I wrote a long time ago that the single largest threat for the property portal game was Google entering the space (not exactly ground breaking foresight, but I do like to remind some people!). Anyway, Google Base was around then, but now it is being widely reported that Google Australia has launched '... a new tool on its mapping service that will directly link buyers and renters to available property.
The Google Maps feature, which launched today in Australia and New Zealand, will host free listings supplied by real-estate agents and publishers.
Although many existing publishers and real-estate agents offer map-based searching, the maps on Google's new service will reflect real-time changes in search criteria and location...'
The corresponding blog post from google is of more interest: '...Increasingly, people are heading online when looking for a new house to rent or buy, and from today, we're adding the ability to search for properties on Google Maps. We've worked with partners across the real estate industry to provide up-to-date listings, which you can search for directly from the Google Maps search box.
You can check it out by entering a search like 'real estate crows nest' and clicking through to search real estate listings. A marker will appear on the map for every available listing, using our new search results feature, so you can get a really good idea of the distribution of the properties for sale or rent. This also means you can perform a search and see all the properties for sale close to, for example, a local school you're interested in your kids attending. You can click on each marker and each small circle to get more detailed information about the property, including the listing agent's website and contact details...'
My emphasis on working with partners, but the rest of the blurb sounds like common 'we are a portal' blurb. Video and street view all in their as well so arguably shaping up to become a rather decent tool. The home page has the beginnings of a tasty page as well (below).
One obvious question for agents is, how the hell do I get my properties in at the top?! Well, if you have been loving google for the past years and developing your site accordingly (as I have mentioned on numerous occasions) you should be half way there, but you need to be feeding up to Google Base. How many agents do, I am not sure? Indeed, how many agents have actually recorded their business details and location with google, google maps etc?
There is also the opportunity to advertise on the actual map result page creating more ppc options. If I were an agent I would certainly capitalise on this aspect and ensure that if my properties were not popping up then my ppc/ads were coming up in the right areas.
The end of portals? I doubt it. More like an opportunity for all to integrate with and utilise more of the google service.
Will Google's 'partners' monoplise this service? Discussions have already begun over at JRA.