Matrix Blog


Trulia Gets Down To (Google) Earth

December 8, 2006 | 1:01 am | |

Trulia has launched a new feature on their web site which is every real estate data junkie’s dream…linking the Google Earth engine to the Trulia search engine.

The result?

A powerful upgrade to an already cool and intuitive visual interface for a real estate search tool.

Currently, a listing query in [Trulia] will bring up a Google map with markers for each of the listings.

Now you can take the query a step further…

As long as you have the free Google Earth application installed, you can view your listing search results in 3D (or take a break from house hunting and sneak a peak at the Eiffel Tower using the Google Earth application).

It gives a more refined impression of the area surrounding the property you are interested in. In other words, the searching process becomes more than just generating lists of numbers and addresses.

Real estate queries now get down to earth (the last lame “earth” analogy of this post, I promise).

For Better And Worse: NAR Existing Home Sales And Prices

September 26, 2006 | 1:24 pm | |
Source: WSJ

For all the coverage coming out of the housing sector coverage yesterday [Businessweek], I think the consensus reached by many was that the numbers were better than expected. I’d say I basically agree but I am not sure what that really means for the market.

Last week, Trulia asked me to be on their “power panel” and venture a guess of the percent change in the housing numbers would be released by NAR on monday.

Annual national existing homes sales data as of August:

My prediction: -16.3%
Actual (NAR) : -12.6%

Annual sales price of existing homes as of August:

My prediction: -0.4%
Actual (NAR) : -1.7%

Prior month change in inventory:

My prediction: +6.3%
Actual (NAR) : +1.5%

I got the right direction on all three questions but needed a little fine tuning on the amounts. Given regional variations in the data, I can live with the differences.

The most telling statistic [Motley Fool] in all of this is the number of existing home sales. All 4 regions (Northeast -11.6%, Midwest -11.1%, South -7.4% and West -22.8%) showed a decline in the number of sales. This is the recurring theme in many local markets. Why? There is no sense of urgency on the buyer side at the moment. The lack of buyer urgency is substantiated by declining mortgage rates over the last quarter. This fairly significant decline did not spark additional sales activity. 30 Year mortgages are between 0% and 0.25% above rates seen when the Fed began tightening its belt in June 2004 and 1 Year ARMs are between 1% and 1.25% above the prior rates. Perhaps ARMs are part of the problem. 30% of originated mortgages are ARMs and most of the investor purchases were financed with ARMs and they are more than a quarter of all transactions…

The sales price of existing home sales seems to be less consistent by region. 3 of the 4 regions showed a price decline (Northeast -3.9%, Midwest -1.1%, South -2.6%) while the West increased 0.3%. The west seems to be behind the curve a bit since prices showed a gain but housing sales dropped about double the the rate of anywhere else.

The west seems to be 6 months behind the rest of the country.

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Carnival Of Real Estate Enters The Matrix

September 25, 2006 | 12:01 am | |

As I watched my turn get closer and closer to hosting the Carnival of Real Estate, I thought it was amazing how much great content is being pushed into the public domain every week through the carnival. In fact, carnival participants simply ooze creativity and new ideas. Simply look at last week’s carnival post at Blog to get an idea of what I mean.

I started getting post submissions early last week and by Sunday I had a lot of reading to do. Although the carnival hosts are expected to post only their favorites, I thought to myself, how can I do that? So I decided to provide a top ten list and then everyone else. I excluded a few get rich quick posts and those who seemed to be more interested in selling something or extra posts from those who submitted more than one.

I am finding that some of the most active and insightful posts this week have been provided by real estate brokers. Its interesting to me because its been my impression that real estate brokers were somewhat late to blogosphere party as a profession but now they really get it and are rising in numbers quickly.

So its no wonder there was a lot of discussion about Redfin this week. I think that a weaker housing market sort of forces the real estate brokerage community to rethink the status quo. Thats really refreshing and I found myself adding links to my blogroll.

