Google to launch free estate agency listings in UK
Thursday 3rd December 2009
Written by Rosalind Renshaw
Google is to enter the UK property market in the New Year.
This afternoon, Rightmove shares were down by more than 15% amid suggestions that a new free listing service could be a serious threat to the paid-for portals.
On Monday, Rightmove chairman Scott Forbes made a profit of £1.24m by exercising options on 600,000 shares at 335p. He then sold them at 541.3201p. He still holds 619,000 shares in Rightmove.
Google is known to have been in talks with some agents about its plans, although this morning a Google spokeswoman in London said: “We do not comment on rumour and speculation.”
If the launch – expected within the first three months of next year – mirrors launches in Australia and New York, the service will be a property search engine driven by Google maps.
This morning, Peter Bolton King, chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents, said: “I am aware of what Google has been doing in Australia and the US. I have talked to estate agents there and been keeping an eye on the situation.
“There had been fears that there would be an effect on the market in terms of private sellers, but I am told this has not happened.
“It is an interesting model, and of course it is free. For agents, there are potentially some very interesting opportunities.
“As far as our own site PropertyLive is concerned, we are looking at all the options open to us.”
A Google UK property site would almost certainly attract huge advertising revenue, meaning that the service could remain free to agents.
This afternoon, Rightmove said it wanted to reaffirm its service offering to customers.
Miles Shipside, commercial director of Rightmove, said: “As a pure search engine, Google’s offering would appear to differ to the full service we have established for home-hunters, potential vendors and agents in the UK market. This can be seen in the property site that Google have already launched in Australia.
“Google is pre-eminent as a way of searching for information. But when people know what they want, and want to source quality information that is clearly presented, they turn to websites such as Amazon for books and CD’s, Ebay for auctioned collectibles, Autotrader for cars and Rightmove for property. There is no conflict between what these sites do and what Google does."
The Rightmove statement added that several organisations have attempted to enter the online property market in the past but that earlier this week News International sold up their shares in a property website they bought into in 2004.
Shipside added: “Should any announcement be made by Google, we are confident that home-hunters and agents alike will continue to see the value in Rightmove’s usability and quality services.”
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