Last July, search and technology giant, Google announced an agreement to acquire ITA Software for around $700 Million. ITA software is a company that cut its teeth in the travel industry powering websites like Orbitz and Kayak.
Google has been struggling with supporting consumers in real estate search for many years. They have had many fits and starts, including Google Base. With Google Base, the company tried to aggregate listing data and sort it out. Google Base was a failure and they shut it down.
Now with ITA Software, Google may be back on track with real estate search. Rather than trying to display the correct listing result, ITA Software will allow Google to display listing results from popular websites like Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com, and others, all in one place.
We tried to reach Google and ITA Software for comment on their real estate strategy and to learn the role that ITA Software would play in future development. In normal Google fashion, they offered no comments, as they never talk about future product releases.
As such, this could all be rumor or conjecture, but somehow I do not think that this is far off. The challenges that face consumers with travel search, and the challenges that face consumers in real estate search are one in the same.
Others have suggested that Google’s next foray into real estate may be through a partnership similar to the one that they developed with Target. Target does not pay for any advertising on Google. Rather, Google receives a commission on all Target Sales. The long standing practice of paying referral fees in real estate could represent a path for Google, but only RE/MAX, Leading RE, REALOGY, and Keller Williams have the national presence to support such an arrangement. I am not aware of any of these firms having discussions with Google about this.
Although there has been no comparative accounting, it is believed that Google receives more advertising revenue from pay-per-click ad word sales than any of the search portals like Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow, Homes.com, Homefinder and others. As such, they probably are not anxious to make any change unless it is going to move the revenue needle higher for them.
Here is another idea. Anyone want to start a company that offers an Orbitz or Kayak search of real estate publisher sites?