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.
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:
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.)
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 #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.