Hot Property: Real Estate’s Online Revolution
With the unveiling of Rightmove’s iPhone app, Sarah Beeny’s new website and the launch of a semantic search site, Gartoo, the competitive UK online property market is hotting up. New Media Knowledge went prospecting for answers on where it’s heading.
The way we hunt for property is changing fast. Just this week, property search site Rightmove announced its iPhone application for mobile house hunters and Gartoo launched – a site which enables users to search for property using keywords. Recently, NMK interviewed TV property presenter Sarah Beeny on her latest Web project, Tepilo, a site which aims to help vendors by-pass estate agents and sell direct to buyers.
The UK online property search industry is huge. Real estate sites received 7.4 million unique visitors out of a total UK online audience of 36.9 million in May 2009. NMK took a look at the latest developments and asked what we can expect to see in the future.
Rightmove is believed to be the UK’s most-visited property search portal, and its free iPhone application will enable customers to use global positioning systems (GPS) to locate nearby properties available to buy or rent. The app will also include addresses, pricing, agent contact details and pictures, as well as the ability to forward details to other interested parties and access to agents via a “call me” button. Rightmove says it is the first to offer this kind of service in the UK.
“We are very interested in the whole prospect of mobile as a channel to our website users,” said Miles Shipside, commercial director at Rightmove. “We currently receive about 40,000 iPhone visitors to the site each month, which accounts for 95 per cent of our mobile traffic. Offering an app was a natural progression.”
Finding the Words
Also launching this week is Gartoo, from the same people behind Nestoria. Gartoo describes itself as an “experimental property engine” and allows house hunters to search for property drawn from Nestoria’s database using keywords as opposed to the traditional drop-down filter menu approach of many search engines. So users can enter “in need of renovation Kent”, for example, and the semantic search engine will find relevant properties. The company says this will simplify the search process.
“Gartoo is solely about property search, so visitors only see what they’re actually interested in,” said Rubén Martínez from Gartoo’s parent firm, Internet search specialist Lokku. “Full text search capabilities are not new in property search, but our specially-developed search technology will take users deeper into available data than previously possible. We hope to learn exactly what our users expect from the engine and how best adapt to the semantic complexities of their queries.”
Evolution or Bust
Clive Longbottom of analyst group Quocirca said that as the online market for property increases in quality, so will the need for improved search.
“Rather than filling in reams of tick-boxes across many sites, the capability to input natural language searches in a single site that will then aggregate possible matches will be of interest to many,” he told NMK.
Poppy Dinsey heads up business development at property search site Globrix and agrees that competition in the market increases the need for innovation.
“Agents’ own websites are improving and agents themselves are beginning to invest in search engine optimisation (SEO) and buy traffic,” she said. “Generally, it’s the young companies that are able to innovate quickly and react to user demand. I think we’ll see a lot of consolidation in the market going forward, there are too many property websites and they can’t all survive.”