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Google just announced that they revamped the search capabilities on their Google Maps service and now when consumers search for homes for sale, Google maps matching real estate listings using data from their Google Base database.
This is a big one. Bigger than it might look at the first glance as I will explain it below (The disruption). It is also one of the most stunning timing that I have seen since the founding of RealBird. Just a few month ago - in April 2009 - we released our first version of the private labeled RealBird Property Search service for real estate agents, brokers and other related real estate professionals, a service that is using the very same Google Base real estate database as the just released search tool on Google Maps (4 Million+ listings syndicated by agents, brokers, technology providers like us, FSBOs and MLSs to Google Base). While Google Base was available as a search engine for consumers before, it was not part of the flagship Google products until now. According to Compete.com, Google Maps has over 50 million unique viewers a month vs. some 300K on the Google Base domain name. That is almost a 200X jump - a major step in terms of syndicated real estate data visibility.
Google recent announcement shows Google's dedication to their Google Base real estate repository and hence, underwrites the value of our own RealBird Property Search. I usually try to avoid using very large words in our blog posts, but I think, we, at RealBird and our members just participated in a major step of the creative disruption of the real estate data distribution model. With our RealBird Property Search product - the only one on the market currently as far as I can tell - we enable you to be in the forefront of this new real estate search experience. I am very excited about this new development at Google so I may be using big words when talking about our service as well. One of the reasons is, that for the last few months, RealBird Property Search has been proven to be working great as a business building tool for our members and also because it is exciting to see that Google herself justified the efforts that we invested in building the industry's first private labeled real estate search engine using data from Google Base.
First, let's talk about the disruption that I believe is happening, then I talk more about how Google's new consumer facing real estate search tool relates to our offering for real estate agents.
Did Google just disrupt the real estate data status quo?
I think so.
Step 1 - A few years ago, agents and brokers started to distribute (syndicate) real estate listings to 3rd-party consumer facing portals such as Google Base, Zillow, Trulia, Oodle and many others (even to international sites like Viewr.com ) using either direct MLS syndication or 3rd party providers like our service, the RealBird Listing Publisher I consider this to be the first step of disruption. Listing brokers - smartly - started to understand that with consumers spending more and more time on the Internet, the listings that are "seriously looking for buyers" need to appear on as many destination sites as possible. The obligation to home sellers as a broker is to provide all means of listing marketing. Zillow, Trulia and many others built their business (partly or mainly) around the aggregation of all of these listings and the provide a superior user experience to their visitors. Listing syndication (outside of the MLS) is Step 1 in the disruption process.
Step 2 - Many, many home sellers now understand that in order for their listing to sell as fast as possible and at its best price and with the best terms, they need Internet exposure. They know or care little about the details and legal complexities of real estate advertising (IDX opt-in, association and MLS rules, business code etc.). They expect their listing to be marketed honestly and at its fullest while their financial and other interests are also considered. It has become the reality already for the last few years (see Step 1) but now that Google is fully embracing syndicated real estate listings within their flagship service, this will be even more pressing on listing brokers. While Zillow, Trulia and other great companies created a great brand in the real estate industry and also among consumers, Google - with their leading worldwide brand - incorporating syndicated listings into one of their flagship products will certainly bring huge attention to the new era of listing advertising. Everybody (!) who uses the Internet knows about Google. Their US monthly consumer reach - only on their map service (maps.google.com) - is over 50 million according to Compete.com.
Imagine two listing agents going to a listing interview with exactly the same credentials, experience, professionalism etc. One who wants to keep the listing information in house (in the MLS only etc.) and one who promises widespread distribution via syndication, including presenting the property on the Google Maps real estate search. Guess which one will get the listing.
As more consumers will be aware of this option (associating value to syndication due to the undisputed brand and reach of Google) the more demand there will be on listing agents and brokers to let the information "free". The more listing brokers and agents welcome this brave new world, the less power will be in the hands of those who are protecting the status quo. Eventually, this pressure will trigger all the way up to the associations and MLSs and more and more of them will syndicate listings to trusted 3rd parties such as Google, Zillow and Trulia etc. Many of them are already doing it. This is the era we just entered with Google's announcement. Google just raised the importance of listing syndication to outside of the MLS with several magnitudes. And that leads to the final step of this process.
Step 3 - Data quality. Once MLSes start distributing to Google Base and other destinations and/or more quality assurance tools are developed, data quality will no longer be an issue. MLSes will eventually do this based on their pressure from their participating brokers, who are pressed to do this by their very own home sellers - the real driver of the industry. We are not yet there, at step 3, this may take a few more years, but Google's new service, just made it sure that this time is coming.
So how does Google's announcement about their revamped real estate map search and the RealBird Property Search relate to each other? Who are they for?
Data source: Both are using real estate listings from Google Base as the source of property information.
Private labeling: The standard Google Maps real estate search delivers traffic to listing brokers directly, cutting out buyer representation all together. It connects home buyers searching Google with listing agents and brokers. On the other hand, the RealBird Property Search is completely private labeled for you.ALL inquiries are forwarded to youso you can eventually convert interested visitors into home buyer clients for YOURSELF. This is a major difference between the two. Google simply redirects to the listing agent/broker website, the RealBird Property Search redirects interested parties to YOU.
Who are they for? The new Google Maps search option is mainly for consumers who visit Google to search for information. It certainly benefits listing agents and brokers with incremental exposure but has close to no value for home buyer representatives. On the other hand RealBird benefits both sides of the real estate transaction. Via the RealBird Listing Publisher - you as a listing agent or broker can syndicate your listing to the Google Base database quickly with minimum effort. With the RealBird Property Search service, you can also provide search tools to home buyers utilizing the same data as Google does, hence you can generate business on the buyer side as well. Just to emphasize it again, the RealBird Property search is not a competing product of the new Google offering, but rather, it packages the same features (and more) into a private labeled, branded service for you, supporting values and benefits on both the listing agent and buyer representative sides.
User interface: Google's version is targeting their regular portal visitors and listings are mapped on their Google Maps interface. It can be embedded just like any other maps, but it can NOT be private labeled by you. The RealBird Property Search (using the same data) is completely private labeled with your theme, photo, company name, address, email, social networking accounts and just to emphasize it again, all leads are forwarded to you and client accounts for saving searches and listings are also associated with you.
Search engine performance: This is one of our favorites. The RealBird Property Search was designed from the ground up to deliver exceptional performance. We are proud to say that due to the software architecture that we developed, your visitors to the RealBird Property Search get the exact same lightning fast search results as the people visiting and searching Google directly.
Widgets and deployment: Google Maps can only be embedded as a standard map without the search form, without private labeling and the widget carries practically no value to you on the home buyer side, because all click-throughs go the respective listing agent or broker. The RealBird Property Search can be embedded in many different forms, including full screen version, live search tool in blog posts, (e.g. in ActiveRain post), blog sidebar widget and more. Interestingly enough, Google's search form is still very basic and lacks one of the most powerful features that their Google Base service provides: the keyword search. With the RealBird Property Search, you can create fine tuned, niche, pre-set search widgets such as ocean view homes, equestrian ranches, short sale properties or whatever you can come up with that makes sense in your market.
Disclaimer: ActiveRain Corp. does not necessarily endorse the real estate agents, loan officers and brokers listed on this site. These real estate profiles, blogs and blog entries are provided here as a courtesy to our visitors to help them make an informed decision when buying or selling a house. ActiveRain Corp. takes no responsibility for the content in these profiles, that are written by the members of this community.