I just heard home sales were actually up for the month of January, 2009. Hmm. Considering bank loans are tight and everyone’s budgets are supposedly tighter how can this be? Interest rates are down, prices are down, and foreclosures are up. There’s the sweet spot. Sadly, people lose their homes to foreclosure for a number of reasons, but hey, this is a capitalist economy and where there’s a bargain you’ve got to CAPATILIZE on it. Someone gets in over their head banking on future wages and it turns out they aren’t Nostradamus. Ever heard of pre-foreclosure? Me either. That is until a couple Virtual Earth customers showed me how location and mapping is a critical component of making money in the foreclosure market. And, hey, in pre-foreclosure, you could be helping a family save their credit from getting black-listed for life or longer. I’ll take a look at two foreclosure sites – RealtyTrac and Foreclosure.com and how Virtual Earth plays a critical piece in both. I’ll focus on California. I heard the state ran out of money this week.

image RealtyTrac uses both a list view and map-based view (the latter more interesting IMO) leveraging Microsoft Virtual Earth. So, enter an address and click “View Map.” Holy glory is there some great information about homes in the neighborhood, but specifically highlighted are the homes where the bank had to get involved to reclaim the property they loaned money for.

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The map-based search allows you to click on layers of different types of foreclosed homes including Pre-foreclosure, Auction, Bank-Owned, Online Auctions, Government Owned, Resale and Sale by Owner. Within each property on the map you get additional information such as the loan (default) amount and when it became a foreclosure, as well as, details of the property – number of bedrooms, bath, plus pictures of the property. There are also links for each property to get “More Details” which provides a detailed look at the property in question such as the property ID, estimated market value and history of notices on the property (to name a few). The other link for “Comp Sales” provides a list of comparable property sales so you can compare the foreclosure amount and the asking price (from the bank or owner), plus see homes that are comparable to the property in question and their respective sales price so you can make an informed decision about which property to capitalize on with your investment dollars.

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Do a search by city and you’ll get a total count of foreclosure for the respective city plus a complex polygon highlighting the city. A custom user interface with easy to use features and a pan/zoom-refresh-the-map interface makes finding foreclosed properties super easy. I love just touring my neighborhood looking for who's in trouble. I also like Us magazine.

image Foreclosure.com recently deployed Microsoft Virtual Earth to map out their foreclosures (welcome to da club). Foreclosure.com made the map the canvas for all searches. So, while their grid of listing results is available and is quite a bit tighter than RealtyTrac (to fit more listings in a single view), the map is ever present atop the listings. Oh yes.

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Now, their map is smaller which doesn’t make me all that happy (I am the map guy!), it fits perfectly for their site design – very streamlined and focused on their “Power Search.” Power Search allows you to specify exact parameters of a property to search the map and change the results on the page. So, put in a listing ID, number of bedrooms, bath, whatever and get results. With each property you get additional details about the property in the popup, including price, address, beds and baths, but there’s also a next and previous button which allows you to scroll through the properties on the map much like a tour. You will notice there are quite a few more properties below the map than there are on it. Let’s get them all on the map. I would also like to see the map refresh when I pan or zoom it. However, Foreclosure.com does provide Zillow’s Zestimates (also a Virtual Earth customer) which is a nice touch.

Both sites provide tons of information and are both extremely useful and user friendly. I refuse to recommend one over the other because I found both valuable with rich information and maps. Plus, you really just can’t beat seeing the property with our Bird’s Eye photography now can you (available on both sites)? I mean seriously. And, for those of you who think foreclosures are for impoverished people who live in the slums. Um, how about this one I found (notice the street it’s on).

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Who approves these loans?? I digress.

CP