On 6th July 2009, Google announced that it was increasing its real estate listings on Google Maps. In an interview with The Age, Andrew Foster, a Google product manager, explained that Google was rededicating itself to this market due the opportunities, which he believed were out there. It found that a growing number of people are using the Internet to search for a new home, using both estate agents and tools like Google maps etc to see the location of the property as well as local amenities. Currently, according to data from Hitwise, Google Maps is only a very small player in the online real estate market and it only sends approximately 2% of its traffic to real estate web sites. The current market leaders are Realtor.com, Zillow, and Yahoo Real Estate, who all take up over 50% of the market, and who Google will expect tough competition from.
It is important to note that Google has offered this capability on Google Maps for a long time already, and it still didn’t leave a dent in Realtor.com’s or Zillow’s traffic, so we really have to wait and see if Google puts some marketing muscle behind this improved service, or if it will continue to linger in relative obscurity. This is a very important issue for Google to consider, because, without a strong and effective marketing campaign, the competitors are bound to maintain control of the market.
The main issue for experts when comparing Google to others, is that it works, very well. It’s just the competition is better. For example, when you are looking for a house, obviously location is a key factor, and just like Zillow, Google Maps puts a house’s location at the front and center of its presentation. Looking at houses on Google Maps, however, also quickly makes it clear that Google is only aggregating data from listing web sites and getting its data from brokers who update their listing on Google Base. This means that listings on Google Maps are not necessarily as up to date or as comprehensive as those you could find on similar services.
It is also quite obvious that real estate listings aren’t the focus of Google Maps and most probably never will be. Google’s competition commonly offers far greater options when searching for a house (type of house, lot size, year built, etc.), and does a much better job at displaying other important information about the house and surrounding neighborhood (quality of local schools, libraries, for example).
While it is good to see that Google is re-dedicating itself to the real estate market, this is hopefully only the beginning of the company’s efforts, because in its current state, these listings on Google Maps are a nice addition to a great product, but don’t hold up as a real estate offering in its own right.