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Google makes yet another big move into real estate territory

Forget the RPR. If you’re interested in the future of real estate, you need to be watching Google closely these days.

A couple weeks ago we noted the company’s move to include a real estate overlay on Google Maps, which put listings smack-dab in front of millions of Google users who likely had no idea the company has spent the last several years quietly aggregating this content.

Now, today, search engine land reports that Google has taken this one step further to include a unique page for every listing that includes photos, a map (including Street View) property details, directions, transit information and more. It’s a listing detail page, basically.

And, of course, there’s advertising on these pages too.

Here’s an example.

Sure, Trulia, Zillow and a hundred other online real estate sites do this. But this is Google, folks – a force so large that it can upend entire categories overnight.

This development emerges from Google’s announcement two months ago of something called Place Pages, which the tech press largely interpreted as a threat to Yelp. Place Pages stitch together disparate Google parts into a neat hyperlocal resource.

Who is going to play Rupert Murdoch? Will revenue at the big online real estate sites decrease as the prominence of real estate on Google increases? How does the NAR feel about that ruling on scraping now?

Lots of questions here.

A few months ago I explained why I felt Google would never get serious about real estate.

I may have been wrong.

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29 Responses to “Google makes yet another big move into real estate territory”

  1. Bob Wilson says:

    Can I say “I told you so”, to all those who dont seem to understand that RPR is not the end all because anyone with enough resources can offer their own version of it?

  2. Reggie from RPR says:

    Hey Brian,
    Interesting post! IMO, this only makes the need for RPR stronger. REALTORS need a trusted sources for complete information. Using Google I just did a search of my neighborhood and quickly found listings that were active on Google but in reality they were already off market. Another had close to a $60,000 price drop that was not reflected on Google. Very confusing!

  3. Zoltan Szendro says:

    Brian & Marc,

    Copy& pasted from our blog because I am lazy to rephase it :), but this is what I speculate (I added another question though):

    I suspect Google’s deeper entry into real estate search is about the PLACE first, real estate second. The vision must be to collect, organize and share information about PLACES, being a lat/lon coordinate, address, or any other geographically significant information. A place being a home which is for sale is only a current attribute of that place. The fact that they moved the Google Base real estate search from it’s own Google site into their mapping service seems to indicate that they consider it to be part of their location related set of information (a.k.a GEO), rather than a category on its own. In other words, they consider real estate info being an attribute, rather than an object in itselft. .. My logic goes …

    Questions:

    - Will they rank these places in regular SERP? They do it already (somewhat) by showing their map + search as #1 for address searches.
    - Will they rank these places with real estate info over the original listing website? Single property websites, virtual tours, MLS pages, Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, you name it pages?
    - Will they maintain the pages for a specific PLACE, once the home is sold?
    - If so, will they show public records?
    - ?? If so, we’ll they buy some of the firms we all know, license data or aggregate public records themselves (if they can scan books, they can “scan” anything)

    Answers:

    Anybody has some? I am just speculating.

    – Zoltan

    p.s. Adam – Email me directly, I have some answers to your question but I don’t want to take the topic over with shameless plugs

  4. Ken Brand says:

    Let me see if I understand.

    You think a company, thick with brainiacs of alien-class intelligence, star wars imagination and billions in annual revenue — they might have an eye on how to monazite the promotion and sale of real estate?

    Sounds far fetched.

    Surely an elected body of volunteer leaders (National, State, Local), who are steeped in the traditional ways of real estate can out think, out imagine and out fund Google?

    You know what, I think you’re right. I don’t see it so much as a threat to the rank and file. Somebody has to do the feet on the street, eyeball to eyeball, human to human work (After all, someone has to create the data). But, for those that provide infrastructure, broadcast and crap service, these are dangerous and chaotic times. Perfect times for unexpected, remarkable and revolutionary methods and strategies.

