Google Base for Real Estate
This is the start of a new series of articles for Realtors on leveraging free technologies. If you have any questions or would like to suggest a subject for me to cover please contact me via my Google mail account at wbarrettpowell.
I spent a lot of time thinking about what to write first. There are so many great applications that are provided to us, most for free. The catch is always trying to wade through what works and how to use. I will try and make this column answer both of these questions. Now on to the first topic.
Many of us have heard about our National Association of Realtors and this new thing called RPR. RPR is supposed to be a National MLS. While NAR and the local MLS boards have gone back and forth over who is doing what, a little company named Google quietly began working on something as well. Called Google Base, this is a Google product that allows products to be added to Google. Why you might ask? If a product is in Google, it can be searched for and found. Hum, this sounds interesting. I wonder if it works for houses?
You bet it does! As I write this little article, just about every property in a MLS is now being uploaded to Google Base Real Estate. But it is not only properties from the MLS. Many property databases exist beyond our MLS. How about the many foreclosure listing sites out there or the For Sale By Owner sites. Well many of these are now being added to Google Base Real Estate. This is game changing because while we as Realtors wait for our association to deliver on the National MLS, Google has already done so. Well almost anyway.
True the Google Base Real Estate solution may not have all the information available in our MLS. It may not have all the details about the property such as all the appliances listed. But for the consumer who is starting their search, is all that data really important? Maybe, maybe not. What is important is to give the buyer what they want. What they want is to be able to search for a property. Then search for information about the area. They want to search for school information. They want to search for demographic information. They want to search for photos of the area. Guess where they can go today to find all these things, right now…Google.
So how do we harness this Google information? One way is to add a Google Base Real-Estate search to your website. There are a number of companies who have started offering an IDX type search using Google instead of your local MLS. What I especially like about these new Google Base search vendors is that also offer a really nice mashup of information about the area the house is located. For example, since you can search Google for just about anything, why not offer categories like schools, restaurants, shopping, etc. of things geographically located near the house you are interested in. That is what a mashup can do.
One vendor I really like is Realbird (http://Realbird.com). Realbird is a paid solution, similar to your other IDX vendors. But instead of pulling the property data from your MLS, Realbird pulls it from Google Base. This does a number of things. It first means you have properties now available that are not in your MLS, including properties outside your MLS’s service area or properties like foreclosures that are not listed with a member of your MLS. Another nice feature of Realbird is they offer a WordPress plug-in. This is a native WordPress type application that makes the search work much better in a WordPress environment than your typical IDX vendor can using what is called an I-Frame (don’t worry about this for now).
Another vendor that just came on the scene is RealShout (http:RealShout.com). RealShout just released their free Google Base Real-Estate Search. Like RealBird, RealShout’s search is available as a WordPress plug-in and also offers a “mashup” capability by providing additional location information on the property detail page. RealShout does offer a paid version of $50 per which is the same as the free version but with support included. Talk about a great deal. I am currently beta testing RealShout on my real estate website. So far I really like it.
Google Base Real Estate is for real, no pun intended. It is here and here to stay and will only get better. If you would like to learn more about Google Base Real Estate then…Google it. You will get plenty of information and examples.
If you have questions about WordPress, get in contact with me. I will be covering WordPress in future articles.