A Houston-area multiple listing service announced a first in pushing members’ property listings information to Google Base, a free classified listings service operated by Google.
The move is the first public announcement of an MLS supplying for-sale property details to Google Base, a beta site that also hosts information on autos, jobs, recipes, reviews, books, and people and company profiles, among a broad range of categories. The Houston Association of Realtors‘ MLS already posts property information at Realtor.com, a local newspaper Web site and other property-search Web sites.
Several real estate brokerage companies also have announced that they are sending property information for display on Google Base, and competition among online property-search sites is heating up. Zillow and HomeGain last week announced that they were accepting property listings from agents for display at their Web sites, and Trulia.com and Propsmart.com are among the sites that serve as real estate-focused search engines.
Google, with its vast consumer audience and resources, has been both feared and revered by real estate industry participants, as Google and other online sites have the potential to disrupt traffic at other real estate sites and pose a challenge to MLSs.
Justin McCarthy, senior sales manager at Google, was not immediately available for comment about the agreement with the Houston Association of Realtors.
Bob Hale, president and CEO for the Houston Association of Realtors, said, “This is one more way of promoting Realtor listings.” He described the arrangement with Google as a licensing agreement. “We’ve been talking with them for a number of weeks. There is no money that changes hands. We provide the listings and they show a minimum set of information.”
The MLS-supplied property information displayed at Google Base contains links that direct consumers to the association’s own property listings site for more details, and that site, in turn, directs users to its members’ Web sites. The association’s property-search site is popular among consumers, drawing about 700,000 unique visitors in November, Hale said. About 23,000 brokers and agents participate in the association’s MLS, and the association hosts about 56,000 active listings
The decision has been noncontroversial so far, Hale said, noting that member brokers of the association’s MLS have had data-exchange agreements for years. “Our brokers are pretty visionary and they’re usually out in front in anything,” he said. “Anytime we send out broker listings it’s with their permission. I have not heard of a broker who does not want their listings on Realtor.com or Google. I haven’t heard any controversy at all about this.”
Sam Scott, director of information for the Houston association, said it’s conceivable that the same properties could show up multiple times on Google Base, as individual agents and brokers can also choose to market properties at Google Base.
About 47,000 of the MLS’s supply of about 51,000 active listings are now displayed via Google Base, Scott said. Last week, only about 1,200 of the association’s properties could be viewed through Google Base. Google, he said, is “continuing to refine the process.”
Some listings in the Houston MLS’s database will not be viewable through Google Base because there are instances in which property addresses are not available for display, Scott said. He said that Google now updates the listings information once per day, though Google has the ability to update that information more frequently.
The agreement with Google predates the self-serve option to feed data to Google, Scott said.