar to what we saw on the show.  Next, I tried to position myself in relation to the “Lewis LN” street sign to match the camera angle in the show.  Both Hopie and I agreed that this was definitely the neighborhood.

So, we had the general location.  Now we needed the specific house.  We started by pulling up the Property Appraiser’s website for the area.  Searching by street we could pull up all the addresses and some basic information about them, such as owner.  We thought this was a long shot, but we perused the information for the four or five streets near the park.  As we suspected, none of them listed a name that was familiar to us.  The next step was good old fashion “footwork,” but with a modern tech twist.  Hopie began to walk the streets looking for a house that matched the one we saw on television.  She did this by clicking in the Google street view window and panning around.  Eventually, she found it.  Now that we knew where it was, we could go to sites like Realtor.com and Zillow to find out some information about the residence, such as when it had been bought and sold, for how much and what it is currently worth.

Is there any point to this or any lessons to be learned?  Not really.  Hopie and I were just proud of our results and found the whole thing interesting.  And if you ever wanted to some of your own “House Hunting”, we though we would give you some helpful hints.

Happy researching!

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