(Image via Curbed.)
This news is a bit old. I didn’t realize that Google removed their ultra-handy real estate and rental listings from Google Maps on February 10th, when it happened, because I’m not constantly looking for a new place to live. (I don’t always move, but when I do, I use Google Maps.)
Today, I wanted to check some prices in a particular neighborhood and spent a good 45 minutes trying to enable that layer, or search option, or whatever it was. Finally, I gave in to Google and searched for instructions on turning the listings back on for my Google Maps account. Instead, I found an article at Curbed announcing the death of Google Maps Real Estate, brought on by a lack of popularity. How can this be?
Google Maps Real Estate was the best way to shop for a place to live, allowing you to search near a job, near a dog park, near a school, or near your favorite mini mall. Pop-ups provided summary information when the cursor was hovered over a result. Pending sales, recent sales, and current for sale properties were visible, offering perspective and a vantage point that usually require a great deal of research, notes, and hand written diagrams, as opposed to a quick glance at the laptop. We lost an extremely valuable product this month and it happened because barely anyone knew it existed.
In the official kill announcement over at Google’s Lat Long Blog, Google Earth and Maps VP, Brian McClendon, cited “…low usage, the proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real estate websites, and the infrastructure challenge posed by the impending retirement of the Google Base API (used by listing providers to submit listings),” as the primary reasons for retiring the feature.
While low usage can be attributed to a lack of advertising, the Google Base API issues may have caused major logistics issues. Who am I to argue with that? But the “proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real estate websites” doesn’t really cut it for me as a legit reason to nix such a fantastically usable product. Real estate agents can still create their own maps with listings marked for embedding in their own promotional pages, and yes, there are countless websites out there that allow one to search their listings by neighborhood. But there was nothing like viewing all available potential living situations on a single map with all of Google’s other fantastic tools (transit, Wikipedia, photos, etc.) in one small window. Which, by the way, also included instant street views of the properties.