Google may kill Microsoft, but it won't kill real estate

You’ve probably read the posts about Google’s move to make searching real estate via Google Maps slightly less obscure.

This morning you read about the announcement of Chrome OS, which looks to many like the stone that just might hit Microsoft right between the eyes.

These two announcements underscore something I have long believed about Google: That like AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! before it they will never truly disrupt the real estate industry, or reconcile its incongruities, with an industry-specific play.

But Google is, and will continue to be, the single biggest outside driver of technology innovation for real estate brokers and agents.

Why real estate shouldn’t worry about Google

As Greg Sterling and Michael Wurzer have pointed out, the “enhancement” made to real estate search on Google is either incremental or trivial depending on how you look at it.

From an end-user standpoint there’s nothing here that can’t be done more easily on a hundred real estate specific search sites.

Second, Google may be a leviathan, but it is not a senseless beast. If the company ever did build a fully realized real estate property and backed it with serious distribution muscle they would risk innumerable partnerships in our industry tied to the Google Maps API or deals to send listings to Google Base as it exists today.

Third, there is nothing particularly auspicious about online real estate right now. Darn near everyone is losing money, and none of the category leaders are making any noise about revenue, let along profitability.

MSN and Yahoo! Show up in the monthly traffic rankings, but what of it? Throwing uninspiring products in front of massive audiences may goose your uniques, but it’s not exactly alluring.

For Google, there are bigger – and, from a business standpoint, better – fish to fry.

I may be wrong, but don’t expect a big real estate move from Google anytime soon.

Why Google will continue to stoke innovation inside real estate


There are a hundred ways Google has advanced real estate innovation indirectly.

A case can be made that the birth of Web 2.0 in real estate was sparked by the Google Maps API. Remember And Trulia wasn’t much more than a Google Maps mashup with scraped listings when it launched in 2005.

Adwords democratized real estate advertising by letting tech savvy agents and small brokers get a leg up while big players continued shoveling money into the newspaper tar pit. The game later got crowded – and expensive – but it changed, big time.

Google Apps has freed hundreds of brokerage companies from the CAT-5 noose that tied them for too long to disastrous IT budgets and under-resourced vendors.

Street View — which still gives me the heebie-jeebies sometimes – has nonetheless almost single-handedly redeemed the failings of brokers and agents who insist on dropping the ball on merchandizing their listings properly.

And going forward?

Almost no one in our space took note of Google Wave, the collaborative potential of which should send a shiver down the spine of real estate software providers everywhere (and a tingle of excitement to savvy practitioners).

The small things keep coming too: Just yesterday, the company announced a new Google Maps gadget that makes it super easy to embed directions to a place (a listing, for example) in a website or blog.

There’s a lot more: Latitude, Gears, and a host of other Google projects that will impact real estate. Some will fade, others will thrive. But they won’t stop coming.

Google this, Google that


So keep an eye on Chrome OS. It may change how you use a computer. And get your mind around the full range of Google offerings. There’s a lot there.

But don’t worry about Google Real Estate.