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Google Puts Real Estate Listings on the Map

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is expanding its real estate listings and search functionality by allowing searchers to find property listings on Google Maps.

When house hunters see a property listing, which is shown in the same way businesses are at Google Maps, they can click the red dot for more information about the real estate listing, get directions, save it to My Maps, or share it with someone by sending it in an e-mail or on their mobile phone.

For instance, if a user enters a query such as 'homes for sale in san francisco' on Google Maps, the results are shown on a map with a box that will take you to real estate listings. Previously, searchers had to specify 'real estate' from the search options menu.

Similar to what's seen at most real estate sites, users can now search by price range, the number of bedrooms and baths, square footage -- and even for foreclosures.

"We've added lots of markers that will show not only the 10 most relevant listings with pins on the map, but also show a small circle on every other listing in that area using the search results layer, so you can get a really good idea of the distribution of properties for sale. You can click on each marker and each small circle to get more detailed information about the property," Andrew Foster, product manager, wrote at the Google LatLong blog.

He said users can now conduct a real estate search around a specific neighborhood, or, for instance, see at a glance all the properties close to a particular subway stop. They can also pan the map to another area entirely to see listings in other locations if they change their mind.

The listings are provided by realtors who submit data feeds to Google or by uploading them to Google Base. Meanwhile, the search giant just announced a beta version of a new ad platform for Base users.

So, now that Google is expanding its property listing functionality, what will the effect be on the online real estate category? Hitwise Analyst Heather Hopkins said it's too soon to tell, but the Internet traffic research company has some data that provides a bit of insight.

"Hitwise data reveal that last week, Google Maps sent 2 percent of its U.S. traffic to Web sites in the real estate industry, making it the number 19 downstream industry (among more than 160). Yahoo Real Estate, Realtor.com and Trulia all accounted for a larger volume of traffic to real estate listings than did Google Maps," Hopkins wrote in her blog.

She said Hitwise data indicate that the share of visits real estate Web sites receive from Google Maps has increased 68 percent year-over-year to June 2009. But Google Maps is tiny compared to the 100-pound gorilla, Google.com, which accounted for 24 percent, or nearly one in four visits, to real estate Web sites in June, up 18 percent year over year in June.

"The real question for Real Estate Web sites is whether -- and when -- property listings will be included in the search engine results page on Google.com," said Hopkins.