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Real estate search and marketing company Trulia.com has launched its "smart" rental search, the company announced today. With a significant number of consumers losing their homes and others debating whether to buy or rent, the site’s rental search offers a variety of information to help consumers make that choice and live in a home that fulfills the varying requirements of their individual lifestyle.

Real estate search and marketing company Trulia.com has launched a comprehensive rental properties search. With a significant number of consumers losing their homes and others debating whether to buy or rent, the site’s rental search offers a variety of information to help consumers make that choice and live in a home that fulfills the varying requirements of their individual lifestyle.

"There are 6.7 million people on Trulia and we know that some percentage of them are also looking to rent. We’re taking the best of the Trulia (for-sale home) search experience and bringing it over to rentals," said Heather Fernandez, the company’s vice president of marketing.

In a recent internal study, the company found that 30 percent of about 600 prospective homebuyers are also considering renting and "need more tools to make better decisions," the company said. In another recent survey performed by Harris Interactive for the company, 60 percent of about 1,000 surveyed adults at least somewhat agreed that renting currently makes better financial sense for them.

The company also pointed to the top 20 real estate sites as compiled by Web metrics firm Hitwise in February 2009 and 2010 — while three rental sites made that list in 2009, seven made it to this year’s February list. That indicates a rising interest in rentals, Fernandez said.

While Craigslist comes to mind for many consumers looking to rent, Trulia hopes to attract renters by offering a more expansive set of features that were previously only available for users looking for homes to buy.

"Ultimately, we want renters to know that you can have an advanced search experience and get to exactly what you’re looking for with all of the tools that make your life easier: you can have it on your mobile, get (saved search) listings pushed to you, give you a map view … A lot of things other sites don’t have that will make searching for home a lot easier. Craigslist is a great site but its very limited," Fernandez said.

The site’s new "Rent" tab allows users to filter their searches by location, price range, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, property type, and whether pets are allowed. Users can further refine their results by a given radius, minimum and maximum square footage, and amenities like air conditioning or an in-unit washer/dryer, among other features.

Users can also search home descriptions for keywords like "pool," "garage," or "public transit." Results include home details, photos, schools data, and a Google map of the location with the ability to see important community resources like banks, schools, grocery stores, and gas stations.

Where available, users can also see properties through Google Street View or an aerial "perspective" view. In the "large map" view, users can see their listings on a map and see their results populated as they click and drag the map around. Under "More neighborhood options," Trulia offers the ability to choose multiple neighborhoods to search at the same time.

The site gets its rental listings from third-party property listings aggregators Rentwiki, For Rent, ApartmentGuide, and Rentals.com. Trulia also receives feeds of listings from multiple listings services. Trulia gets listings from hundreds of brokers that have existing partnerships for for-sale listings, including Prudential Douglas Elliman, Long & Foster, Coldwell Banker Previews International and RE/MAX Greater Atlanta.

Companies that have current partnerships with Trulia can submit rental listings at no cost. Those looking to set up new feeds to Trulia can do so through those third-party aggregators or contact the company at rentalfeeds@trulia.com, Fernandez said. …CONTINUED

While the site has 4 million for-sale property listings, its rental listings are "in the millions," Fernandez said. The exact number is hard to pin down because rentals are often in buildings with several units and listing providers submit floor plans for their various types of units, not a specific number of units available, she said.

For information about availability, users can click to contact the agent or property manager in charge of that building.

There are two features the site hopes to expand on in the weeks after the launch. The first is a ratings and reviews system in which users can rate their neighborhood for several different categories, including safety, walkability, public transit availability, and pet-friendliness. Right now, users can give a specific location ratings of one to five stars.

Eventually, they’ll be able to expand on their rating with a review, such as "Two stars because this place is close to all public transit except the subway," for example.

"It’s very much like a Yelp model," Fernandez said. Eventually, Trulia plans to bundle up the ratings and give users a block-by-block idea of how users rate specific locations.

The second feature is a tool to decide whether it would make more financial sense to rent a property in a certain area or buy one. The site currently has a basic rent vs. buy calculator that the company hopes to expand.

Unique to the rental search, the site also offers renters’ guides, such as "10 questions to ask a building manager when touring a rental" or " How much rent can you really afford?" or a guide to dealing with roommates.

Like Trulia’s for-sale search, the rental search is also available on the company’s mobile site, which is compatible with the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android devices as well as other smartphones.

The rental search offers real estate agents and brokers with a property management arm a much broader pool of potential clients and a new place to submit their rental listings, Fernandez said.

"They know their area better than anyone else, so they should go in and rate their local area," she said.

"Agents are also advising sellers all the time, so this becomes a tool to have more information at your fingertips on inventory levels or pricing," she added.

 

Heather Fernandez, vice president of marketing at Trulia.com, shares some features of the site’s new rental search with Inman News. Video by Andrea V. Brambila.

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