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HotPads.com, the apartment and rental home search engine and one of the founding members of Real Estate 2.0, had been awfully quiet lately. (For more, read Renters Arm Themselves With Info)

This week however they burst back on the scene with a brand new features, new maps , new imagery and more importantly – $2.3 million dollars in VC financing.

On the surface, the site has not changed all that much and the interface is still a little too cartoony for my tastes. The icons, while visually interesting (they bounce!), consume way too much screen real estate on a map search and make the search experience a little clumsy in my opinion.

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Anyway, here’s a full list of the new features from their press release:

  • New HotPads Maps
  • Microsoft Satellite Mapping Integration
  • Neighborhood and City Demographic and Housing Stats with Wikipedia
  • Articles
  • Political Party Affiliation Mapping
  • Demographic and Housing Heat Maps
  • Points of Interest Mapping including Schools, Universities and Public
  • Transportation

What is most interesting to me out of this list are the heat maps, which you can now layer over a search and show datasets like population density, per capita income and median rent. Clicking on any of these adds Neighboroo-like color coding of the data to any map view.

Drilling down to a particular apartment takes you to an expanded property view which gives you a couple of slick features; a dynamic slide show of photos (should any exist) and the ability to tag the listing to del.icio.us and even share it on Facebook – a feature I’m think more of the real estate search engines should adopt. (Unfortunately the Facebook feature did not work for me exactly as I had hoped – it posted a generic Hotpads promo to my profile rather than details on the rental itself.)

Onto the bigger picture however, and what this announcement signals to me is that Spring not only means a new home buying season, but a renewed push for new financing by the Real Estate 2.0 front runners. They’ve all now seen a couple of full business cycles and are probably sucking on the fumes of their angel rounds.

They’re also heading into tougher market environment these days and probably need to top up their bank accounts; so Redfin is out beating on doors and Trulia may be next. Pretty much the only guy smiling is Zillow who is still sitting pretty on top of a mountain of cash.

More on HotPads new deal from Screenwerk.

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