Vol 7 No. 25 - March 14, 2007

Here's a great real estate search engine
By Louise Bolger
sun staff writer

About a year ago a young woman came into the office at the Anna Maria Island Sun asking for help with a photograph she wanted to provide to the paper for publication. After our staff helped her out, I clearly remember her saying; "I feel like I have to learn something new every day."

Since I frequently feel that way myself, I never forgot the frustration in her voice. Well, I learned something new a few weeks ago. It’s not really new, but it’s new to me and my guess is it will be new to a lot of my readers.

If you’re a real estate junkie or just interested in the ongoing saga of the real estate market, you’re probably already aware of several online web-sites. Realtor.com and Zillow.com are two of the most popular sites available to obtain information on property listings. Zillow.com also provides a valuation search engine providing you with an estimate of the value of your home.

The search engine I recently discovered is called Trulia.com. Trulia has been around for over a year, but in September its site was enhanced with many new features.

Trulia has three tabs to click on for information, Homes For Sale, Real Estate Guides and Heat Maps. You can search by city, state and zip code.

The Homes for Sale tab will furnish all homes in Trulia’s data base for the requested area. If you ask to view similar homes, you get sold homes as well with very detailed information on property type, size, square feet, etc. The properties will be mapped on a street map, satellite map or hybrid map with balloons indicating where the properties are. Holding your mouse over the red balloons will give you sold properties and the green balloons will give you available properties as well as the street address and price. The maps are part of Google Earth, come up very fast and have a zoom.

The only problem with the homes for sale information on Trulia is that it does not represent all the homes for sale. It is not a reflection of local multiple listing systems but rather a reflection of brokers who list and advertise with Trulia. Nevertheless, if you’re selling your home, all the green balloons that come up over Anna Maria Island will make your heart sink a little.

The Real Estate Guides tab contains community information, income levels, schools, median and average sale prices, population information and number of sales for the area you’re researching. There are nifty graphs as well as a graphic and blurb letting you know if this area is hot, warm, etc. compared to other areas of the country.

The third tab, Heat Maps is basically a comparison of other cities in the state you choose. The state will be displayed on the satellite map color coded based on average sale prices — kind of fun especially if you have a competitive streak.

Trulia also markets to the brokerage community, providing it an interface with its personal or company Web sites using Trulia’s maps and balloons for specific company listings. As an individual you can sign up for daily updates for specific locations sent to your e-mail address.

None of these web-sites are meant to be the final word on property values. Rather they are just one more piece of the real estate puzzle meant to provide detailed information and hard data to help you make an informed decision. Unfortunately, for my friend from a year ago, in today’s world you do have to learn something new every day, and chances are what you learned today will be different tomorrow.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper