What is (and isn't) new with Google Real Estate?

Jul 7, 2009 Michael Wurzer

There’s a lot of buzz the last few days over Google’s recent updates to its real estate search.  Here’s a quick run-down of some of the posts that have come through my feed reader:

Google Lat-Long Blog: Improving real estate search on Google Maps

Agent Genius: Real Estate Search – Google to Punk Your Local MLS? Is It Possible?

Real Central VA: Google Assumes It Is A Foregone Conclusion

Property Owl: All Eyes on Google

GigaOm: Why Google is a Fair-Weather Friend

FoREM: Google Gets Serious About Real Estate Search

Bloodhound Blog: Web 2.0 Still Hasn’t Mastered The Real Estate Mantra: Location, Location, Location

Read/Write Web: Google Updates Its Real Estate Search, Should The Competition Be Frightened?

Screenwerk: Google “Real Estate” Not New

VAR Buzz: Google Enters The Real Estate Biz

Undoubtedly there are others I’ve missed as well.  What’s all the fuss about?  As Greg Sterling points out, that Google is displaying real estate listings on maps isn’t new.  Nor is it new that Google is accepting real estate listing into Google Base.  This is where I think posts such as Benn Rosales’ over at Agent Genius are a bit off the mark in suggesting that this could be the end for local MLSs.  Google hasn’t created anything very new or exciting with their latest improvements and sites like HAR.com, HomesDataBase, Yahoo! Real Estate, Zillow, Trulia and many others are already more well-developed with greater listing coverage than Google.  Moreover, Google is getting many of its listings from local MLSs.

(Also of important note here: I do not yet see any connection between Google’s indexing of IDX listings and their maps.google.com/realestate site.  Instead, all the listings appear to be coming from Google Base, which is populated from local MLSs, brokers, agents, and consumers and doesn’t involve IDX at all.)

So what is new?  Well, Google clearly is continuing to be interested in the real estate space as they’ve invested additional development resources into the product.  They also are trying to find a home for real estate by using the URL maps.google.com/realestate.  In fact, if you type the term “real estate” into Google’s search, they’ve created a little promo for their new site.  I also think this development from Google is a sign that they believe they have a robust enough representation of listings to make it worthwhile, and my guess is that they achieved this by working with MLSs and syndication firms like ThreeWide or RealEstateBook or others.  If I haven’t made the point already, my guess is that the majority of listings are coming from MLSs (but I’d love to see some real numbers on the data sources).

A couple of things I find interesting about Google’s implementation:

  • World-Wide Mapping of ListingsIf you zoom way out, you can see the beginnings of world-wide coverage.
  • Plotting All Listings:  Instead of just plotting a hundred or so, Google is plotting all the listings nearly all the time (except when zoomed way out).  This is the same approach we took with our mapping, because it gives users a better perspective on all the results.
  • Potential: Of course, when Google sneezes, the world catches a cold these days.  Accordingly, paying attention to what they’re doing is smart.  The most interesting question is when will Google integrate the listings into organic search results.  In other words, when will they join more firmly the Base listings with indexed listings and how will they resolve the conflicts?  My guess is that they’ll prefer the listings from the higher quality sources, which, in my view, are the local MLSs.