Here comes Google!
It was only a matter of time but we now know that everyone's favourite search engine looks like it wants a bit of the Property pie. I don’t mean that it’s going to start buying and selling homes nor is it about to help build some of the 200,000 new homes we were told we needed to keep homes affordable. No, it wants to help it’s users to find homes to buy or to rent.
Rightmove, the UK’s biggest property portal announced it’s busiest week ever at the start of January with over 157 million page views over seven days that the country was covered by snow. We knew that most home movers now start their search online but these numbers make scary reading for traditional estate agents who used to control the registers of prospective buyers and tenants. Pre-qualifying those who were to look at their clients homes is still something that some agents trot out as an excuse for the fees they charge.
Sadly, the internet means that you don’t have to answer a whole heap of irrelevant questions from someone you know wants to ‘sell’ you something (probably a mortgage or some conveyancing services!). You choose when you want to look, you choose what you say, you can lie and say you have more to spend than your spouse would ever believe and you can do it all anonymously.
Over 90% of all the estate agents in the UK and a growing number of agents and brokers abroad pay to list on Rightmove and in the UK their rates for new joiners are now over £400 per month per branch! Small wonder that Rightmove is a £600m company and even less surprise that Google is interested in taking a slice of this pie.
Of course Google aren’t saying that they want to compete. It’s all about providing a service to their users. I am still amazed at the number of people I see who put a www address into Google rather than just typing it into a web browser so I can testify to the number of people who given the chance will stay within the Google site if they can.
Imagine using Google maps for directions, seeing homes for sale as you do (and cars, jobs and who knows what else in the near future) and being offered the chance to view the homes, being offered two or three mortgage products while you’re looking and given the chance to be sent more properties like this in the future - all without leaving the Google site and you can see why the established portals might be nervous.
The Digital Property Group (owned by the Daily Mail group) also have a significant investment in the property marketing space having paid north of £70m over the years to acquire brands such as Primelocation, FindaProperty, Under one Roof to name but three. They along with Trinity Mirror (who own Smart New Homes amongst other online property businesses) will all be planning a defence no doubt.
One aggregator, home.co.uk has already taken the option open to all (including estate agents) of using the helpful Google code to populate the Google Base product that at present you can list your inventory on. Home.co.uk has irritated some property players as they collect their inventory by indexing other sites.
This is exactly what Google does so the argument seems a little flawed to me. The bottom line is that those looking to market their properties have never had it so good. The choices are numerous and if you’re looking for something it’s never been easier.
I expect Google will launch with innovations in the next few months. At their offices in London last Spring they helpfully explained the Google approach of being certain that what they want to do will work. There has been silence so far from the Company but you can be sure that when they do go public with their property offering we can expect their competition to be howling and pointing out the Google motto “don’t be evil”!
It is unlikely that customers are going to be anything like as worried.
Many thanks indeed to Henry for this entry. To find out more about his work as a buying agent, industry pundit, internet entrepreneur and all round "good egg" please visit his website at www.hclp.co.uk