The Matrix Top 10 List

  1. Everybody’s Going Local [Future of Real Estate Marketing]. Joel Burslem provides a very insightful look at the trend toward local web sites to deliver real estate related information.
  2. What Housing Bubble? [The Property Monger] looks closely at population trends.
  3. 16 Words or Less [Agent CEO] reminded me of the axiom less is more. I tend to fail miserably being concise but if someone leaves me a voicemail longer than 16 seconds, I tend to delete it.
  4. Crackdown on Relisting Homes [Altos Research]. Altos crunches the numbers. Relisting is simply wrong.
  5. Kicking the Tires on Housing Futures as a Predictive Tool [True Gotham]. Doug Heddings deals with one of my favorite topics, housing futures.
  6. Google and Zillow [Real Central VA]. Jim Duncan tells us that broker _marketing will become less and less a component of a Realtor’s core competency. Representation will._
  7. Cease and Desist [Real Estate 2.X] gives us a good chuckle and a whole new way to name our blogs.
  8. Dual Agency: Using the Seller’s Agent as Your Buyer’s Agent [Searchlight Crusade] addresses awkwardness and multiple loyalties which are commonplace.
  9. Would the Founding Fathers Have Founded an MLS? [Charlottesville Area Real Estate Blog] concludes that restrictions on listings are better than an open system.
  10. For real estate promotion, the business card form factor is a tiny little workhorse [Bloodhound]. Glenn says its all in the cards.

Here are the rest of the posts submitted in no particular order but are all a good read:

Market discussion (surprisingly quiet this week)

Raising the bar on the real estate brokerage profession:

Broker ethics and “get rich quick” schemes

Mortgages and Refi Strategies

New brokerage business models

Buyer and seller advice

Defies categorization

Thanks to all of those who submitted posts. Great stuff. Don’t forget to check out YoChicago, next week’s host for the Carnival of Real Estate.

Its now 10:30pm EST on Sunday. I’ve got to get some sleep – going to be on CNBC’s Morning Call live at about 10:15am on Monday for 5 minutes with another guest. Should be fun.

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Trulia Power Panel Plays Hardball With Darts

September 22, 2006 | 6:59 am | | Public |

Having two posts about Trulia this week is almost as bad as the Zillow launch when every blog on the planet (including Matrix) posted about them until everyone became physically ill.

With that riveting insight out of the way, I was asked to participate on a “Power Panel” where a diverse group of industry experts, insiders and watchers will periodically come together to share their perspective on real estate issues facing consumers.

The premise of the panel is to predict the results (or make a wild guess) of a pending data release (in this case, NAR’s existing home sales) and give some quick thoughts about it. The comments about the stats were of most interest me.

This exercise reminds me of the Wall Street Journal’s “Darts versus Pros” where a group of experts picked the direction of a portfolio of stocks and were are up against a journalist, who simply threw darts at a stock index table hung on a wall. It usually went about 50/50 but it could get ugly.

I hope I don’t embarrass myself on Monday when the results are posted, but then again, you should see me play darts.

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Trulia To Launch Upgrade Yet I Still Can’t Get Into Stanford Grad School

September 21, 2006 | 10:05 am | |

Although I never went to Stanford Grad School, you’ll probably be just as smart by visiting the major upgrade to Trulia, which is being launched this Monday, September 25th. (Ok, I went to high school with someone who went to Stanford and its quite clear I will never be that smart.) Seemingly everyone involved in Trulia went to Stanford, so perhaps thats why their logo still says its in beta – they are studying for finals?

I got a demo of the new version yesterday in my office by CEO Pete Flint and VP Sean Black and I was impressed. Since I was first approached by Trulia last year before their New York launch, I have provided aggregate market data for them since then because I was intrigued by their product. I still am. There are a lot of listing mashups out there, but maps are last year’s news – everyone has them now.

