How to See a House From a Sky View
By David Sarokin
The Internet's incredible collection of files -- everything from ancient Babylonian texts to Beyonce's latest video -- probably includes photographs of your house. Images of private property exist both from ground-level view and from aerial perspectives. "Eye-in-the-sky" photos taken from airplanes or satellites are available at many websites, usually at no charge. Locating a sky-view image of your house is as simple as visiting the right site and entering your address. While aerial coverage is not universal, it is becoming increasingly available. Check several sites, as image quality and detail vary, and some images are more up to date than others.
Google has integrated an extensive collection of aerial photographs with its mapping program. After typing your address in the Google Maps search box and retrieving a map of the area, click the "Earth" inset to switch views from a map to an aerial photograph. "Grab" the photo to reposition it and use the zoom tool to enlarge the image of your house or to make it smaller so you can view the surrounding area.
For a more robust experience, download Google Earth. This app for computers, tablets and phones lets you experience a virtual flyover of an area, giving more of a three-dimensional view of your house and neighborhood than is available from the Google Maps program alone.
Bing Maps provides an online three-dimensional view of your home without the need to download an application. Bing, like Google, initially displays a street map view of an address. Clicking the "Bird's Eye" tab gives you two options: an "Aerial" view, which is a two-dimensional perspective from directly overhead, and the "Bird's Eye" view for a 3-D effect.
Other mapping sites, such as Yahoo Maps and MapQuest, also offer satellite imagery. The mapping programs obtain most images from government and commercial sources. You can also access no-cost images at the EarthExplorer website maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey and at Florida International University's TerraFly site. Purchase aerial images of your house directly from companies such as Terraserver.
Check the Date
Mapping programs do not provide live images of your home. Aerial photographs may be recent, but they may also be several years old. The programs do not generally post information about the photo's date. Check aerial photographs of your home for clues about the date the photograph was taken, such as recent renovation work or changes to landscaping. Other details, such as cars parked on the street, can also indicate if the image is recent or dated. Trees and other foliage provide clues about the season.
David Sarokin is a well-known specialist on Internet research. He has been profiled in the "New York Times," the "Washington Post" and in numerous online publications. Based in Washington D.C., he splits his time between several research services, writing content and his work as an environmental specialist with the federal government. David is the author of Missed Information (MIT Press, 2016), a book exploring how better information can lead to a more sustainable future.