US property search engine trulia.com marked four years of operation in 2009, and spent the year releasing steady upgrades to everything from its agent profiles to its listing imagery. The search engine, currently number seven on the Hitwise list of US real estate websites, reported bumper traffic figures as the year came to a close.
trulia.com's head of communications, Ken Shuman, spoke to propertyportalwatch.com about the website's recent releases, its planned expansion into rental listings, and those Google acquisition rumours.
2009 saw plenty of releases from trulia.com, including property comparison functionality, a price reduction tool, and an Augmented Reality moblie application. Which of these releases had the greatest effect on generating audience interest?
Price reduction was widely adopted. In today’s market, everyone is looking for a good deal. Once we saw the consumer behaviour on the website, we built the price reduction functionality into our iPhone app as well.
Also, mobile continues to be a big growth area. We released new versions of the iPhone app, Augmented Reality app, and we have optimised our website for all mobile devices. The world is becoming more mobile and shopping for a home while walking around a neighborhood is a natural behaviour. On the weekend, 10 percent of traffic is now through mobile devices.
Why did trulia.com decide to release an Augmented Reality mobile application along with an iPhone app and mobile website? Has covering all these bases been worthwhile?
The mobile market is very fragmented and we wanted to make sure everyone has a good experience. The iPhone app continues to see the most use and that is where we continue to innovate. The open house search and most popular search were built for the iPhone and then we added it to the website. We will continue to track where the mobile usage is coming from and we will strategically invest in building applications for our users.
trulia.com recently said it would add rental listings within the next six months, and that the rentals search will debut with millions of listings. Why has trulia.com decided to include rentals?
Launching rentals is a natural extension of our business. 30 percent of users that visit trulia.com are considering renting as well as buying. Potential buyers are thinking twice in today’s market because they do not want to become a statistic. Our ultimate goal is to provide a personalised experience which helps each individual renter or buyer make better decisions. We are developing tools to make sure this is the smartest search option out there for people looking to rent or buy.
Where will these rental listings come from? How will trulia.com gather so many listings for the debut of the rentals search?
We will follow the same model as we have for homes for sale and ensure that we have a flexible platform which accepts listings from a variety of sources.
Discussing the rentals search, you were quoted as saying “We’re building multiple tools to help consumers compare, contrast and make better decisions on whether they should be renting or buying in today’s market”. Can you tell us more about these tools?
We don’t want to disclose too many details just yet. The engineering team is hard at work building tools and I believe our users will be excited with their options.
In late 2009 there were rumours that Google was looking to acquire trulia.com. Can you confirm whether Google was looking into buying trulia.com, and if so, whether an acquisition might still take place?
As a company we do not comment on rumors or speculation.
What can we expect to see from trulia.com over the next few months?
We are laser focused on building tools that will help consumers make better informed decisions. You will see more products that will help trulia.com users have a personalised experience, a smarter search experience and more rich property data and local information throughout 2010. I can’t release any specific product details but I can tell you all our product releases this year will tie back to these key areas.
Where do you think trulia.com will be placed in terms of US real estate websites this time next year?
We are already a top five site in the category and we expect to continue to grow throughout the year. The new year is off to a good start. January 2010 was a record month in terms of unique visitors - 6.3 million - and all our key metrics.