Google joins the Property party

Things just got a whole lot more complicated in the property market in New Zealand with the news today that Google is now inviting real estate agents and data providers to add property details to Google Maps — for free, in the usual Google tradition.

What does this news mean for prospective buyers?
Looking for a home to rent or buy? Now you can go to the real estate section of Google Maps, nominate a city or suburb and then be presented with available home listings in that area. [A little word of warning -- because Google Maps is a global service, you do need to be quite specific in your location, otherwise you're as likely to be presented with maps for "Hamilton, New Jersey" or "Epsom, UK" as their local equivalents]

Your search parameters can be further refined by:

  • whether the property is for sale or for rent
  • type of property
  • number of bedrooms
  • number of bathrooms
  • parking capacity (number of cars)
  • and even area sought, in square metres

Listings details are relatively limited, but include a link back to the real agents’ site or to aggregator sites such as where you can find more details about each property. Presumably in due course we’ll also see links back to Trade Me Property listings as well.

This new Google Maps real estate service has just launched, so you’d expect to see only a few listings — but already at least some of the NZ maps look like they’ve got a bad case of the measles, with spots designating available properties scattered everywhere, prepopulated courtesy and leading agents such as Harcourts.

What’s unique about this service, from a buyer’s perspective?
As more and more properties get added to the maps, it’s likely to become (as far as we’re aware) the only property listings site where you can look at a specific area such as a suburb on a map and see what’s currently available in that area. That’s likely to make it a good starting point for property searches.

In time we’ll also start to see the service integrated into Google’s main search  results: search for “townhouse for sale Christchurch” and you’ll eventually see a map at the top of the search results, with featured properties flagged.

And from a seller’s perspective?
Did we mention “free”? And, of course, there’s the small matter of all that traffic passing through Google — better to be included than not, especially if you can point viewers to a link containing full details.

What about from Trade Me’s perspective?
It’s another competitor, at least for eyeballs. And who’s to say that somewhere down the line Google won’t charge a fee for this service, once it reaches critical mass? Or remove the ability to link back to another site? Still, Google’s already gotten into the game, so Trade Me might as well tap into the promotional power of all that Google traffic.

As the cliche goes, better to have Google inside the tent than outside …

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