Trulia, madly, deeply

Posted by: Peter Coy on May 7, 2008

Pete Flint.jpg
Amid all the horrendous news on housing, one heart-warming thing about writing for this blog is seeing readers come to the aid of other readers. The best example is the long string of comments on The new exit strategy: A short sale, which was written by Dean Foust on March 5, 2007. Dean’s original item, good as it was, barely scratched the surface. What made it special was the string of 304 (and counting) questions and answers from you, the participants in Hot Property. The helpfulness was apparent right from the start when “Lord”—one of our regular contributors—wrote this:

The IRS will treat this as income and tax you on it. Even if you can afford it, short sales and deeds in lieu of also stay on your record. Bankruptcy can clear the slate at least if no workout is possible.
We got so many comments that Dean’s blog item floated to the top of Google’s search. Last I checked, it’s the first thing you find when you type “short sale” into Google. Of course, that generates even more traffic. All to the good.

I thought about this when Pete Flint (pictured), the CEO and co-founder of Trulia, the San Francisco-based real estate search site, visited BusinessWeek earlier today to speak with me and Prashant Gopal. Flint talked about Trulia’s launch of an ad network, but what struck me the most was what he said about the rapid growth of Trulia Voices, a forum for people to give and get local real estate advice. Flint says that it already accounts for about 10% of Trulia’s traffic and is the fastest-growing portion of the sight.

Here’s what Flint said:

“People are using the public forum in a private way to solve their problems. Real estate is very personal and people will tell the most heart-breaking stories. ‘I just got divorced and I’m losing my house.’ The community is very benevolent.”

To be sure, many of the people posting answers are real estate agents who are looking for business, as pointed out in a cynical but probably all-too-accurate post by Barry Cunningham of Real Estate Radio USA at The BloodhoundBlog here. In fact, Flint himself told me that one agent claims to have generated $100,000 in sales commissions off of contacts made through his postings on Trulia Voices.

Nonetheless, I see a lot of sincere advice being given at Trulia Voices, by agents and non-agents alike. You can find a more supportive take on Trulia Voices over at Trulia’s own blog, here.

To all the benevolent people who have given good advice to others in need at Hot Property and elsewhere: Thank you.

Reader Comments

Wes

May 8, 2008 8:25 AM

Asking for advice on a public forum is a way for people to be anonymous and get what can be considered netural advice. It also keeps you from disclosing in your social circle that you weren't able to sustain the keeping-up-with-the-jones game.

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About

BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.

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