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Trulia press releases misleading consumers and investors?

Real estate search site, Trulia.com has for the last ten months been less than truthful in their monthly price reduction reports as released on their site. In all monthly press releases distributed since Trulia began offering the ability to search by price reductions, they have claimed, “Trulia is the first and only national real estate site to provide consumers with the ability to use price reductions as a search filter.”

Our investigation shows that Better Homes & Gardens, Keller Williams, RE/MAX, Century 21 and Coldwell Banker’s national search portals do not offer a price reduction search parameter, so perhaps the statement that has been made ten times is partially true.

No, unfortunately, Trulia has been less than truthful, given that Zillow.com has offered the ability to search by price reductions since August of this year and Realtor.com has offered this feature since January of 2010. Popular IDX provider Diverse Solutions offers the ability to search by price reductions as well, so most anyone with a real estate website can offer this search parameter. In addition, individual Realtors have been able to report price reductions from their very own MLS since before the internet was conceived.

So why is Trulia fudging the details and trumping up reality?

On the heels of Trulia being named the only real estate company in the top five “fastest growing” in “buyer interest” according to alternative asset site SecondMarket.com, we began looking more closely at Trulia’s press releases. We noticed multiple questionable claims with the particular claim that they are the “only national real estate site to provide consumers with the ability to use price reductions as a search filter” immediately standing out. It could be sloppy PR, or it could be hype- either way, it’s inaccurate.

Trulia is threatened by the success of their competitors and according to Alexa.com, when compared to Zillow and Realtor.com, Trulia performs the worst in daily website reach, daily traffic rank, daily page views, bounce rate and time on site as outlined in the charts below, however traffic from search engines in part to their SEO gaming is doing well. Trulia is losing out to Zillow most likely because of the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace bringing in additional traffic and to Realtor.com due to their unmatched size and accuracy (not to mention name recognition and longevity).

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Take a moment to review the site comparison below to see Trulia’s website performance against the other big two (Realtor.com and Zillow):

In a recent private study conducted by New Media Lab, Realtor.com ranked the highest in trust of data accuracy and usability when compared to Zillow and Trulia (although Trulia did rank highest for the aesthetics of their landing page).

The bottom line is that real estate search sites can have all the fancy tools and search paramaters possible, but accuracy not only in data (which even Zillow.com struggles with) but in press releases is critical. Home seekers, home sellers and Realtors place high importance on data accuracy and SecondMarket.com’s investors along with Trulia’s investors likely place high importance on the accuracy of how Trulia portrays itself.

Correction: original story noted Zillow’s price reduction search beginning in May. It has been updated to August although users have been able to see price history on individual listings since May 2010.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Kye Grace

    October 26, 2010 at 1:28 am

    “although Trulia did rank highest for the aesthetics of their landing page” Thanks god it looks good…wait I already ranted about that last week didn’t I?

    Are we really surprised that within our space known for half truths conveyed as facts that this is happening? I know for one I was hoping brazen inaccurate claims only existed on bus benches ads still.

    Of course we all hold out a little hope that these ‘new kids on the block’ doing things so long overdue and how many of us see the industry needing to shift towards would not have a chink in the armour.

    Sadly the Real Estate space seems to overwhelm the best intentions and drag even those with the highest potential down to its lowest (and seemingly common) level.

    Sadly stooping to compete continues to be the first move when being outplayed in this business.

    Sheesh I am owly tonight 😉

    Full marks to the gang at New Media Labs for blowing the cover on this one!

    I better get out of here before I start to bemoan how a large RE marketing company turned Bar Camps into paid events that people are lining up for all over America. Weird.

  2. Benn Rosales

    October 26, 2010 at 2:02 am

    Interesting comparisons search engine results traffic to bounce rate at Trulia.

  3. Bruce Lemieux

    October 26, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Trulia surely is the master of RE SEO. I think that data quality will be even more important to consumers as they go mobile – which will be a bigger handicap for Trulia. R.com and Redfin have fantastic mobile apps with accurate, MLS-driven data. Trulia will never be able to match their mobile competitors with poor-quality syndicated data.

  4. Paula Henry

    October 26, 2010 at 8:47 am

    The real estate space is saturated with inaccuracies at many levels when it comes to searches and IDX. Bounce rate doesn’t surprise me, it’s a given when you index for addresses.

    Great data, Lani!

  5. Matt Kelly

    October 26, 2010 at 9:04 am

    It’s hype.

    Your references above are just a few of the examples of poor form at Trulia. Their PR Policy appears to be “Spin and Sensationalize” for the benefit of SEO. I’ve seen them spin articles others have written so badly out of context I’ve called them out on it myself.

    They remind me of the old saying “All smoke, no fire.” Trulia is not a company that I consider to be honest, accurate, or reliable.

  6. Rudy

    October 26, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Hi Lani!

    We have gone back and updated all of our price reduction press releases from January 2010 to the present. When we introduced this report in June of 2009, we were the only ones able to provide this level of data and insights to the media. Since that time we have continued to roll out more data to help the media, the industry and consumers. Our data reports play a key role in helping consumers make better decisions and help the media in their daily reporting. It is not our PR Policy to mislead consumers, investors or the industry. It is our objective to release relevant data that can help buyers, sellers and renters at every step of their search process.

    Rudy from Trulia

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