Trulia Files to go Public – Raise $75 Million

Trulia is one of the big real estate search engines that has seen rapid growth in traffic over the past several years.  They, along with Zillow and Realtor.com to some degree, are seen as third party aggregators in real estate search. I’m a fan of Trulia and believe they have been very innovative in pushing the technology as well as usability of real estate search across the country.

Today Trulia filed for an IPO to raise $75 million.  The ticker will be TRLA. No news yet as to what the overall valuation of the company is when they raise $75 million.  JP Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank are the lead underwriters.  Accel Partners and Sequoia Capital are the private equity firms involved in originally funding the company.

According to the Associated Press story running on Yahoo! Finance:

Trulia, which operates both a traditional website and mobile apps, allows people to research home listings and neighborhoods, while helping real estate agents market their listings. In the six months ended June 30, the site had 22 million unique visitors. And as of the same date, it had more than 360,000 active real estate professionals, with 21,544 of those paying subscribers.

The company’s searchable database includes more than 110 million properties, including 4.5 million homes for sale and rent. Listings are supplemented with local information on schools, crime and neighborhood amenities.

It will be interesting to see the reception to Trulia’s IPO.  Zillow, it’s biggest competitor, had a successful IPO a year ago and Zillow now has a valuation of over $1 billion.

Is Zillow Continuing to Mislead Real Estate Consumers About What Homes Are For Sale?

Image representing Zillow as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

There has been quite a bit of news lately about many real estate brokers discontinuing their relationship with third party aggregators on the web such as Trulia and Zillow…even REALTOR.com.

Here is a blatant example of why what you see on Zillow cannot and should not be trusted.  This is a technology company that happens to play in the real estate space.  Their business model is designed to get in between the REALTORS® and consumers.  It’s not in their best interest apparently to make sure that the information they have on their web site is current and accurate.

Take a look at this listing on Zillow.  A client of mine just sent it to me to check out.  Zillow is showing that the home is still for sale (today’s date is February 6, 2012).  However, I went in to our MLS to check the status and it turns out the home sold and closed on November 22, 2011.  (Note the link will expire in 90 days).  The listing broker was Independent Brokers Realty, LLC and the selling broker was RE/MAX Action West, Inc.  It has actually been OFF THE MARKET SINCE OCTOBER 17, 2011.  That’s 113 days that this home has been on the market FOR SALE on ZILLOW and yet the MLS in the Minneapolis area (NorthstarMLS) shows that the home went off the market on October 17, 2011.

I understand that many people don’t like REALTORS®. I get that, but you have to know that we at least have rules and regulations we are bound by and if we are found to be breaking them, we can be fined or even have our licenses removed.  REALTORS® are obligated by the Code of Ethics to be truthful in our advertising and communications…and that of course includes the marketing of property and whether or not it is still available.  Below is from Article 12 of the REALTOR Code of Ethics:

Article 12

Realtors® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations. Realtors® shall ensure that their status as real estate professionals is readily apparent in their advertising, marketing, and other representations, and that the recipients of all real estate communications are, or have been, notified that those communications are from a real estate professional.

………………………

  In marketing properties, Realtors® use advertising to inform the public about listings and to induce interest in them. Realtors® are obligated to present a “true picture” in their advertising and in all representations to the public. A “true picture” is truthful, accurate advertising, and nothing less.

Third party real estate web aggregator sites are not obligated the way that REALTORS® and brokers are.  If you want a true and accurate picture of the local real estate market place and what’s for sale, then you really should be using a local broker’s site.  In the Twin Cities, all the real estate brokerages agree to reciprocity which means that every other broker’s listings also show up on every other broker’s web site.  You don’t have to go to 3 or 4 or 5 different web sites to see what’s for sale.  You can pick whichever one you like the best and that will display what’s for sale.  If you go to Zillow, Trulia and REALTOR.com then yes, you need to go to a variety of sites and even after you’ve done that, not only will you not have seen everything that is actually for sale in the Twin Cities market, but you will be mislead in to believing that certain properties are for sale.

Zillow is a public company worth $875 million as of today.  Perhaps some enterprising reporter or even Wall Street analyst might ask the executives some questions about their business model.  Is it their intention to purposely mislead real estate consumers in order that they can sell more advertising and lead generation programs?  Someone please tell me how this is an ethical business model.  And REALTORS® who are advertising on their site hoping to attract unsuspecting buyers with misinformation, is this really something we should be participating in?  We are perpetuating the problem.

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Yahoo! Real Estate Outsourcing Listings to Zillow

This has been coming for some  time, but Yahoo! Real Estate has officially handed off its real estate listings to Zillow.  Yahoo! Real Estate is still one of the most popular sites on the interest for real estate.  Zillow of course came on the seen several years ago with its innovative Zestimate that has become very popular, if not completely accurate.

Will real estate search eventually just become like regular search where you have Google and then everyone else?  Perhaps.  Realtor.com, Trulia, and now FrontDoor.com appear to be strong competitors.  Here’s the strengths of each as I see it:

  • Zillow:  Zestimate – everyone wants to know what their house is worth (or hope its worth)
  • Realtor.com: associated with the National Association of Realtors – tied to feet on the street
  • Trulia: innovative displays and analysis of your customized searches – great analytics for a free site
  • FrontDoor.com: HGTV’s site: I think this is the one to watch as they have surrounded this data with great content from HGTV and help home owners visual lifestyle…this is one to watch because I think it will catch people by surprise

Google Gives Up on Real Estate

Google announced that they are getting out of the real estate business for now.  The competition is stiff with Zillow and Trulia and of course, Realtor.com.

Google has a cool feature where listings show up on Google Maps, but they are not getting enough traffic to justify putting resources against this.  Google Base also will no longer support uploading of listings.  It will be interesting to see if they eventually get back in to real estate.  If I had to guess, they will just buy Zillow or Trulia.  I think they should buy Trulia.

Here’s the official announcement from the Google Lat Long Blog.

National Association of Realtors (NAR) to Launch Nationwide Database of Properties

The National Association of Realtors just announced the acquisition of some technology that will allow them to build a nationwide database for 147 million parcels in the U.S.   I am excited about this new technology and look forward to its rollout the 2nd quarter of 2010.

Los Angeles Times Pulls the Plug on Sunday Real Estate Section

With the accelerating decline of the main stream newspaper business, the Los Angeles Times has decided that it will no longer publish its real estate section.

More and more advertising is going online and with the proliferation of real estate search sites such as Trulia and Realtor.com, most agents don’t feel the need to run classified ads either in print or on the newspapers dotcom site.