The U.S. housing recovery is picking up with new home construction at the highest levels since October 2008. Comprised mostly of single family homes, the annual construction rate now is at around 3/4 of a million. Sales of previously occupied homes have also jumped.
This is great news for potential homeowners. But looking for a new place to live is an arduous process, more stressful than buying a car. Several websites are now available to help you find the perfect place. Now that Trulia (TRLA) has gone public, there is finally something to compare Zillow (Z) to other than Realtor.com (MOVE).
Below are some insights as I test search for a 3br, 3000 sq. ft. house in Carmel, Indiana, Money Magazine’s Best Place to Live in 2012.
The company opened up to trading at $22.10 a share. It was already up over 40 percent before noon. Though it’s generating revenues of $29 million, it has yet to turn a profit. Trulia is great with displaying images though I found the interface cluttered by ads. Real estate companies in Carmel are prominently featured. This isn’t too surprising since advertising is a primary source of revenue in addition to subscription sales. Trulia also includes metrics for local schools and nearby crime rates (which frightened me when looking at NYC apartments).
I found Zillow to be the most useful in terms of search criteria including “Zestimates” which give an estimate of a home’s actual value. The interface is clean with few advertisements and a map of the town appears on the left side of the page, putting listings in geographic perspective. These features are reflected in Zillow’s continued profitably but at a P/E of over 400!
Despite falling revenues over the years, Move Inc. which owns Realtor.com, had operating income in the black last year. Sorting listings solely by bedrooms and square footage turned up too many listings pricey Indiana homes in the 10,000+ sq. ft. range but contact information for real estate agents is very clear. Move, Inc. also provides software for agents and brokers.
It’s clear that these real estate sites offer a real convenience. The difference lies in perceived credibility for users and ad revenues for shareholders. Trulia seemed to have the most ads, and a peek at the rentals section reveals listings that look fake. As of this morning, it has 943 listings in Carmel, IN while Realtor.com had 760 homes for sale. Zillow had the most at 981 which means listings are not as well vetted despite fewer obvious marketing schemes.
If the housing recovery picks up, these sites are great, user-friendly tools for home-buyers. They may even spur sales as house hunters are more likely to find matches within their parameters.
1. Trulia Inc (TRLA, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): A real estate search engine company. The Company helps in finding homes for sale and provides real estate information. Market cap at $598.75M, most recent opening price at $22.96.
3. Move, Inc. (MOVE, Earnings, Analysts, Financials): Operates an online network of Web sites for real estate search, finance, and moving and home enthusiasts in North America. Market cap at $340.9M, most recent closing price at $8.67.
Written by Freda Ding
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