Mapping the UX of Real Estate Searches

Researching property on Google Maps Real Estate is a bit like ordering crab for dinner. A lot of effort for a little bit of meat.

I spend a lot of time on real estate websites. I make (sometimes numerous) daily visits and average about 7 hours a week for personal use (I’ll no doubt regret saying that). So Google Maps (And let’s just be honest here, that’s all it is: a mapping device with a couple of filters) just isn’t the right tool “for me” at the moment. That’s not to say it isn’t useful, I just doubt it’s going to “badly hurt Australian websites“. While it does appear to be good at aggregating information usually found in the top three Australian real estate websites (in my case), that’s about all it does for now.

I say ‘at the moment’ and ‘for now’ because who knows what they intend to do in the future. But let’s put this in perspective, Google isn’t exactly known for fantastic User Experiences. Right now, the most likely scenario for me may be to use it as a ready made RSS feed, one that just happens to have a few simple filters.

While it’s true, real estate sites have appropriated a very useful (Google) mapping tool to improve the user experience of their online offerings, Goggle has scraped a huge amount of content and merely added a couple of basic filters. Right now it isn’t even possible to rank property prices in ascending/descending order.

In actual fact, Google Maps is a pretty lousy research tool. Even fundamental nationwide searches to identify properties using price as a filter can be frustrating. Search results are inaccurate and clearly the result of non-human input. Who would have thought you could get a 42 sq. house in the outer Melbourn suburb of Berwick for a single buck (AUD$1)? As much as my inner slum lord wanted to, it took me about as long as it does to copy and paste the url into a browser to realise you can’t… $1 or $1.1 MILLION. What’s the difference?

And that’s another of the many frustrations I experienced on the site. Way too many clicks and C+V’s to view a property.

The worst part is, I just don’t trust it. And when I say trust, I don’t mean I think they’re tracking all my mouse clicks or they’ve got a dodgy URL (and they do). I just don’t trust that I’m getting all the available data. If I search for Darlington, for example, and get results for Alexandria and Ultimo (both two suburbs away), I do wonder what gems I might have missed. Moving across to Annandale, it tells me there are “about 1,964 (properties for sale)”. Doubtful, considering it has a population of just over 8,000 people and is about 1 square KM in size. But, I could be wrong.

In a nut shell, it’s a cute little RSS feed, but it certainly won’t replace my good old fashioned email alerts and hard core physical dredging… I don’t mind working for my food, but I do want something in return. Having said all that though, I’ve just found an interesting place that promises a 7+% return p/a… so in hind sight…it does show *some* promise, perhaps…

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