Their new idea is to integrate public record, listing and enhanced mapping features to help drive traffic to the broker listings. It doesn’t cost the brokers anything and with weakening market conditions, demand for free products like this will likely increase.

One of the other more visible real estate sites out there is Zillow, who just released “Z2” which is a completely different product than Trulia.

Zillow is a pricing tool to give the user the estimate for a specific property using public record sources. Zillow added a new feature this week which allows property owners to modify public record features of a property since its hit or miss whether public record will capture accurate amenity features. My house is missing 2-bedrooms and about 1,200 square feet (I know I put them somewhere), but the value of my house seems ok for some reason. I still have high hopes for Zillow but not untill they get more consistent coverage to be relied on. When thats perfected, I think that the Zestimates will take you to the general realm of market value but will need to be fine tuned by a real, hopefully live, person.

My nephew in Ohio relied on Zillow heavily recently in understanding pricing in their area and used it for a reality check when they negotiated a home purchase. However, my in-laws’ house in Michigan is a tract housing subdivision and is valued at less than 20% of what houses we know recently sold in the past year.

Zillow seems to be saying now that they are a starting point for pricing, not the replacement for a professional to interpret the results.

Trulia is a listing aggregator that combines broker listings, with mapping technology and public record infomation and sales in the area to allow the reader to narrow down their choices and get comfortable with what values are and what is available for sale. In other words, the reader is put to work to understand the market and therefore owns the result. A really interesting feature of the new upgrade is the data that shows the amount of reader traffic that visits a specific neighborhood in order to gauge the amount of consumer interest in it. In other words, what is “hot.”

These are new features provided by their press release:

  • Interactive Heatmaps dynamically search your city to see which neighborhoods and zip codes are hot and which not!  Consumers can search user behavior trends, median sales prices, average listing prices and more for every major city and every neighborhood across the country.

  • Comparison Tool searches data on over 60 million homes so you don’t have to.  It works like this: you find a home you like, finds comparable ‘for sale’ and ‘recently sold’ homes to help you understand how your house stacks up, you make better real estate decisions.

  • Trulia Neightborhood Spotlight helps you answer:  is this neighborhood popular?  How do average prices in this neighborhood compare to the city?  What about the quality of schools and crime rates?  Which homes have the most bathrooms!?  All that information is here.

Here are some interesting mapping features:

Web Traffic Heatmap

Click To Expand Image

List Price Heatmap

Click To Expand Image

Sales Price Heatmap

Click To Expand Image

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Inman Awards Announced

July 28, 2006 | 6:44 am | |

Congrats to Noah Rosenblatt at for winning this year’s Most Innovative Real Estate Blog award. He’s got a refreshing approach to the interpretation of the NYC real estate market from someone on the front lines. He won out over (Rain City Guide, The Walk-Through (New York Times), Center for Realtor Technology, SocketSite and of course, Matrix (But I’ve already told you that before).

Congrats to all the other winners, especially Property Shark, Trulia and October Research Corporation since I am directly familiar with what they do and how they do it. Impressive!

Honestly (see Inman theme), my heart aches to have missed out on the trip to Real Estate Connect San Francisco 2006 this year, but alas, too many things on my plate at the moment. Especially the theme: Is Real Estate Ready for Honesty? (What a concept.)

I definitely plan to attend Inman in New York, and hopefully make it out west next year.

Congrats to the other winners at the conference. For a housing market that is – not what it was, its inspiring to see the quantity and quality of innovation that is out there. Truly an exciting moment in real estate technology.

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Real Estate’s Technology Boom Goes Beta

February 13, 2006 | 12:02 am | |

Real estate technology has come of age, aided by the housing boom combined the American obsession with real estate ans technology. The ability to find and match properties with consumers, to research and investigate properties are among the most logical extensions of new web technologies.

