Zillow launches new improvements to its search tools this week (see Zillow Launches New Smart Search Feature). So does Trulia.

The most obvious change in the new release is that Trulia, unlike Zillow, has shrunk the default size of its map results (see Trulia shrunk the map). They’ve chosen to rely instead on a hierarchal list of properties, rather than the geo-plotted representations of the search results.

I actually like the new view a lot the more I played with it. I found myself wanting to see where items were on the map, only after I’d scanned the list to review the properties’ details (thumbnails, price, beds, baths etc.). I think this is much more natural response to a consumer’s search funnel.

It seems then, that Trulia has fired the first shot – as the infatuation with the eye-candy of maps cools in deference to putting the product (listings) up-front-and-center (see Real Estate Search Stores – Coming Soon?). I wonder if we’ll soon see similar moves from the other players?

The motivation behind the change seems to be speed. From Trulia’s blog post:

We’re constantly working on making the website faster and you should see some small, but noticeable improvements here.

And this jives well with a recent comment from Sol regarding Zillow’s new search tools.

I recall when Redfin and Homepage.com first launched. It took ( no joke ) 2-4 minutes to load the homepage. The typical consumer has 37 seconds attention span. SPEED. SPEED. SPEED. It’s the only thing that is guaranteed to change in the future.

The one thing I didn’t like with the new layout is that the options to refine a search now fall largely below the fold. It didn’t seem to be immediately obvious where or how I could change my search parameters.

It also seemed like the new design has added more obnoxious placements of Google Ads on the page. Something that may hint of growing need within Trulia to find a path to profitabililty.

It’s too early in the fusillade to see which approach will win out; Zillow’s maps or Trulia’s new lists. Right now, Trulia sits near the bottom of my informal (and highly unscientific) poll on which real estate search site will win out in 2008. There’s still time to vote, so let me know what you think.

[poll=5]

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