If I was a gambling man, I’d bet on Google disrupting a significant number of property portal markets over the medium term. Brand building is a portal’s only defence and it will be the number two, three and four players who suffer most. Will it benefit agents? Probably, in some cases by putting downward pressure on portal prices but inflation in Adwords prices could cancel this out.
In today's blog from the WAV group (http://waves.wavgroup.com/google-launches-real-estate-search-portal) Victor Lund describes Google's announcement of a real estate search portal. And Global Edge's blog (reprinted by Inman) trumpets "Property Portals-Expect Casualties".
Speaking as a consumer, the Google search portal for real estate is pretty slick. A lot of the property data infrastructure is already in place from Google Maps, and I found that even for my isolated location in Northern Michigan there's a highly populated data base due to an existing feed from the MLS through the ListHub product. In addition, property owners can add their own listings if they don't have an agreement with a real estate broker--thus increasing the potential listing search for consumers.
Read Google's instructions for agents and brokers (http://maps.google.com/help/maps/realestate/data_provider_faq.html). The instructions are elegantly simple and designed to encourage participation. The bare bones, welcoming design is in itself one of the greatest challenges to many of the real estate search portals in existence today, particularly those affiliated with multiple listing services (the Google real estate search is NOT an MLS, as it clearly states). But the Google real estate search is inclusive, self-correcting, interactive, and free--conditions which will be certain to be attractive to consumers and real estate professionals.
If you have a property search portal on your company, franchise, or association web site, scurry on over to http://maps.google.com/realestate and have a look. There are a lot of lessons to be learned there.