1000watt Blog

Writings about real estate, branding, marketing, media and technology from the principals of 1000watt.

Google made a big real estate move today

Google announced a big real estate move about two hours ago: listings can now be viewed on any Google Map by clicking on the “More” button, a position heretofore reserved for photos, transit information and other overlays.

Here’s what it looks like:

Google Maps

Read the full post from Google here.

A shiver of anxiety went through the industry four months ago when Google announced that it was, as I said at the time, “making real estate search on Google Maps slightly less obscure.” I did not think much of it. International online real estate sites, which actually charge brokers and agents to display listings, had a lot to worry about. Not so much in the states.

This, though, is a bigger deal. Real estate is no longer relegated to the sleepy backwater of Google Base, or appended to real estate-specific queries. It’s there on every Google Map.

That means a lot more eyeballs on listings via Google. While I still do not think this is earth-shaking for online real estate, it does make things a little more interesting.

More thoughts to follow.

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47 Responses to “Google made a big real estate move today”

  1. Janet Choynowski says:

    The effect of this news varies, depending on whether you are a Realtor being “threatened” with free, high viewer traffic ads on Google, or a portal who is dependent on traffic referred by Google. SInce Google has been referring around 80% of the Realtor.com traffic, real shudders must be felt in the Westlake Village headquarters of the NAR flagship.

    Will Google just encourage that viewer traffic to hang around Google RE pages, or will they continue to send it over to the sites that will now need to compete with Google for viewers and consequently ad revenue?

    The consumers will not complain, Realtors looking for low cost or free ways to get more eyeballs on listings are not likely to complain.

    The protests will come from the direction of the property portals who are probably about to be leaned on by the 300 pound Google Gorilla.

    And to paraphrase the old saying, what kind of business does Google dominate? Any kind it wants to.

  2. Will Kelly says:

    With the FREE open Google Maps API the real victims might be the IDX handlers or maybe the MLS’s themselves.

    Ask yourself if you would really spend money with your local MLS when you could go with Google’s “national MLS” , their tools and their exposure for free. Which technology do you think will be more effective in getting a listing sold.

    This Technology advancent may have the most significant impact on the industry to date.

  3. Jeffrey Douglass says:

    Brian, thanks for the post and the heads up. I think that Zillow, Trulia, and others like them have more to worry than IDX searches through broker sites and Realtor.com.

    With that said I think this is a real game changer, and I for one will use it to find properties quickly since it takes me 10 minutes or more to find it in our crappy MLS system – change is indeed coming from outside the industry.

    Okay, I am off to see how it works…

  4. Jay Thompson says:

    Surely this isn’t surprising to anyone.

    Will – what Google (or any other listing aggregator) does not do that the MLS does is provide a way for brokers to offer compensation. That’s the true purpose of the MLS, not marketing listings….

    If I represent a buyer and want the listing broker to compensate me for a sale, I don’t have a choice but to belong to the MLS.

  5. Gertie Cranker says:

    It’s bigger than you think. Many US brokers are charged to obtain feeds for their sites. And all MLS operations charge a per listing fee. What Google’s actions imply is a challenge to the MLS: will MLS members discover that there is a viable alternative for public advertising? and maybe even for doing businesses?

  6. Ian Greenleigh says:

    So funny…just yesterday I happened upon at least 3 conversations on twitter about the feasibility of a national MLS IDX. Most of the participants scoffed at such a pie-in-the-sky utopian idea, “those MLSs will never give it up,” “too much invested in the current scatter,” and on and on. This isn’t that…yet. It could be, sooner rather than later. Can’t wait to hear more about how we need to limit information, and how we just can’t trust people with this all this data. In real estate, paternalism and protectionism often go hand in hand. Stop complaining and adapt, be among the first to do so, and you will be rewarded.

  7. Jim says:

    They are just making the web more useful. Isn’t that what Tim Berners-Lee’s intent was?

    Each new tech advance opens up new opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs. Get used to it. It will accelerate.

