Google has expanded again, this time moving into the world of real estate--or at least real estate listing services. Their website, called Google Base, launched in November 2005, and lists properties for sale, which can be uploaded free. Home buyers can narrow their search by typing in particular areas, such as "San Francisco real estate."
Although the information isn't nearly as complete as the typical MLS listing, the new Google service allows buyers the opportunity to search with more anonymity than most similar sites. Before Google Base, viewers were generally asked to reveal personal information before they were given a chance to look at properties, and that information was then used as leads for agents.
It's a free advertising vehicle for agents, similar to Realtor.com, but doesn't offer nearly the choices of the actual MLS. However, the site has been up and running for less than a year, so it's yet to be determined what the site will eventually look like, in terms of the number of properties and the site's overall features. For instance, buyers can currently narrow their search by ZIP Code or county, but it's not yet possible to search specific neighborhoods within a target area.
Perhaps the biggest change is that buyers can search for real estate listings through Google itself, rather than having to go onto the World Wide Web for information. The basic concept is similar to craigslist--the popular site that allows people to buy and sell goods and services nationwide.
At the moment, only properties that have been uploaded by agents appear on Google Base, but time will tell if Google will expand the information to include properties that have been "spidered" from World Wide Web listings on other sites. There will likely be a considerable amount of debate as to whether information that's traditionally been held solely by the MLS will ultimately become accessible to all home buyers. If the trend toward open access continues, it's possible that home buyers will gain access to what has previously been available only to real estate agents.
Eventually, the MLS may finding itself needing to enter into some sort of partnership agreement with Google Base, that is, unless they decide to team up with one of the other two search engine giants, Yahoo or MSN. Only time will tell how this latest Google venture will play out, but as always, it will be consumer demand that dictates the final outcome.
It seems as though real estate agents haven't taken to Google Base in all areas. In a search for Lake Elsinore, California, few of the listings available on MLS came up on Google Base. Interestingly, Trulia.com uses the Google Base map and more properties came up listed on Trulia.
Copyright © 2006 Jeanette J. Fisher