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Property has been Googled
Well they finally did it! After months of caginess and their unique method of hype by denial, Google has launched its property search feature: http://maps.google.co.uk/realestate on Google Maps http://maps.google.co.uk in the UK.
In the lead up to the launch the major concern for estate agents has been that listing on the Google property search will be open to all, facilitating and encouraging homeowners to sell their property direct, without the use of an estate agent.
Homeowners have, of course, always been able to sell their homes themselves, but this new offering will make it really easy – or will it? Andrew Foster, Google’s Product Manager, told PROPERTYdrum that although it is possible for homeowners to list on Google, they would first have to have their own website for their home and upload it themselves to Google. “Our experience in Australia has shown that there has not been any significant take up of this facility.”
So nothing to worry about there then… but agents need to consider the threat from direct sale portals like Sarah Beeny’s Tepilo, who make uploading a property for sale by owner (new jargon: FSBO) very simple. If Tepilo signs up as a portal to feed their properties onto Google that opens a whole new opportunity for homeowners to sell direct. And there is no reason that portals that allow landlords to list their homes will not expand dramatically as they could follow Ezylet’s immediate partnering with Google and also upload directly to Google’s property search. Google’s new feature allows estate agents, franchise groups and portals alike to upload their listings directly to Google Maps at no cost; make no mistake, this facility will change forever the way people search for property, to buy or to let. “We know that many UK home buyers are already using Google Maps to help with their house-buying and renting decisions, especially driving directions and Streetview, and by making property listings available right in Google Maps we can drive qualified buyers directly to listings,” said Andrew Foster. “It’s a simple and free way for property companies to make their listings even more discoverable on an easy-to-navigate map.”
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em
Zoopla, SmartNewHomes and PropertyLive have worked as portal partners with Google to finalise the way the search works and to ensure that uploading is easy. It can only be a matter of time until the other portals join the fray, as their agency clients will, presumably, walk, if they are paying big portal fees but not receiving the broadest possible exposure.
Alex Chesterman, Founder & CEO of Zoopla.co.uk said, “Partnering with Google in this initiative provides an opportunity for us to generate even greater levels of exposure and leads for our member agents. Listing on Zoopla gives agents free, instant exposure on our wide network of partner sites, adding Google as a distribution partner will be a big win for our members.”
To a point; the portals will naturally understand the benefits of a wider audience and at this stage, agents will want their properties uploaded by their portal, within their current fees. But what happens once the great British public discovers the joys of going Google? If a simple, single visit gives them a new generation of ‘portal’ will we need portals, as they exist now, at all?
Rightmove and TDPG have chosen not to join Google. Miles Shipside commercial director, Rightmove said, “We teamed up with Google to offer an improved mapbased search option for visitors to rightmove.co.uk, and it’s been a useful addition. Users appreciate being able to locate an individual property on a map, but want it right alongside the detailed property information with our other research resources. The vast majority of Rightmove users still prefer list-based search results, but it’s great to be able to offer them the choice. I’m sure agents will try a Google search on their area wearing a home-hunters hat, and judge for themselves the quality of the experience.”
At TDPG Sales Director Jon Notley told us, “We observed the build up to Google’s UK launch with great interest and noted that their presence in the US and Australia markets hasn’t been to the detriment of the established property portal brands. In fact, the Australian brands have gone from strength to strength. Our increasing brand awareness and traffic results for Primelocation.com, FindaProperty.com and Globrix.com demonstrate that we’re continuing to build long term relationships with different groups of home searchers.
“Google has joined a number of mainstream websites, such as Ebay, entering the property market and promoting properties from private sellers and landlords, and traditional agents. We will of course be watching their progress in all markets with interest.”
Miles Shipside added, “We do not intend to list properties via the listing service as at this stage it does not seem to add any extra features or benefits to those that Rightmove already provides. The wellestablished appeal of our site in the minds of the UK public is that we provide everything for them in one place when home-hunting. We will continue to develop our website to ensure our user experience stays well ahead of any competition. This includes an innovative new spatial search tool launching in the next month.”
Some agents have been working with Google behind the scenes. Grenville Turner, Group Chief Executive of Countrywide (Bairstow Eves, Bridgfords, Abbotts, John D Wood & Co and Sotheby’s International Realty) said, “We see partnering with Google Maps as an ideal way to extend our online reach. This will help the growing number of buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants turning to the internet to help make their next move.”
Agents who don’t list with Zoopla, PropertyLive, Zoomf or Ezylet will be able to upload directly through their own software, if their provider has signed up to Google. GMG Property Services is also a launch partner and users of their brands, Vebra, Core and CFP, will have their properties automatically uploaded on to Google via their software, free of charge.
Mark Goddard, Group MD of GMG Property Services, said, “The aim is to provide an additional, free to advertise platform to increase an agent’s ability to reach a wider audience. All our customers’ properties will automatically be available on Google Maps Property Search, unless they choose to opt out, for no additional cost or effort.”
The new feature lets potential home buyers or tenants enter a city or village and see available listings represented by markers or small circles on the map. They can then refine their search by price, type of property, bedrooms and bathrooms. The map will automatically update with relevant listings when panned or zoomed to another suburb, and when the search criteria is changed. Clicking on a marker or a small circle will provide more about the listing, as well as the contact details of the listing agent and a link to their website.
Doing a quick search on the launch day we picked on Brighton and instantly found 18,000 properties for sale and to let, (30 per cent rentals, the rest sales); impressive, but not comprehensive – yet.