I recently noticed a very cool feature added by the folks over at Trulia.com – the integration of Google’s innovative Street View imagery found on Google Maps. When you search for a property on Trulia.com, you’re shown an actual street-level image of the property. You can move up and down the street with the drag of a mouse, and get a very good feel for a neighborhood as a potential buyer. I find this extremely powerful for both consumers (and realtors) and believe that it will result in even more users, as well as usage, of real estate search websites like Trulia. Rather than having to look at aerial images, which are nice but not as informative, I get the same insight into a property that I would by driving past it. If realtors can upload a virtual tour in conjunction with the street view imagery, the consumer is about as close as he can get to attending an open house.
I find this fascinating, as it can create or accelerate demand in the market and further empowers consumers. Consumers moving to a new area can get meaningful research done before moving and having to start the home search from square one. Likewise, people with busy schedules preventing them from attending an open house can make a pretty decent assessment of a property by searching this way. The potential homebuyer can research from the comfort of her own home and identify properties of interest. Kudos to the Trulia folks… I’ve got to believe that the folks at Zillow have got something up their sleeve as well.