Trulia, a prominent online real estate search and marketing company, has announced the release of a new free search feature that aims to give users a better feel for a locale they’d like to live in.

Trulia Local allows users to search cities via interactive, "zoom-able" Google Maps where they can see Trulia-listed homes both for sale and sold, area amenities like restaurants, school district and school information, and crime levels.

"Trulia Local is more about exploration than specific home data," said Sha Hwang, a designer at Trulia who helped develop the new product. "It’s the inversion of how we’ve traditionally presented data," he said.

Trulia Local features filtered map searches, allowing users to see info like average Trulia listing prices and sold prices of homes in a view; recent crimes, including a heat-map overlay of violent and nonviolent crimes; nearby restaurants, banks, gas stations and grocery stores; school district boundaries and, where available, specific school boundaries.

The schools search also displays a school’s GreatSchool rating.

The crime data is updated in real time, and includes block-level information for many of the nation’s largest cities.

Late last year, Trulia hired Lee Clancy to help direct, develop and monetize Trulia Local among other Trulia products. Clancy had been an executive at gaming site IMVU, which, according to his Trulia bio, increased its revenue 500 percent in 2011. Before IMVU, he managed Yahoo’s personals and groups products.

Trulia hopes that the new search tool will give users a broad-brush idea of a neighborhood’s character, Clancy said.

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