Real estate engine Trulia shows momentum, raises $10M

UpdatedTrulia may be the dark-horse of the real estate market.

Trulia, which offers a search engine for homes, has quietly been signing deals with large real estate brokers, and boosted its traffic considerably — to 1.5 million unique monthly users. Thursday, it announces it has scored $10 million in a third round of capital led by respected venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. It says it is the fastest-growing real estate web site.

Its low-key strategy contrasts with companies such as Zillow and Redfin which have made waves by scaring people. Zillow slaps a value on your home, puts it online, and doesn’t giving you a whole lot of choice in the matter — raising ire among many. Redfin, meanwhile, threatens to lower the commission of real estate agents (our coverage)

[Update: See Hitwise data below, which show Trulia is gaining. Zillow still has more traffic, and says it has 4.1 million unique users -- more than double Trulia's claimed number].

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Though Pete Flint, co-founder and chief executive, says Trulia is seeing double-digit monthly user growth. He’s done it, he says, by visiting the major real estate brokers across the U.S., spending countless hours on planes, signing them up in partnerships. These deals include Coldwell Banker, Century 21 and Prudential affiliates. Trulia, based in San Francisco, has 95 of the top 100 real estate brokers on its platform, Flint says. These brokers give Trulia the right to list their homes, along with advertising dollars; in return, Trulia sends them qualified home buyers.

Trulia says it has two million homes for sale. Zillow, by comparison, has only 130,000, according to its site (see graphic here, taken from Zillow’s home page), reflecting Zillow’s focus on home estimates versus actual home-for-sale search.

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While housing downturn may mean fewer people are buying, the people who are buying are doing more research before buying, thus using sites like Zillow and Trulia site more intensely.

Flint co-founded the company two yeas ago, with a team of four. Trulia now has 40 employees, and has raised $18 million in total. Another striking stat: One-third of his employees have a degree from Stanford.

He says Trulia is close to profitability, but that he’s consciously investing heavily to grow the business.

Previous backers Accel Partners and Fayez Sarofim also invested in the latest round.

Separately, John Cook writes tonight about how Zillow’s CEO has sold his home for a price above his company’s own Zestimate for the house.

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