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Trulia vs. Zillow: The Battle for Online Real Estate

Stocks in this article: Z FB

Real estate professional Ed Mermelstein said neither Zillow or Trulia provide much value in his opinion. He said both Street Easy and Property Shark give more detail on properties such as zoning, taxes and property size.

Mermelstein also questioned the reliability of Zillow and Trulia. He believes most consumers use the sites to get a sense of the big picture, but when they get serious they go directly to a broker's web site, like Re/Max or Century 21.

A comparison of my own home brought extreme spreads in the market value. Trulia came in at $253,000 while Property Shark said it was worth $458,000. Zillow's custom "Zestimate" is $295,852. It would be nice if I could pay taxes on the lower amount and sell for the higher.

As a consumer, I don't really see very much difference between all these sites. I found school information and property size. Some even knew I had improved my home and listed my tax amounts. The valuations are so varied, though it's hard to know who's right. We'll call this round a draw.

In its S-1 filing, Trulia said it had 22 million monthly unique visitors in six months ending June 2012. The company also said 76% of its users are actually serious buyers, implying Zillow is for looky-loos. However, for the three months ended in June, Zillow had 33.5 million average monthly uniques, so Zillow is winning that battle.

Let's take a look at revenue and net income. Trulia books revenue primarily from sales of subscription products to real estate professionals. They also generate revenue from display advertising. For the years ended Dec. 31, 2009, 2010, and 2011, and the six months ended June 30, 2012, Trulia reported revenue of $10.3 million, $19.8 million, $38.5 million and $29 million, respectively. However, during the same periods, the company notched net losses of $7 million, $3.8 million, $6.2 million, and $7.6 million, respectively.

Zillow during those same years ended Dec. 31, 2009, 2010, and 2011, delivered revenue of $17.4 million, $30.4 million and $66 million respectively, along with revenue of $50.5 million for the six months ended June 30, much higher than Trulia. Zillow has also managed to break into the black, posting net income of $3 million for the first six months of 2012, so it looks like Zillow is winning this round as well.

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