  8. Gertie Cranker says:

    “a major reason our mls exists is to offer compensation agreements between brokers”

    You know that, Marvin, and *I* know that. But the average agent doesn’t know that and, quite frankly, doesn’t care. As Ian points out, the more the MLS represses, limits, fines, and protects data–the more the entrepreneurial salesperson will look elsewhere for tools that will enable her success.

  9. Will Kelly says:

    Jay-I think google is a little more than a listing aggregator. Just ask Garmin and Tom Tom. Before this week Google was just a map service. Right?

    As for the “MLS’s are for broker compensation agreements.” Hog wash. Maybe they were but there are plenty of brokerages who do without them.

    Do some research on Allan Domb. He’s a broker in Philadelphia who has a niche market in the condo sector. 100′s of millions of dollars in transactions annually and he doesn’t belong to an MLS. You read that right. He does not belong to our regional MLS.

    My point was that this is a game changer and if the old schoolers think differently they should go get their listing book out of their desk drawer and start cold calling.

    Gertie- I do think most agents know that one reason for an MLS is the brokers’ compensation. Usually that is where they check to see how much they are going to get paid.

    Brian & Marc-I only found you guys a week or so ago. It was through Scribd. Your writing is great to read, insightful and on the cutting edge. I wish I had found you sooner. Keep up the excellent work.

  10. Rod Rebello says:

    And like Trulia, Zillow, etc, the listings are not always current. I did a quick google map check in my neighborhood, and 2 of the five “listings” it found are no longer active, and several months out of date. I think I’ll stick to the MLS.

  11. Jay Thompson says:

    Will –

    I am well aware of Allan Domb. He’s the one brought up in every argument that you don’t need to belong to an MLS.

    Try telling a seller in Arizona you’re not going to put their house in the MLS, and it’s OK because there is this guy in Philly that’s wildly successful.

    Trust me, I’m no fan of the MLS and it’s often antiquated ways. I despise the hoarding of data that many MLS’s and even more brokers practice.

    The MLS (at least mine with no public site) is a lousy place to market a listing, yet sadly that’s the only marketing many agents do.

    I welcome having as many places as I can to get my listings in front of as many eyes as I can.

    I just think saying Google will replace the MLS is very premature.

  12. Tina Vaitkus says:

    Rod–I second that comment. Not only are the listings in my area no longer active, many of them list a property address with a photo from an entire different address. Imagine clients surpirse when they show up looking for a colonial that was pictured on google and end up finding who knows what!
    I also agree with Ian and Will, this has the potential to change the way we do business, minus the kinks, and we would be smart to harness it now.

  13. Tony Pomykala says:

    I agree with Jay too, but I have to wonder about the new temptation this invites. Seriously, if you are a listing agent and you know you can add your listing to Google without putting it into the MLS, and Google will get heavy eyeball traffic….. why not keep your listing as a pocket listing and keep the full commission yourself? At least for the first, say 30 days? This sounds like a boon to Listing Agents, but not necessarily to Buyer Agents.

  14. Tony Pomykala says:

    Rod,
    You are right too, but Joe Buyer doesn’t know that. We all, as real estate professionals, know Zillow can be wildly off on pricing, but that hasn’t stopped the public from still going there and assuming the prices reflected as accurate. This will happen, too, with Google. The public will embrace it, regardless of its flaws. The thing about Google though, is I bet they get most of the kinks out and become much more reliable than the others. They are always updating info constantly – heck they know when a Blog gets a new post within hours. I’m sure they’ll update RE listings just as quick by getting direct MLS feeds.

  15. Rob McCance says:

    Google may have the presentation, but they don’t have the data.

    Without the data, it’s crap. Nothing.

    Unless every MLS in the country agreed to feed their data to Google, it’s not going to replace anything.
    And why would ANY MLS choose to do that? This is their core business, hoarding and controlling all the data.

    Google crawling around and finding bits and pieces is not going to get it done.

    Am I missing something?

