Online Real Estate Research Booming

While the housing market is cooling, the national obsession with real estate and real estate topics has not. In fact, even the big players like Yahoo and Google are now pushing real estate information. If you go to Yahoo's real estate portal, you can find everything from for-sale and for-rent listings to user-posted real estate classified ads, to home valuations to school reports with test scores so that you can evaluate a future neighbourhood. With a simple search by city and state, you can find virtually any location in the US. There is even a Zillow competitor in the Yahoo Real Estate portal, that will allow you to look up housing values.

It's all about getting the right house, and helping you to do it.  

Google's Real Estate product is still in beta, but if the new Google Earth product is any indication, it will likely be bad news for many other players in the field. Analysis by reviewers indicates that the search functionality (that allows the buyer to find real estate listings) looks very good.

This could be really bad news for smaller players that are already established, but are no where as big as Yahoo and Google. Portals such as Cendant, Move.com, HouseValues and ZipRealty may have to increase their functionality or reduce any associated costs in order to compete with the better-known Google and Yahoo. The other challenge is that Yahoo and Google are becoming "one stop shopping", which keeps users on their sites, regardless of the user's need. Specialty players can't compete on that front, and will have to develop target niches in which they excel and Yahoo or Google can't.

It's all good news for the consumer. We'll have more and more places to get information on home, mortgage loans and real estate listings while more competition should bring down prices. (Mortgage lenders clearly see the benefit in being online, and are flooding the market with options.) As prices drop for online real estate services, we may see a real surge in online listings. It may make selling a home yourself even more attractive than it is currently -- especially if you can list on Google or Yahoo at a very reasonable price.

Michael Chantrel 

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