Home site Trulia taps into "intentions" to provide real-time info

Trulia, the San Francisco housing site start-up, has unveiled more data about where the buying action is: It harnesses the search input of its users, to show you where buyers are looking.

By giving your real-time indication about where buyer interest is, and also supplying you historical prices of homes in the areas you are looking, the company says you’re able to make better decisions about where prices are headed — a great resource for anyone looking to buy, or sell. Trulia has placed this information into “heat” maps (see graphic above), showing for example that Noe Valley is the most searched for neighborhood in the SF region. You can then drill down into that neighborhood, and see individual homes for sale, and compare them on a number of measures — by price, price per square foot and so on.

It will be rolled out nationwide by the end of the month.

Combined with maps, this latest offering is one example of how fast Web 2.0 real estate Web sites are moving. If you bought your home in early 2005, you didn’t have a way to look at houses on Google Maps. Since then, innovation has blossomed, and consulting maps with integrated housing information is taken for granted. A slew of sites have emerged, from Housing Maps (an early player, bought by Google), and Zillow, which has mashed home value estimates.Trulia’s Pete Flint says the softening housing market makes it more important than ever for people to have information to make the right decisions.

The three new tools are:

1. Heatmaps. A comparison of every neighborhood in the country, showing you the geographical boundaries of each, and then coloring them on a number of metrics, making for easy comparison. Competitor Zillow, for example, has heat maps, but does not let users power those maps by selecting average sales price, traffic rank, median price, and average price per square foot. You can then select a region and drill down to the spotlight page (see 3 below).

2. A comparison tool. You find a home you like, and Trulia finds comparable “for sale” and “recently sold” homes side by side for the neighborhood.

3. Neighborhood spotlight. Here you see in more detail how the neighborhood compares with other areas by sales price or by interest from users, and more. You can see listings of all homes for sale in the area. It lets you see all the schools, the quality of schools and crime rates. You can see which homes have the most bathrooms, and more. Better, you can select graphs, showing how interest in say, Noe Valley has risen or fallen over the past year, and compare it to the interest in Potrero Hill, for example. Or pick a graph comparing rise and fall of prices, and so on.

Flint said Trulia has had 50 percent growth rate in page views over last four months. It is now sending 750,000 home buyer referrals to brokers and agents every month, and those referrals have been growing 60 percent a month over the same period, he said.

Trulia is also about to turn on advertising, in a more earnest effort to make money, but wants to making ads relevant to the listings, he said.