  16. Tony Pomykala says:

    Don’t underestimate what Google can do. That would be a huge mistake. They’ve got the resources and money to figure it out. They don’t need MLS data feeds, but are getting them from MLSs more and more often anyway.
    Truth is they can get what they need from US, and we’re giving it to them willingly. We all want out own websites thoroughly crawled by Google, in our neverending quest to get our own websites ranked high on Google SERPs. The better our websites get, the easier Google can collect their data. Some real estate website providers are even getting to the point of individual pages for individual properties. Bingo! Now Google has all it needs. It doesn’t need co-operating broker information or even showing information. All it needs is what the BUYERS want. Info about the product itself – the homes. Truth is that only WE need the MLS agent data and cobroke info, not the internet surfing public. Within a few years time, we will have come full circle in our business, where getting listings will equate to the biggest visibility in our industry. As I mentioned earlier, it’s the Buyer Agents who will need to re-focus their business model. Our personal websites must adapt because our “Free MLS Search” won’t be good enough on it’s own to attract clients anymore. We’ll need some “added value”, such as a great blog and information the buyer can use. Jay, you’re safe and will do fine, your blog is one of the best in the nation. I just hope I’ll still be around too to have fun with you when the dust settles!

  17. Fred says:

    Was tested and launch in Australia a couple of months ago and is the national MLS that somehow realtors can not get their hands around the technology. AgentPrint.com offers this google map technology as part of agent websites and allows an agent to feature them themselves as the neighborhood expert along with the crime stats and local schools maps.

  18. Louis Cammarosano says:

    Brian

    Thanks for the heads up

    Google has been successful because it has not been a place to find content on its own site (like Yahoo) but rather a place to search for content on other sites.

    For its mastery of search they have gained 80% market share and along with it a lucrative ad sense business.

    When Google ads content to its own site they run a serious risk of destroying their business model-they potentiall lose on two fronts

    1. if the content they provide on their site like listings is compelling, then the user will be less inclined to click on the sponsored links so they could lose a portion of their revenue.

    2. If they don’t charge to display content on their site -they make no money and merely redirect eyeballs from the paying visits to the non paying visits. This may be a good strategy for a start up to gain visits or market share, but for google, there are not going to see any increase in traffic to their site becuase they display listings.2.

    If Google becomes more like Yahoo, well you know how that ends…

  19. Rob McCance says:

    Tony:

    Yes, you are correct. Google is all powerful and can be disruptive in probably any technology they care to.

    Kinda irritating, don’t ya think?

    That said, only the least informed will use their “MLS Search” unless they ink deals with the actual MLSs all over the country so that their data is relevant.

    Piecing it together from wherever is not going to be accurate. You won’t have every listing and you will have listings in there that were sold three years prior.

    What will happen is Google will make it an SEO advantage for agents to put their listings into Google themselves.

    When/if they do that, then we will see MLSs start making this “illegal.” They will come out with some “no dual-listing rule” or some such.

    Or they will go along. Depends on how hard they want to fight it all, if at all. They may just be content with being the originator of the data, as long as they still get paid.

    It’s all quite interesting and will be fun to watch.

  20. Tony Pomykala says:

    Disruptive? Well if you mean keeping everyone else on their toes, then yes. Irritating? No way. I have to welcome it. We live in a world that changes every moment. Exponentially getting better and better (my opinion), faster and faster every day. Competition guarantees the best products keep getting better. Every industry is driven by the consumer. If you don’t give the consumer what they want, eventually they go to whoever will.
    Many progressive MLS systems are disbursing listing information to any media outlet that can utilize it.
    Our personal websites utilize data feeds that are generally updated daily. If Google crawls our websites daily, the information displayed on Google will be updated daily as well. “Dual-Listing Rule”?, Heck, we don’t have to input into Google directly and therefore don’t need to worry about MLSes restricting us from posting in multiple areas. (BTW: I don’t think they legally CAN restrict you from advertising your listing anywhere)
    Bottom line is this: It matters not what we think of the accuracy of the service Google provides. All that matters is the perception of the public – plain and simple. We can fight about it all we want and have great debates about it, but at the end of the day if Johnny Buyer uses Google to search for homes – we better be there to embrace him.

  21. Jay Thompson says:

    “Piecing it together from wherever is not going to be accurate. You won’t have every listing and you will have listings in there that were sold three years prior.”

    Just like Trulia and the like do today. Yet consumers visit those sites by the hundreds of thousands.

    WE know they don’t have all the listings. But the average guy that buys a home once every seven years has no idea.

