Does Online Real Estate Have A Future?

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Here’s an exciting figure for you: according to a May study of New Estimates of Online Real Estate Advertising by Borrell Associates Inc., online real estate advertising spending is on its way up, from roughly $116 million in 1999 to a projected $3 billion plus in 2009. Good news, right? In a sense, it sure is: more money’s being put in the pot. But interestingly enough, Borrell’s findings also toll the bell for the impending rupture of the real estate bubble: the group’s analysts are predicting that by the same 2009 date at which online real estate ad spending will exceed the $3 billion mark, total real estate ad spending (offline as well as online) will be no greater than it was in 1999 (about $9 billion).

Still, despite the loud pop so many of us in online are used to hearing (that’s the sound of a bubble bursting, remember?), if we believe the stats that pertain to us, the future continues to look bright. After a few conversations with folks in the online real estate game last week at Affiliate Summit, I couldn’t help wondering: what’s been holding back the widespread adoption of online real estate? Why is it that though there are a few players stepping tentatively up to bat, no one has yet succeeded in developing a one-stop portal—Google-style—for all thing real estate on the web?

Clearly, one of the key constraints to the online real estate vertical is the aforementioned lack of portals. Though there are a few up and running—including a handful owned by The National Association of Realtors, like Realtor.com and HomeStore.com; Yahoo! has a deal with Prudential to use their listings—as far as a mega-portal to simplify your search for a house, no such thing yet exists. And Gordon Borrell, CEO and President of Borrell Associates, expressed his wish that someone would take on the task of creating just that. “There is no Google of the real estate industry—that is, someone who has come out there and made it so simple and just has given you one thing to do [to] search for a home,” he said. “I’d hope that it would occur, because from a consumer standpoint it just makes it real easy.”

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