Google announced a new feature in the Google Maps API, the ability for developers to compute travel distance and time between a number of points. This is an interesting feature which can be directly applied to the Real Estate Industry. Their launch partner is Redfin (note: Redfin is a current client of Onboard).

Redfin Google Predictive Maps

“Taking the guesswork out of knowing how long it will take to drive between homes will help us provide a better customer experience to our users” – Curtis Howell, Product Manager Customer Engagement, Redfin

The Good:

  • Duration and Distance – Estimate travel time and distance based on a recommended route.
  • Travel Modes – You can specify the mode of transport to use when calculating distance and travel time.
    • Driving – Indicates distance calculation using the road network.
    • Walking – Requests distance calculation for walking via pedestrian paths & sidewalks (where available).
    • Bicycling – Requests distance calculation for bicycling via bicycle paths & preferred streets (where available).
    • Transit – Requests distance calculation via public transit routes (where available). One or more transit modes can be specified: Bus, Subway, Train, Tram and/or Rail.
  • Traffic – Request using Best guess, Optimistic or Pessimistic calculations based both historical traffic conditions and live traffic. Optionally you can specify either a departure_time or an arrival_time.

The Bad:

  • Search Boundary – The Google API calculates the distance between two known points. It does not offer the ability to determine the outer boundary based on time and/or distance from a location. This is important in Real Estate because the consumer would like to know all properties that are within commuting time/distance from work.
  • Cost – Standard billing based on usage. First 2,500 elements are free. $0.50/1,000 up to 100,000 after that. However keep in mind with that plan Google reserves the right to serve ads. You will most likely want to upgrade to their Premium service, Google Maps API for Work. In which case you will need to speak with a sales person and negotiate pricing.
  • Google Map Display Required – “Use of the Google Maps Distance Matrix API must relate to the display of information on a Google Map; for example, to determine origin-destination pairs that fall within a specific driving time from one another, before requesting and displaying those destinations on a map. Use of the service in an application that doesn’t display a Google map is prohibited.”


How we can help

Onboard Informatics has an IDX API which enables our clients to offer commute search in two ways:

  • Drive Time or Distance – Search for listings by specifying a starting point and either a desired commute distance or time. It returns all of the listings that fall within the potential commute distance or time. Listings may be sorted by this distance value. The drive time is approximated, based on the average speeds on the various roads within the area. Optionally you can also query based on all other property characteristics as well. i.e. Show me 4 Bed, 3 Bath, Single Family homes between $500,000 and $600,000 which are within a 30 minute commute of downtown Los Angeles.

    Haus Commute Search IDX APIClient Implementation Example – (opens in a new window)

  • User Defined Polygon – Search for listings based on a user defined polygon of latitude/longitude points. This allows you the bring your own GIS search capabilities. In the case of the example below Better Homes & Gardens chose Inrix. i.e. Show me 5 Bed, 4 Bath, homes between $700,000 and $800,000 which are within a 30 minutes commute at 8:30 am from Arlington, VA sorted by top performing schools.

    BHGRE Lifestyles Commute Search IDX APIClient Implementation Example – (opens in a new window)

  • Flat Fee Pricing – Onboard prices access to the IDX API based on a monthly fee per MLS feed.
  • Technology Agnostic – The API produces XML or JSON, you decide. And can be used with any mapping software. We also offer up geographic boundaries in a variety of formats; GeoJSON, KML, WKT, and/or ESRI shapes.

If you are interested in finding out more about our solutions, contact us today. Overall, the Google announcement today is positive.  We’re always excited when companies push for progress in real estate technology and work toward continuing to improve the experience for home buyers and sellers everywhere.


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