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Rightmove, ZPG, OnTheMarket - are they about to be eclipsed by Google?

A property technology analyst has floated the idea that portals could become eclipsed by powerful alternatives such as Google, triggered by voice activated instructions and customising selections according to users’ data preferences.

Alistair Helm has written about this vision on the Properazzi website in his native New Zealand, where since 2006 he has been involved in portals and property technology, as a participant and commentator.

He says that within the past 25 years a portal industry worth tens of billions of pounds has been created, with the single biggest being Zillow in the US, but the single most profitable being Rightmove in the UK. 


“Suffice to say this business model of aggregating listings of real estate companies for consumer search supported by premium advertising and listings subscriptions makes for a very lucrative business, one that the incumbents will defend through constant innovation, as well as acquisition” says Helm. 

But he warns that these in turn could fall victim to the buzzword within the industry - disruption.

He says disruption, in the shape of Google and similar platforms and search engines, represents a risk “every bit as real as the global newspaper industry which became the victims of the property portal success as through the 90’s into the new century their real estate advertising goldmine, began to crumble and today has all but disappeared.”

He says the engine for this may be the use of voice to revolutionising searching, through devices such as the Amazon Echo and the Google Home. 

“So imagine a future state. You’re on the couch and with your Google Home you ask ‘Hey Google – what properties might I like to see this weekend?’ The screen of your choice (TV/Tablet/Glasses) then starts to display homes for sale open this weekend” Helm speculates.

He says the search could be enhanced because Google Home is paired to your Google account so knows a lot about you - “where you live, where you work, where the kids go to school, how far you drive on weekday and weekends, where your relative lives and your friends.” 

It even knows your style preferences and what you may have purchased to redecorate or remortgage your home. 

“So when you ask Google to show you what properties you would want to see this weekend, you don’t need Rightmove as intermediaries or their ‘simple’ search filters – location, bedrooms, price” he says.

Perhaps reflecting some of the debate going on in recent days regarding the volume of data on Facebook, Helm then says: ”Google has the listings inventory of every real estate company in every country, they have collated it for years in search logs. They have deep attribute knowledge of every house that has been advertised for over 15 years at least; they also [know] every house’s estimated valuation.”

Helm says the smartest portals are heading down ancillary market routes to ensure they are more than mere listings operations - he cites Zillow in the US and Zoopla in the UK as examples. 

It’s a fascinating article - great for a read this weekend - and you can see it in its entirety here

  • Simon Shinerock

    Complimentary to not a replacement of, equally how about ‘hey google, can you ask Zoopla what properties I would like to see this weekend’ seems to make more sense, otherwise ‘Jack of all trades master of none’ comes to mind

  • James Scollard

    The search engines cannot use estate agents data without permission. 95% of UK stock sells through agents. If everyone starts using google, why use an agent? Rightmove, Zoopla & onthemarket do not allow private advertisers. Hence, why agents use them.

  • icon

    You ask google home 'What's the weather doing this weekend' you don't say 'Can you ask the BBC website what the weather is doing this weekend?'


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