CoStar, the country’s largest provider of commercial real estate data, is in talks with Google to integrate its property information with the Google Earth mapping product, CoStar confirmed Thursday.

Mapping is one of the hottest developments in real estate marketing technology, with companies rushing to incorporate the feature. A number of companies have modified the free Google Earth three-dimensional mapping imagery for use with their offerings, though Google has said in its licensing rules it does not permit this for commercial use.

The deal with CoStar, which CoStarconfirmed is under discussion, would represent Google’s first exploration into the world of commercial real estate. One of the applications being developed would use a Google map and make it possible to drill down to specific information on a given building, not just see it on the map, a source within Costar confirmed.

Google officials did not return phone calls seeking comment on the prospective partnership.

CoStar has more than 700 researchers tracking more than 1 million commercial properties, keeping on top of more than 200 bits of data on buildings in about 80 major U.S. markets, according to the company’s Web site. Adding this information to Google’s ability to fly from space to street level views of properties could be a formidable combination, an industry expert said.

“Combining Google and CoStar would be a good thing for buyers,” said Neal Polachek, an analyst with the Kelsey Group, a research company that focuses on local search.

“This is advancing the whole process whereby commercial real estate investors, agents or anybody in that space can quickly and effectively look at available inventory, compare buildings to other buildings without having to go out and see them,” Polachek said.

“I used to be a commercial real estate consultant in Los Angeles. We used to have to take pictures of the buildings ourselves. We would drive around the city, going inside buildings and going inside them grading their interiors. This (the Google partnership with CoStar) expedites the whole process of evaluating real estate,” Polachek said.

Google Earth combines 3D buildings and terrain with mapping capability and Google search. Key features include three-dimensional views of buildings in major cities across the United States and the ability to tilt, rotate and activate 3D terrain and buildings for a different perspective on a location.

“You would be able to see parking spaces, the amenities around the building, in the photos,” Polachek said of the proposed integration.

If the partnership between CoStar and Google comes to fruition, Polachek said, “Now I can go online and search if I’m looking for a property. That gives me more power as a buyer – and that’s ultimately the trend.”

Polachek said, “The Internet is making the buyers more powerful. The access to the content that used to be the domain of the intermediary makes it less their domain and forces them to be better at negotiating. Because the buyer has more information, they have more power in the situation.”


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