Since Mr Sandlar's discovery (more screenshots here), the beta has been removed from public view. However, the prospect of an impending release of a Google real estate listing search service threatens a number of publicly traded companies.
The US real estate market is remarkably inefficient, and a number of publicly-traded companies benefit handsomely from that. US real estate commissions, at 4-6%, are higher than in most other countries. Improved information flow will reduce inefficiencies in the market and ultimately cut brokers' commissions or eliminate them entirely.
Effective search for real estate listings combined with Google Base would allow home sellers to list properties directly with Google for no fee. The screenshot above suggests that Google has already integrated its real estate search with Google Maps.
The most likely victim of Google Real Estate will likely be:
Cendant Corporation (CD)
Cendant provides real estate and travel services, including traditional real estate brokerage services, car rental, and time shares. Cendant has announced that its business units will separate into four companies. The Real Estate Services Division will become Realogy Corporation upon the completion of its anticipated spin-off from Cendant during the second quarter of 2006. It consists of four primary business units: the Real Estate Franchise Group, representing approximately 15,000 residential and commercial franchised real estate offices and 313,500 sales associates affiliated with the Century 21®, Coldwell Banker®, Coldwell Banker Commercial®, ERA® and Sotheby's International Realty® brand names; Cendant Mobility (which will become Cartus), a premier provider of employee relocation and global mobility services with six global service centers on four continents; NRT Incorporated, the nation's largest residential real estate brokerage company with operations in 35 major metropolitan markets; and Cendant Settlement Services Group (which will become Title Resource Group), a leading national provider of title, escrow and other settlement services. In 2005, the Cendant Real Estate Services Division reported revenues of $7.1 billion and EBITDA of $1.2 billion, with year-over-year growth of 9 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Wonder how that growth will look in a few years time...
Other publicly companies at risk from Google include:
ZipRealty provides brokerage services to buyers and sellers through its employee-agents in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, District of Columbia, and provides consumers the opportunity to access Multiple Listing Services (MLS) data through its Website with a lower commission structure than is typical in the industry.
HouseValues, Inc. (SOLD)
HouseValues provides a service for residential real estate agents that combines lead generation from its HouseValues.com and JustListed.com Websites with its Market Leader prospect management system and personalized coaching and training. HouseValues provides these services to agent customers for a monthly fixed fee pursuant to contracts, most of which have an initial term of one year, continuing thereafter on a month-to-month basis until terminated. Wonder how many of those contracts will be renewed in a few years' time...
Move.com, formerly Homestore, Inc. (HOMS)
Move.com provides an online service that enables consumers to find real estate listings and other content related to residential real estate, moving and relocation. The Company's primary consumer Websites include REALTOR.com, the official site of the National Association of Realtors (NAR); HomeBuilder.com, the official new home listing site of the National Association of Homebuilders; RENTNET, an apartment, corporate housing and self-storage resource; SeniorHousingNettm.com, a comprehensive resource for seniors; and Homestore.com, a home information resource site with an emphasis on content related to mortgage financing, moving and storage, and home and garden activities. HOMS stock has been a long-term let-down. Doesn't look as though that's going to improve...