    They’ll assume Google has them all too.

    “When/if they do that, then we will see MLSs start making this “illegal.” They will come out with some “no dual-listing rule” or some such.”

    We already syndicate our listings to 40+ websites. Our MLS doesn’t seem to have an issues with that. Why would they if we syndicate to 41+?

    Are there MLS’s out there that prevent agents/brokers from putting their listings on the dozens of existing sites that take them?

  22. Tony Pomykala says:

    If it puts anyone out of business, it only means we weren’t smart enough to evolve with it.
    Let’s get something straight. We all have to understand that business models in todays world are always changing. None of us can sit on our laurels and just expect new business to come to us because we worked very hard in the past to get where we are today. The moment you stand still, everyone else passes you by!!!

  23. Tony Pomykala says:

    Jay,

    You, Matt, and I are blessed that we have a very forward-thinking MLS in ARMLS. Not that everything is perfect but overall I believe they are one of the best out there, from what I’ve read and heard.

    I do forget at times that there are MLS’s out there that still operate like its 1985. But in a large metropolitan area like ours that “secrecy” can’t work.

  24. Rob McCance says:

    Hey Jay, how ya doing?

    I don’t know what the rules are with the FMLS here in Atlanta. I do know that they are pretty particular with IDX providers. I just completed a extensive study on all IDX providers that work with FMLS so I could choose a better one for my site.

    Some don’t have the feed and can’t get it, for whatever reason. I didn’t dig that far. Just DQ’d the ones that FMLS wouldn’t feed to.

    “Why would they if we syndicate to 41+?”

    That’s a good question and one I have not researched at all, I apologize.

    I would think though that if Google was making a serious play to be a National MLS with the intent to compete with and or replace local MLSs, then the local MLS would certainly care.

    Now that’s a big IF and I know that.

    40 sites is a lot. I put my listings in two MLS systems, and it also gets sucked in by realtor.com and that’s about it. Of course they go on my own site.

    What are some of the 40 you are going to? Like Craigslist and such?

  25. Tony Pomykala says:

    I think many of us are looking at this from a very biased and skewed perspective. The reality is that Google probably has no desire to become a National “MLS”, but rather a national database. Being an MLS would get way too tricky, and too much logistical work. But they DO want the data. What Google probably wants is to give the consumer what the consumer wants, the property information – FREE. If it’s free, consumers will flock there.
    What’s in it for Google? The advertising space on the side of the page… where you and I will buy our ad for that neighborhood. FOCUSED advertising, and a lot more signs to hang when you think about it. Google has always wanted to go more Local. The listings pages are nothing more than another Search result, and Google does them quite well. Selling ads is what Google wants – their bread and butter. Billions of dollars worth.

  26. Keahi Pelayo says:

    I am taking a positive view in that it will be positive for Realtors and our business. WE are the boots on the ground and can give real insight to the bubbles on map.
    Aloha,
    Keahi

  27. Portland Real Estate says:

    I dont think that they have all of the listings, and I hope that they make that disclaimer somewhere. Unless they make agreements with the MLSes, there is just no way that they are going to have all of the right information. Unless of course they are mining some other IDX site and just providing a link to some brokers website.

    -Tyler

  28. Jim Duncan says:

    Without the best data, the MLS’ offer of compensation & cooperation will be moot.

    Realtors will be following consumers to Google to search for homes, and then offer of compensation & cooperation will be irrelevant.

    Underestimating Google is a stupid, short sighted and fatal mistake.

    Google have bought a lot of companies, but I haven’t yet found a list showing the industries they have re-shaped or made obsolete. Why would real estate be any different?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acquisitions_by_Google

  29. Mylos says:

    I just posted 300 listings of Real Estate in Montenegro to test traffic from google maps. All of u watch this from USA perspective but there are real estate markets in every country and Google will cover them all. Local listings will have global exposure this way I think.

  30. Minnesota Real Estate News says:

    Hi Brian, Thanks for the update. It will be interesting to see if these developments also happen in the UK. I checked a number of listings for various cities. Naturally, I could not check them all, but it does not appear that any of the listings are coming up within Google.

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