Kara Swisher

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Trulia's Pete Flint Chats About Everything (Except Google Interest!)

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Last night, Trulia sent me a small pile of information about the fast-growth year the real estate search and information site had in 2009, despite the near-complete collapse of the U.S. housing market.

You can read all the stats below in Trulia’s press release–62.3 million unique monthly visitors, visits up 45 percent, page views up 105 percent and one million inquiries sent by home buyers to real estate agents via the San Francisco start-up, which was founded in 2005 by CEO Pete Flint and COO Sami Inkinen.

BoomTown also had a short chit-chat interview about the site’s prospects for the coming year with Flint, whose last success was as part of the team that sold travel site lastminute.com to Travelocity for $1.1 billion in 2005.

“We want to be the first billion-dollar real estate site,” he said, referring to Trulia’s valuation and not its annual revenue.

Currently, Trulia seems to be valued at about $150 million, having raised $33 million overall, with investors that include high-profile Silicon Valley venture firms Accel Partners and Sequoia Capital.

Getting from here to there is definitely going to be a long slog, but Flint said that the “mass of confusion about real estate” will be a key factor in growing the site’s traffic and engagement over time.

Trulia allows people to search for a range of data about homes for sale in particular zip codes or cities nationwide. Its business and that of its competitors are largely based on advertising, selling subscription services and lead generation.

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Flint (pictured here) said Trulia execs started focusing on revenue about 18 months ago and should achieve profitability by the middle of this year, after which the company is “poised for significant profitability.”

To goose that in 2010, Flint said the site would focus on three key areas: Expanding local content, such as blogs and information about the local community; mobile apps; and perhaps most importantly, launching a rentals offering.

“We are not about checking out what a neighbor’s house looks like, but on buyer intent and monetization,” said Flint, taking a not-so-veiled swipe at Trulia’s clearest competitor–the larger and better funded Zillow, located in Seattle.

Still, while he predicted that the overall real estate market would remain flat over the next few years, he noted that it was probably a winners-take-all game for the big and innovative niche sites like Trulia and Zillow.

Flint added that he doubts big Internet giants could easily compete, since their focus is so dispersed.

Thus, he would not comment on my recent report that Google (GOOG) and Trulia have been “in on-again, off-again acquisition talks…rumors about Google’s interest in the real estate search market–and specifically in Trulia–have been rebounding around Silicon Valley for the last year.”

“We are going to focus on being a big independent company,” said Flint.

Guess those talks are off again.

In the meantime, here is the Trulia press release:

SMARTER SEARCH AND PERSONALIZATION KEY TO TRULIA’S OUTSTANDING GROWTH AND INCREASED MOMENTUM IN 2009

Mobile and Rich Property & Local Data Provides Enhanced Consumer Experience

SAN FRANCISCO, January 6, 2010–Trulia.com (www.trulia.com ), smart real estate search to help you make better decisions, focused 2009 on providing users with the most relevant and consumer centric experience. As a result, Trulia grew to become one of the Top 5 Real Estate sites on the web according to Hitwise Rankings (November 2009). Last year was Trulia’s largest ever with a total of 62.3 million unique monthly visitors searching for homes, market insights and participating on Trulia Voices.

During the past year, millions of consumers came to Trulia to make sense of the real estate market, spending more time than ever looking at properties and price trend information. Consumer engagement reached record levels: visits grew by more than 45%, total page views grew by 105% and property views grew by more than 130%, according to internal data. On Trulia Voices, consumer questions doubled year over year. Along with increased engagement on Trulia, consumer interest in homes exploded, with nearly 1 million home buyer inquiries sent to real estate agents in 2009.

During the past year, Trulia focused on four key areas for product innovation and enhancements: smarter search, personalization, rich property & local data and mobile. Here is a recap of the key initiatives and highlights from the past 12 months.

SMARTER SEARCH

Price Reduction–A search tool that allows home buyers, sellers, agents, investors and real estate junkies to search for price reductions on Trulia. Users have the ability to receive real-time email updates when homes in their search area have been reduced, or filter their search by the percentage reduced or date of the price reduction.

Compare It!–Allows consumers to compare up to five different properties side-by-side. Users can see all the key attributes of each listing and then eliminate the properties they don’t like and save the ones they do like for future reference. Users can compare key attributes, like price per square foot to the size of the lot, and make educated decisions on what property suits them best.

PERSONALIZATION

MyTrulia–significant enhancements have been added to MyTrulia to make home searches more relevant for every individual home buyer. From saved searches to email alerts, Trulia will immediately notify users if a property they are interested in changes price or is sold. If a similar property comes on the market, Trulia will also notify users of the new home. Trulia also introduced “checklist” to help keep track of all things related to your home buying process and helps you make sense of the entire process.

Local Newsfeed–Trulia’s homepage provide consumers with a snapshot of activity in the neighborhoods they are most interested in tracking with a quick-glance. When a user comes to Trulia, the homepage is updated with price reductions, upcoming open houses, new homes on the market and market data such as average list prices, sales data, foreclosure information and more–only in the areas relevant to that user.

RICH PROPERTY DATA AND DETAILS

Home Price History & Data–Trulia’s product detail pages now includes each homes price history, including sold transactions, listing prices and price reductions. Trulia also added school information and rankings, crime data, competitive mortgage offerings; with a click of a button you can also see all the restaurants, grocery stores, banks and gas stations nearby any individual home.

Neighborhood Coverage–Trulia increased its neighborhood coverage by more than 300%. The expanded coverage improves property search and map displays to help consumers search for and compare neighborhoods, view and track neighborhood market trends, receive advice from local market experts through blogs and Q&A, and find local real estate professionals.

MOBILE

iPhone and iPod touch–the updated Trulia application offers more than 3.5 million homes for sale and has been downloaded more than 300,000 times by real estate enthusiasts, engaged buyers and sellers and real estate agents. The update adds significant new features:

Dynamic Maps–Visual searchers can toggle the map to find homes in areas they most desire. Once the area is defined in the map, a new set of homes that match their criteria is delivered.

Price Reduction Search–With a touch of a button, users can now search for all price reduced homes in their area.

Bigger, Unlimited Pictures–Taking advantage of the fantastic screens on the iPhone and iPod touch, the bigger photos provide searchers with a realistic view of the property.

Augmented Reality Browser Integration–Trulia has integrated with the Layar Mobile Augmented Reality Browser to overlay listings on top of the mobile phone’s camera view. The app allows you to scan all the properties available around you while you look at the actual buildings through your screen.

Trulia for all smartphones–Trulia has also launched a mobile version of its website, m.trulia.com, which delivers all the power and functionality of the web site in a format optimized for mobile handsets. The mobile website works on all mobile handsets from the Blackberry to the Plam Pre and all devices with a web browser, including the iPhone and iPod Touch. Users can search homes for sale, view extensive property details, find price reductions or upcoming open houses, utilize their MyTrulia account, and the Trulia Voices community.

“We dedicated 2009 to delivering a great consumer experience. Looking back on the engagement data makes me believe we are delivering on what the consumer wants. Consumers have told us over and over that they are looking for a real estate site that can deliver relevant and personalized results,” said Pete Flint, CEO and co-founder Trulia.com. “Mobile and local information will be two areas of focus for the coming year. The world is becoming more mobile and real estate information on the go is a very natural combination. On the weekends, 5 to 10 percent of our overall traffic comes from mobile handsets. Deep local information, data and insights is also key to consumers interested in real estate and we will introduce more data and local knowledge during the next year.”

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.


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