New web sites such as Trulia and Zillow are launched, have deep pockets, yet remain in beta, probably to difuse criticism of the vast promises they seem to be making to the consumer (and may fullfill those promises within a few years if they can last that long). Zillow provides property values and Trulia provides listings with very easy to follow interfaces.

Real estate blogs have evolved into the goto daily resources with a slew of ever changing real estate related topics. The king of real estate blogs, [Curbed](( who has been around just about the longest, is going national with localized market coverage areas. Curbed started out in New York, and has expanded to Los Angeles with about a half dozen other major markets coming down the pike. Big Media has begun to join the blog fray but is at a disadvantage since they cannot have the same edge to them that independent bloggers have. The New York Times blog The Walk-Through and Businessweek’s Hot Properties are among the best of them.

Craigslist, with its primitive interface, has proved that you don’t have to be pretty to be effective, has cost classified advertisers millions of dollars and continues to grow.

Earlier forays into online real estate services such as and remain oldschool and seem stuck in cluttered screen cram-down that overwhelms consumers with irrelevant information.

This whole technology movement is exciting and the possibilities are endless, as soon as we get out of Beta.

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Trulia Flips The Switch And Does A Mash-Up On New York Real Estate

January 30, 2006 | 9:07 pm | |

Mash-ups have become exceedingly popular these days especially after Google placed its API (application programming interface) or “hooks” in the public domain to let innovative companies combine different sources of data to a create new effect. One of the best uses of the mash-up concept in real estate to date has been created by Trulia was created by Pete Flint and Sami Inkinen in the summer of 2004 while they were graduate students at Stanford University. Note: the Google founders also went to graduate school at Stanford. I had the pleasure of speaking with Sami at length at Brad Inman’s Real Estate Connect in New York this month.

Here’s some more information about the service and their philosophies.

Trulia is essentially a vertical application of a Google search.

I heard about Trulia last fall through word of mouth and have followed their popularity in California. I added a post about Trulia [Matrix] a few months ago. The concept was straightforward and the site seemed to place tremendous emphasis on simplicity. Their data feeds are from public web sites, not MLS systems since that information is proprietary.

New York seemed to be ripe for this type of service as a compliment to what already exists in the public domain because it culls together a variety of information into one web page. When Trulia decided to launch in New York, they came to my firm Miller Samuel as well as Property Shark to provide additional content for users. The result of this mash-up is a lot of data useful to potential homebuyers interspersed within the listing information being searched.

Trulia is not a real estate broker and in fact, has sought out cooperation with the brokerage community. They have positioned themselves as a way for brokers to leverage the exposure of the listings already placed out on the web, and not as competition. They make their money from online advertising.

Among my favorite features are being able to create an RSS feed so the user can see new listings that meet their search criteria as the become available. I also like being able to save custom searches and their listing stats are particularly useful. Rarely do new web service sites come along that I get excited about.

Going Vertical With Google: A Mash-up Of Listings And Maps

December 5, 2005 | 12:01 am | |

A new kind of real estate search engine called Trulia is getting graphic about traditional listing searches [Curbed LA].

The New York Times Circuits Section discusses a whole new breed of real estate search engines, including Trulia thanks to Google Maps in A Journey to a Thousand Maps Begins With an Open Code [NYT]

“A new class of entrepreneur is jumping in as well. Pete Flint, a 2004 graduate of Stanford University’s business school, and a classmate, Sami Inkinen, started a mash-up called, which pinpoints real estate listings on a Google map. Click on a pushpin in a favorite neighborhood and up pops the listings, along with comparables from recent home sales and other nearby properties.

Trulia has posted data only for five California cities, and that data is a bit thin because it uses publicly available sources like newspapers and Web sites, not the Multiple Listing Service, the copyrighted databases belonging to local broker associations. Trulia plans on adding additional layers of information, like census data.”

Trulia is only in California but its catching on.

Click here for more on their mash-up concept.

Webmaster’s Note: Thanks Laura S.!

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