Land Grab: Google Expands Real Estate Listings

MLS, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Craigslist, fellow real estate listings sites, newspapers and other classified ad providers … please meet your new neighbor: Google.com. Google has expanded its real estate listings and added extra search functionality for users to find property listings in Google Maps.

Google Real Estate Listings 1

A Google Maps search for “seattle real estate” looks mostly like it always has — listings of real estate agents and brokers on a map. But right below the search box is a hard-to-miss invitation to search current real estate listings. And the result, at least in this Seattle example, looks impressive:

Google Real Estate Listings 2

What you’re seeing is an updated and more comprehensive version of the real estate listings that Google Maps has shown before, along with a new search tool. The results are coming directly from real estate brokerages and agents, many of whom upload listings into Google Base as part of their online marketing. Google is also getting listings from sources such as Homes & Land and The Real Estate Book and similar sites that advertise listings for participating real estate professionals.

There’s a basic search functionality that, while not as comprehensive as what’s available on most real estate sites, probably offers more than enough options for most home buyers: search by price range, bedrooms and baths, square footage, and a sign of the times — a checkbox to search foreclosures. On the map, each individual listing, whether a property for sale or rent, behaves like a business listing does in Google Maps’ business search. Users can click the red icon/dot for more information about the property; they can get directions, save the listing to My Maps, or send the listing to someone else via email, phone, car, or GPS. (Yes, car: BMW and Mercedes-Benz have models that are integrated with Google Maps.)

Google Real Estate Listings 3

Andrew Foster, Product Manager for Google Australia and New Zealand, tells The Age that Google is launching real estate listings because real estate search activity is on the rise. “There’s … been a 35 percent growth in real estate-related queries on Google in the year to February 2009.” (He’s presumably speaking about Google Australia, but it’s safe to assume that real estate search activity is growing in many, if not most places.)

What remains to be seen is how the real estate industry will react. One of Australia’s leading real estate advertising publishers has decided against giving its listings to Google. Closer to home, the National Association of Realtors recently made its feelings clear when it called Google a “scraper” site and supported a local board’s decision to stop allowing some MLS listings to be crawled by search engines.

Postscript by Barry Schwartz: The Google Australian blog just announced this feature and you can access it in the states at http://maps.google.com/help/maps/realestate/.

Postscript #2 by Matt: The Google Lat-Long blog has also posted about real estate search changes. There are plenty of details in that post about what’s new and how it works.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Google: Maps & Local | Search Engines: Real Estate | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.searchinfluence.com/blog/ Will Scott

    Matt, Isn’t this a bit of catch-22?

    If the local MLS denies googlebot but then distributes through other sources who don’t aren’t they still making their listings scrape-able?

    The problem is that this is yet another disruption by google of an advertising supported medium just like newspapers. So, yet again, google replaces the original advertisers (who’ve been supporting the medium for 100s of years) with their own at pennies on the dollar.

    I’m all for organized accessible information but given google’s propensity to get it wrong I’d much rather be directed to the source.

  • Andrew Goodman

    Certainly, their competitors such as Zillow (and in Canada, ZooCasa) had intended to be enormously disruptive as well so it’s not only Google that is prepared to ruffle feathers.

    Breaking the hold of MLS won’t happen without some virtual bloodshed. And as things fragment the question becomes, if there is to be a universal source of home listing information rather than many listings all over the place, who will homeowners/agents wind up working with? Who will homebuyers turn to?

    Advantage is perhaps to Google because they have technological momentum and a history of being a “universal” source for info. But by working in so many different verticals (that they perhaps lack passion for), they also get Google involved in too many ecosystem battles. Something in the back of my mind says, you can’t pick/start too many fights at once. If everyone starts hating you for moving into their turf, it can be costly. Google’s many “beta” forays into organizing the world’s information, once relatively innocuous, are now greeted with a sense of lingering doubt.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com nickstamoulis

    Thanks Matt for highlighting this functionality! I personally think the send to phone, email and GPS is an excellent feature.

  • http://www.searchmarketingcommunications.com Cohn

    Thanks for the overview Matt…

    “Show search options” now includes “Real Estate” in the Google Maps toolbar:

    http://searchmarketingcommunications.com/2009/07/06/search-real-estate-listings-on-google-maps/

  • http://www.wrsol.com/hotelmarketingblog/ Randy Zorn

    I like the Idea. Google maps is easy to use and finding a home with other mapping tools requires a bit of a learning curve + I am all for Free information.

  • tcar

    “Closer to home, the National Association of Realtors recently made its feelings clear when it called Google a “scraper” site ”

    Hi, I work for NAR.

    The National Association of REALTORs did not call Google a scraper site. There are some MLS rules in place that make the technical process of opening real estate listings feeds to be indexed by Google (like through an RSS feed) that can be interpreted as a violation because those processes make it very easy for a scraper to come along and republish all of the information.

    NAR established a workgroup to review and possibly update these rules, and currently passes the decision whether or not to allow this back to local boards.

  • http://www.roost.com Roost

    We like Google for everyday searches, just like the next guy! Here at Roost.com, we live and breathe real estate for the web everyday and think our laser focus is apparent to consumers who use our real estate search engine. So while Google explores this market, we know that homebuyers are best served by a search that provides access to truly current MLS data like ours — it’s the only way to know you’ve got the most comprehensive and accurate information (providing the best shot at locating your proverbial “dream home”). Saving time is also key, underscoring the importance of having everything you need in one place (photos, contact information, comps, mortgage calculator, zestimates, etc.) contained in a clean design that has only the real estate customer in mind. We also think it’s a burden to be continually asked to conduct a sign-up process when you’d like more information on particular homes. It’s all in the details….

    Derek Overbey
    Sr. Director of Marketing & Social Media
    Roost.com

  • Estately

    Google is a formidable competitor, but their real estate search has two major shortcomings: missing listings and user experience.

    Google real estate drags feeds from broker sites, which means they don’t have all the data in the MLS and they are missing a lot of properties that are for sale. Missing a few web pages is okay for traditional search, but people who are buying a home want to make sure they are seeing everything.

    Additionally, Google requires a lot of clicking through to sites and back to the search results to see more information and photos. This makes for a very disjointed user experience and a lot of important bits of information – the local schools, mortgage calculator, past pricing, past sales – are not available on Google or your typical real estate agent website.

    Google could absolutely do fantastic things with its real estate search, but it isn’t close to being as easy and useful as a typical MLS-based site right now.

    Disclaimer: I work at Estately.com and we feature a powerful search using MLS data.

  • http://www.frankelcoachinggroup.com crisfrankel

    The question is, who’s more accurate, Google maps or the former leader, Mapquest?
    http://webhosting.reviewitonline.net

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