Hurricane Harvey and its impact on tens of thousands of homes has left much uncertainty about the future of the Houston housing market, with some predicting prices will increase and others concerned that all of the flood damage will drag down home and property values. Now, Google has entered the local housing mix as a wild card. That's because Google Maps, which uses satellite photos that update automatically every 1-3 years, just happened to update some of its photos across the Houston area right after Harvey. The result is some new Google images of local neighborhoods showing flood waters surrounding homes and debris piled up along streets.
The new Google images have prompted concerns among some local homeowners that the scenes of flooding and debris will scare off potential buyers and drive down property values. Some residents are calling for Google to remove the photos, while discouraging their neighbors from posting any "flood pics" anywhere online. But realtor Tim Suratt with Greenwood King Properties thinks those fears are unfounded. "The bigger issue is if their house actually flooded or not, not what the Google Maps photos show, as most people are not going to look at that, they're going to look at the home's listing," he says.
Suratt tells KTRH that most prospective buyers will preview a home through a realtor, not via Google Maps. "If it's already on HAR.com and we have 38 photos of it, I'm not going to go to Google Maps, because those photos are not usually very good anyway," he says.
For those who are concerned about the impact of flood damage on their home's sale value, Suratt recommends actions other than trying to get photos removed from Google. "If your house is on the market, that you have nice, good clean photos up, and that you disclose whether you flooded or not, what the damage was, and what you've done to repair it," he says. "Relax, people are going to know (about flooding) anyway and you want to disclose everything...that way the buyer's not going to be surprised and can't say you didn't tell me this."