    More reasons for individuals to look inside, examine their value proposition and get busy being great.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Jessie B says:

    Hey Brian,
    I actually tweeted this yesterday… http://twitter.com/onehappyguy/status/5875699244

    Google is going after traditional advertising dollars (old school $10b newspaper market)

    Most online real estate companies, the Zillow, Trulia, etc. having hard time monetizing because they are trying to do it with individual agents with featured listings, etc.

    They needed the agents listings to generate traffic” google doesn’t.

    The biggest issue for these sites is that there is only so many agents who will pay for featured ad status, so the monetization opportunity is limited.

    The real money in being able to collect fee’s on advertising each individual real estate listing. New listings, price reductions, etc.. because that inventory is dynamic and constantly changing. This is why newspapers made so much money in the past.

    I suggested that Zillow had that chance in the past but blew it once they moved from just home values (they already had a ton of traffic on values ) to accepting feeds of real estate listings.

    The RE.net really won’t have a chance based on the way most users search the internet and fact that Google will simply index their info and add it to the list pages.

    Most users type the domain name directly into the search box, in this case 70% or so of all people on the internet, it’s the Google search box.

    Searchers are lazy and will take the path of least resistance to find what appears to be the best match” that’s way the top search listing gets about 42% of clicks while #2 gets half that with less that 20%…

    Fun facts”

    “yahoo.com” searched on google” 20.4 million times last month because people too lazy or not savvy enough to use url address bar.

    “realtor.com” searched 1.5 million times last month (I would be willing that is more than the direct navigation to realtor.com)

    “real estate” 1.2million

    “zillow.com” 368K

    “trulia” 245K

    Google just tweaks the current search results presentation (like they have with mortgage search terms in California & showing “comparison ads “) and RPR or any other player will be in trouble.

    I don’t think Google is after agents or MLS. They don’t want to disrupt the players in the industry. It’ s just to hard, automation can’t do it.

    Google just wants to monetize advertising opportunities where inventory of ads is constantly changing.

    Why would they go after the traditional model” after all real estate agents, brokers, MLS & REALTOR.com are the ones that will be spending billions advertising on Google.

  6. Susie Blackmon says:

    If anybody can change the RE landscape (and I think it should be changed), it’s Google. I never have understood ownership of ‘public’ data anyway. Very, very exciting times.

  7. John Reinhardt says:

    Brian,
    Thanks once again for keeping us up on what’s happening in front of us. We do need to continue the discussion on how this could possibly play out for our industry in 5 years. I like to explore best, most likely and worst scenario. It’s time to take a deep look, a really deap look at the potential threats or lets call them the potential new technologies that will force us to change our business models.
    Now is a great time to dig deeper and be part of the change.
    Thanks for catching my interest…..again.

  8. Colleen says:

    As a Realtor I used Google yesterday to find a house for a Realtor friend who was out searching for it in an MLS I couldn’t access (more private/public). The correct page of Realtor.com came up, but the map, complete with little marking arrow, had the house on the wrong side of town. This type of error will not further their cause.

  9. Terry McDonald says:

    Brian, Google is here now- not in Places, but a RE page of their own, aggregating at the very least, Postlets, VFlyer and Hotpads so far. Go to Google maps and search Homes for Sale and add a zip code, mine was 282870 but I’m betting your zip will work just fine. Then I clicke and icon coresponding to a listing of mine, they have my front shot from vFlyer, a Street view, a map view, all the pics and descriptions… directions, “Search nearby” and linked to vFlyer and Hotpads, not my site naturally.
    If you search real estate and zip on their map page, you get what looks like the same hits, but now you can search by price, style, rent or buy.
    Looks like a game changer to me…disruptive technology? You bet…how long until they get the rest of the data?

  10. Louis Cammarosano says:

    Google’s effort in real estate is probably too big to fail.

    Having watched trulia and zillow take a free ride by placing them at the top of their search engines and receiving no ad sense buys from them in return, its fitting that goolge is entering the game of recycling third party real estate data and presenting it.

    This is a win win for google as they are not biting the hands that feed as trulia and zillow buy no ads from google (at least that I have ever seen)but rather taking down a notch a couple of free riders.

