January 26, 2011
Google announced today that it was dropping real estate listings from its Google Maps platform effective February 10, 2011. The company posted on their blog:
“In part due to low usage, the proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real estate websites, and the infrastructure challenge posed by the impending retirement of the Google Base API, we’ve decided to discontinue the real estate feature within Google Maps on February 10, 2011″
The Industry Reaction
In a blog post about the decision, Joel Burslem of real estate marketing and communications firm ’1000 Watt Consulting’, commented:
“Maintaining a national property database, and, perhaps more importantly, its concurrent accuracy, is a huge challenge that it looks like even Google realized is too big a pill to swallow.”
Inman News columnist Gahlord Dewald wrote:
“For real estate, I don’t have data that supports the idea of humans clicking on maps as a search interface ever was real — the technology vendors of map-based search still don’t have adequate analytics to give us that data. Google, I’m sure, has that data, …maybe people don’t want to use a map as a search interface for real estate “
Any Local Business Impact?
We liked the Google Maps real estate service because:
- All of our local listings were included
- The top 5 Google search result links were provided as additional information on every property
So while we will miss the additional traffic that this Google service drove to our website daily, the traffic quantity was small and thus the impact will be small. The bigger question …
Is Real Estate Map Search Dead?
What I found most interesting were the comments from several Industry leaders questioning whether the low usage experienced by Google indicates that consumers don’t want to use a map interface as a real estate search interface. …Which just happens to be the result of my own inquiries from many consumers that frequent these pages and every power-searcher I’ve talked to, including every single real estate agent I have asked this question. …Maps are secondary not primary!
Who wants to poke around, panning, clicking, and zooming large numbers of listings that most of today’s limited filtered search maps provide? …Answer: apparently very few!
On the other hand consumers are very interested in maps as a secondary information source and want powerful filters. Perhaps they want to view a map of the current listings of a local builder say: Map of Jeff Benton Homes for Sale or perhaps they want to look at a map that displays only Mapped Golf Course Front Homes in the area, etc.
Real Estate Map Search “As we know it” is Now Dead!
Real Estate search of the future will of course have maps, after all, real estate is all about: Location, Location, …Location!
However these maps will include what consumers really want; much more powerful search filters including lifestyle and social parameters (e.g., nearby: churches of a particular faith, particular restaurants, health centers, sold homes, schools, etc) and an intuitive and easy to use filter interface.
Moreover the ability to save complex search filters for easy one-click re-use will be absolutely essential for future mapped search efforts to be successful. These new products are just coming out of beta-testing so stay tuned it should be fun!