The US based realty search engines (Trulia, and to a lesser degree, Redfin) are quickly getting lapped by their European counterparts.

Seems like coming out of the gates, nearly all of the Brits aped Trulia’s ground breaking search interface – but have quickly pushed that aside as they race to add new features (see Extate Launches Video Tours). Now it’s Trulia’s interface that is starting to look at bit dated.

extate, who are competing against the likes of Nestoria, Zoomf (see Zoomf Aims to Help British Home Buyers) and OnOneMap (see OnOneMap Gives You More), faces the cutthroat reality that in a field crowded with competition, they must innovate or die.

That same lack of competition here may mean the reigning kings of the Real Estate 2.0 search game grow complacent (as was the case with Realtor.com before them) – but also means there’s a huge opportunity for new players to come into the game.

A couple of new features extate has developed recently; that US based real estate search engines should perhaps take note of…

  • No more balloon popups. Means the map doesn’t readjust when you select the markers – which I love. Maps jumping all over the place when I’m trying to click on a property. The property information displays the full details in the sidebar which is also nice.
  • Markers change color once you’ve viewed them – a simple yet extremely useful innovation which answers one of the most basic questions a real estate shopper might have; “What freakin’ properties have I already seen here?”

More excitingly, The Heat is On. As I’ve said before, “any data set can be made visually sexier with a heatmap” (Heat Maps Catch on Fire) and Trulia does a nice job of layering heat maps onto city level search as a way to see market activity (e.g. Portland Home Prices and Heat Map).

But extate has taken it one step further and added a fourth tab to the Google map that along with Satellite and Hybrid imagery provide heat maps of local prices per square foot (their implementation recalls the visually stunning GeoIQ mashups). This is a great feature that coupled with more specific local information, could be adopted by many of the big brokers too (see Big Brokers Going Local).

heat.jpg

All of these advances however, mean very little without a clear monetization strategy – which is one area that Trulia (and again, to a lesser degree, Redfin) have focused much more of their energies to date. That said, it’d be nice to see some of this innovation trickle over to this side of the pond one of these days.

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