    Afterall, if trulia and zillow links at the top of the natural Google search results give google fodder to sell sponsored ads to the right, why not provide that “natural” content themselves?

  11. Brian Boero says:

    @ Jessie

    I agree with you that Google will not get *too* deep into the guts of real estate. It doesn’t need to in order to dramatically increase its RE related revenue.

  12. Brian Boero says:

    @ Zoltan

    What you hint at is something that may not be likely, but is entirely possible: Google cutting a deal with First American to provide a RPR-like experience to consumers. Google already has MLS data from several MLSs.

  13. Zoltan Szendro says:

    Brian – I was thinking along the line that if the assumption is correct that they consider the [place] to be the information entity they focus on for the long run, and the for-sale real estate status as an attribute being an important vehicle to create value quickly, than it makes sense to carry on some sort of attributes once the property is sold, hence the need for public records. I am not sure what Google has access to already in that domain. This is being said without considering any privacy implications etc. :)

    I know about ~20+ MLSs who syndicate to Google Base including major ones like MRIS and MLSPin and I am sure more will do the same. I am really interested to see how these property details pages will rank on the SERP compared to 3rd party pages showing the same information

  14. Jessie B says:

    @Brian & @Louis

    Some additional comments to both of your points. Totally agree with both of you. I think many people feel that Google results pages never really change but take a look at this search for: 8801 Fauntleroy Way Seattle which is a home for sale.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=8801+Fauntleroy+Way+SW%2C+Seattle&aq=f&oq=&aqi=

    Google is already at the #1 spot with the mapped result, so if they just ad a link / icon or photo indicating this property is for sale and link back to this:

    http://maps.google.com/maps/place?cid=18347100227367887972

    …they will have the ability get the majority of the traffic and teach users a new habit of using G as the source to find listings without significant visual changes.

    There have been hints of additional changes to come to the SERPS like this: http://www.imanjalali.com/images/google.jpg

    This would give them a lot more opportunities to present related data.

    With the two examples above, they can increase opportunities dramatically with small changes.

    By getting the traffic to a listing specific page the benefit to Google is twofold:

    a) they increase ad inventory significantly with an additional 5-8 million pages (turn in individual listings)

    b) Ad rates will increase dramatically from the bidding of the 5-6 services that benefit if a specific listing or surrounding listings are sold.

    In the long run, if the MLS’s & Brokers don’t see a direct threat from G, they will most likely slowly start to discontinue syndicating listings to 3rd parties like Trulia, Zillow & Roost and go exclusively back to G which would give them more site traffic and decrease long term cost of advertising as there is less dilution of the real estate listing data.

  15. Zoltan Szendro says:

    Excellent points Jessie. I think the key is as you also said: how they will show these property landing pages on the SERP. Google Maps has I believe some 50M monthly uniques and most people go their for directions. Showing the property details or a link to them on the SERP is a huge jump. Google keyword tool shows over 50M monthly searches for the term “homes for sale” and that without long tail. I think many home buyers go to the main Google search with the direct intention of searching for homes (as opposed to the intention of the majority of visitors on the Google Maps)

  16. Steve Freeman, REALTOR says:

    As long as agents, brokers, and MLS’s are stupid enough to give their listing data away, someone is going to be smart enough to take it and make a buck somehow; even if it is selling leads back to the same people who provided the data.
    RPR is pretty new, and full info (well as full as they want us to know for now) can be found here:
    http://www.realtor.org/about_nar/realtors_property_resource

    Personally, I believe this is a big crock of you-know-what and of very little measurable benefit to the good old local agent.

    Just as I scoffed at “insuring my future with RIN” back in the late 90′s; I also doubt the survivability of RETS and RPR.

    Time will tell.

  17. TJ Thorne says:

    Yeah I think the Realtor Associations are about 10 years behind the technology curve. Google, Trulia, Zillow and some others are much better positioned for the future in my opinion. I mean the MLS is great in all but seeing how each Realtor association is independent of the next makes the entire system really weak in the big picture (at least in comparison to it’s new competitors)

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