A lot of discussion has taken place over the last two days with regards to Google and what they are doing with real estate and their map. On the Mashable site, Stan Schroeder states in his post Google Gets Serious About Real Estate Search...In Australia "It’s a sign of the things to come, as this real estate search seems as good (or better) as any you’ve seen on various real estate sites out there."
While I agree it may "look" cool, what should be important is not the user interface of the map itself, but the data that goes into it. No one seems to be talking about the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the data so I thought I would provide a little insight.
Just to give a little background, I was the VP of Marketing at Intero Real Estate Services in Cupertino, CA for five years and during my tenure we were one of the first brokerages nationally to feed our listings into Google Base. This seems like ages ago. The Chairman, CFO and I even made a trek over to the Google Mountain View headquarters to talk to some of the higher ups about the inner workings of real estate and some of the roadblocks they might encounter in their trip down real estate lane.
Move ahead about a year. I noticed the issue of duplication of Intero’s listings as Google was taking feeds from not only brokers but newspaper sites, magazine sites, single property listing sites, etc. One of my questions was who was going to trump who in this same property scenario. I never received a satisfactory answer before I left Intero.
Now I’m at Roost.com and we are unique in the way that we approach real estate search. We are a search engine which directs consumers to a hosted network of real estate broker and agent "IDX" websites. We partner with local Multiple Listing Services (MLS), RE brokers, builders, data providers and more to help ensure you're getting the freshest, most comprehensive data possible. The key to that last sentence is freshest, most comprehensive data possible.
So with what I know about our company and our commitment to data and my background with Google, I decided to do a little test. I took San Francisco (because this is where we are located) and popped it into Google Maps with the real estate search option checked. Below are the results I got for the first 10 pages I looked at. I was even a little shocked by where the data is coming from to fill the "good-looking" map.
So what I can conclude from my non-scientific San Francisco Google Map real estate test is the following:
- None of the data is coming from the Multiple Listing Services (MLS), the most accurate source of real estate data today.
- About 14 percent of the listings were being fed to Google via brokers. Since most broker sites are IDX compliant, these are probably the most accurate. These are highlighted in green. I did not highlight the listing from Weichert because it was a non-San Francisco listing and is mentioned below.
- 20 percent of the listings were being sent to Google via 3rd party sources like Postlets, CirclePix and Obeo on behalf of Agents. Since these particular listings are not tied to an accurate MLS database, the listings might have already sold or have been pulled off the market and still be on the Google site as an active listing. Unless the agent goes back to inform these 3rd party vendors of the current status of the listing, it will stay up on the Google site.
- 58 percent of the listings were foreclosures. Now this is great for people that are looking for a foreclosed property, but not everyone is. I know you can choose the listing type as foreclosure or non-foreclosure but this is not typically the way most search engines differentiate between types of real estate. Another note on the foreclosures is that a user must register with the 3rd Party foreclosure site to see all the important detail of the property like address and photos.
- One of the 100 listings was no longer active and another one was in San Diego, not San Francisco.
- The same property scenario was still there but handled slightly different than before. Instead of having the same property listed multiple times, the listing had multiple sources listed in the "more info" tab. This is why you see .5's in the chart above because I wanted to highlight all data sources. I don’t know if this is the best way to handle this because again we don’t know who has the most accurate information.
Now all of this is not intended to say that the Google real estate map service doesn’t have its good qualities. However, I do want people to realize how important the data is when it comes to real estate search - if it’s not accurate and comprehensive, you could be missing out on the home of your dreams. No one wants that.