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Who will be the winners on Google Property?

publication date: Jun 23, 2010
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Without doubt it is an amazing proposition; to be able to quickly click onto a map of your chosen area and almost instantly see every available property clearly marked, is pretty irresistible. To then be able to ‘drive past’ the houses you choose, on Google’s Streetview and see how near it is to the station, the office, the shops, the schools, is impressive.

Grenville Turner CEO CountrywideSome estate agents are happy, seeing it as a way to keep down the prices charged by the property search portals such as Rightmove and Primelocation. Indeed, Countrywide partnered with Google pre launch. "We want to make sure this stays a competitive market," said Grenville Turner (left), chief executive of Countrywide, the UK's biggest estate agency group. "Google will not replace portals but it will affect the ability of portals to charge unlimited amounts. There will be continued pressure on portals to innovate."

Other agents are less happy, viewing the new service as encouraging homeowners and landlords to sell or let directly, without using agents and in theory, they can, some will definitely bother to make a website for their home and upload the links to Google. Because of course, it’s free! Free is what people in the UK like. They do not like paying estate agents fees. And, let’s face it, estate agents don’t like paying portal fees.

So this free (free!) service will attract many agents who won’t look past the fact that it will, in theory, save them money. Those who use software from Vebra, CFP or Core, for example, will be able to see their properties on Google, automatically, completely free of charge (the software isn’t free of course, but there is no extra fee for uploading to Google). This appears to remove the need to pay portals for exposure; but the public is not yet attuned to searching for a home on Google and how quickly they become attuned is not easy to estimate. The Google property search has been operational for well over a year in Australia but the portals continue to be very popular there, with the Google search being just another choice of home hunting methods, so we can probably expect a similar situation here.

Alex Chesterman CEO ZooplaOf the larger portals, only one chose to partner with Google for its launch. Alex Chesterman (right), Founder & CEO of Zoopla.co.uk said, "Partnering with Google in this initiative provides an opportunity for us to generate even greater levels of exposure and leads for our member estate agents. Listing on Zoopla gives agents free, instant exposure on our wide network of partner sites and adding Google as our latest distribution partner will be a big win for our members. Google helps users find relevant content online and our content helps users make better property decisions, which is very complementary.”

The Digital Property Group’s (Primelocation, Globrix and Findaproperty) Jon Notley, Group Sales Director told PROPERTYdrum, “With almost one in three online adults now using property websites, it is not surprising that we are seeing new entrants to the digital property space. We’ve observed the build up to Google’s UK launch with great interest and noted that their presence in the US and Australia property markets hasn’t been to the detriment of the established property portal brands. In fact, the Australian brands, for example, have gone from strength to strength.

Aspasia Cloud“Consumers tell us that they expect more than just search; they want functionality and features which help them refine their search; they want market data and expert articles to help them make the right choices.

“Over ten years, our brands have grown to now appeal to an audience of over 8.2million home searchers, from first-time buyers and renters through to multi-million pound portfolio owners. Our increasing property brand awareness and traffic results for Primelocation.com, FindaProperty.com and Globrix.com demonstrate that we’re continuing to build long term relationships with these different groups of home searchers.

Miles Shipside “Google has joined a number of mainstream websites, such as Ebay, entering the property market and promoting properties from private sellers and landlords, and traditional agents. We will of course be watching their progress in all markets with interest.”

Rightmove too has, so far, not chosen to join Google although the portal does use Google mapping. Miles Shipside (right) commercial director of Rightmove was unmoved by the Google offering. “We do not intend to list properties via the listing service as at this stage it does not seem to add any extra features or benefits to those that Rightmove already provides. The well-established appeal of our site in the minds of the UK public is that we provide everything for them in one place when home-hunting. We will continue to develop our website to ensure our user experience stays well ahead of any competition. This includes an innovative new spatial search tool launching in the next month.”

Rightmove’s shareholders will want reassurance that their market dominance will continue. Rightmove shares lost 10 per cent of their value in December, the day after the Financial Times broke the news of Google's planned entry into the market. They recovered quite quickly though, and held firm this week when the new Google tools were first published.