On Real Estate: Google to exit real estate listing market

February 2, 2011

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

Internet giant Google announced last week it will leave the real estate market and retire the Google Real Estate feature on its website.

Launched in 2009, Google Real Estate is an added feature to the Google Maps service that allows users in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Japan to find real estate for sale and rent.

The service lists properties and directs users to agents and brokers responsible for each listing. While a useful tool, Google said the feature has not been expanded upon as expected and that a host of other similar websites have surpassed its capabilities. For that reason, spokesmen said, usage has been lower than anticipated.

“At Google, one of our key philosophies is to take risks and to experiment,” Brian McClendon, Google Maps vice president, said. “(Google will) continue to explore this area.”

The service is scheduled to be shut down Thursday, Feb. 10.

Meantime, sites such as Rightmove, Trulia, Zillow, Yahoo! Real Estate and Realtor.com are scaling down their operations, pushing agents to rely on more localized MLS services. However, according to analysts, there is a significant need for a site like Google Real Estate that can capture selling points, utilize mapping features and act as a major portal consumers can enter and eventually find local sites. With a failing economy and bruised real estate market, that site has yet to be fully created.

As Google returns to the real estate drawing board, its focus will be on how to partner with social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter in maintaining a large, accurate database, especially in countries like the United States.

“Home hunters have a complex and often comprehensive set of criteria when searching for a property,” Sheraz Dar, a marketing executive for FindaProperty.com, Globrix.com and Primelocation.com, said. “(People need) more information than a simple listing.”

Since the banks started crashing in 2007, online property searches have skyrocketed, led by investors looking for distressed and foreclosed properties for pennies on the dollar.

Some say Google may follow suit of the smaller, yet more successful, listing websites, which charge agents and brokers to list their properties.

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