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An Economist Goes House Hunting

Trulia’s new chief economist shares her take on today’s housing market and how she looked at the numbers and weighed her options as she searched for a place to call home San Francisco.

Hello everyone. My name is Selma Hepp, Trulia’s new Chief Economist. I am thrilled to now be a part of Trulia’s housing economics research team. Over the years, I’ve admired the prolific and creative insights that Trulia has uncovered about the housing market and I’m excited to build on the great work that has already been done.

I’m joining Trulia at an exciting time for the company and at a point of transition for the housing market. Home prices, sales, and new construction have been bouncing back over the past five years, and in some markets have outpaced their growth during the boom. In the beginning, investors propped up most of this growth, but now key economic fundamentals like job growth and household formation are driving the recovery. While this is great news for the economy, it’s actually a double-edge sword for the average house hunter: as home values improve, affordability worsens. In fact, housing affordability is one of the most pressing housing issues right now, and one of the key themes that I want to explore on the Trulia Trends blog in addition to inequality, and how major demographic shifts are impacting homeownership.

Trulia will continue to publish new research that will help house hunters understand which trends really matter, such as: Can I really afford a home in this neighborhood? What’s it like to live in this neighborhood? Where can I find my dream home? What compromises do I need to make?  At the same time, I will follow all the major housing policy decisions and key industry reports– from home prices, sales, new construction starts, mortgage rates and job growth – and help house hunters translate what’s happening and how it will impact them. If you have a question or want to talk through story ideas, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me by email ( or Twitter (@SelmaHepp).

My Journey Home
When I accepted the position as Trulia’s Chief Economist, I immediately started my home search. The new job meant a long distance move from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Buying a home typically takes 18 months. San Francisco is a notoriously expensive place for renters and buyers. The going median rent in the metro area is $3,500 which is actually $400 more than metro New York. Median prices, similarly, are well above a million dollars. The caveat, again, is actually finding a home that suits ones needs given the Bay Area’s notoriously tight supply of homes for sale. In the most desirable locations, the inventory supply is barely approaching two months. To put this into context, a more balanced housing market would require about seven months of homes for sale. But I’m not discouraged – inventory has been on an upswing and has improved over the last year.

Fortunately, I was able to find a sublease for a studio apartment in North Beach for three months – which would give me some time to really get to know the city and consider other locations around the Bay Area (many of my friends and colleagues suggested that I check out Oakland). But for now, I’m in love with my new home. In the coming months, I plan on soaking in all that San Francisco has to offer as I think about new ways of helping home buyers, sellers, and renters understand the housing market – all while enjoying my new view.


Trulia Co-Hosts Data Visualization Workshop In Support of White House Safety Data Initiative

Two-Day Data Visualization Workshop for Journalists Happening in New York City and San Francisco on September 4 and September 10

the Trulia Trends team
August 23, 2012

We’re exciting to announce that we’ve teamed up with Fast Company’s Co.Design, O’Reilly Media and Hacks/Hackers to co-host a two-day data visualization workshop for journalists. Created in support of the Obama Administration’s critical Safety Data Initiative – a historic effort to make government safety data on transportation, crime and consumer products much more accessible— these workshops aim to help data journalists investigate and tell stories fueled by this data.

If you’re in San Francisco or New York in early September, we hope you can join us! Here are the workshop details and RSVP instructions.

WHEN: From 6:00PM to 9:00PM on Tuesday, September 4 and Monday, September 10, 2012.

LOCATION: The New York City workshop will be held at Fast Company’s downtown Manhattan office and the San Francisco workshop will be held at Trulia’s SOMA headquarters.

SPEAKERS:  Brian Forde, Senior Advisor to the U.S. CTO on Mobile and Data Innovation, and Jo Strang, Co-lead of the Safety Data Initiative, will introduce and provide insight on the Obama Administration’s Safety Data Initiative. The workshops will be lead by Jon Bruner, Editor-at-Large at O’Reilly Media in New York City and Sha Hwang, Design Technologist at Trulia in San Francisco. Other speakers include leading data journalists and design technologists such as Nathaniel Kelso, Design Technologist at Stamen Design and Chief Cartographer at, and Alex Howard, Government 2.0 Correspondent at O’Reilly Media, among others.

KEY TAKEAWAYS: Designed for both established and emerging journalists, these workshops will provide hands-on instruction on how to understand, source and tell compelling stories using data visualizations. The first workshop on September 4 will focus on how to find and understand government data. Then the second workshop on September 10 will provide an overview of useful tools for dealing and visualizing data.

REGISTRATION: Class size is limited. There is a $5 fee and registration is required by Friday, August 31.


Change is Good – We’re Changing Our Name

the Trulia Trends team
March 14, 2012

When we first started this blog nearly a year ago, our goal was to make our plethora of complex housing data easier to digest and even more useful through cool interactive data visualizations. Since then, we’ve evolved to become even more than that.

Bringing together a team of creative design technologists, super-smart data analysts and savvy writers as well as our awesome Chief Economist Jed Kolko, we’re investigating a wider range of unconventional housing trends — from measuring housing misery in different states to tracking the window shopping activity of European house hunters. We’re also breaking down current events, new housing policies and local market data — such as the robo-signing settlement and the monthly jobs report — to help translate what really matters to people who are looking for a new home. Lastly, we continue to make good on our original promise to deliver visual insights – which has included visualizations that shed light on where and when people are looking for homes.

So to reflect our evolution as a blog, we’ve changed our names to Trulia Trends and updated our mission statement. Ta-da!

And with that, here’s to many more years of sharing trends through data, design and insights!


Thanks for the Memories, Strata!

Strata 2012 showcases Trulia's interactive data visualizations at the conference's art gallery.

the Trulia Trends team
March 7, 2012

Last week, the Trulia Insights team took a little field trip to Santa Clara, CA (a town south of San Francisco for all our non-Bay Area peeps) to check out Strata 2012: Making Data Work.

All in all, it was an awesome experience and we left feeling a little smarter. But what was even more amazing was seeing our work being showcased at the conference’s data visualization gallery.

We compiled all of our favorite interactive data visuals for a display on a touch-screen monitor.

Watch this video to see the magic of the touch screen and our data visual in action. Just be careful, it might make you a little dizzy.

… continue reading


Think Locally, And Take The Long View

Trulia’s new chief economist shares his take on today’s housing market and what’s important when you’re looking at all the numbers coming out on real estate.

Let me introduce myself: I’m Jed Kolko, Trulia’s new Chief Economist, and I will be translating economic trends, housing data and public policy to help you make smarter decisions about real estate and where to live. For many years I’ve been studying why people and businesses move where they do and why some places grow faster than others, and explaining what’s happening with housing, the economy and technology to business executives and government officials. At Trulia, I will continue to do this and will be sharing my thoughts on Trulia Insights, Twitter (follow me @JedKolko), and through the media. In addition, some of my work will be behind the scenes, advising the development of Trulia Estimates and other great data tools on

Housing – What’s to understand?
I’m joining Trulia at an exciting time for the company and at a critical time for understanding housing. The housing market’s unprecedented downturn brought the economy into a recession and is holding back recovery. The effects have been national and global in scope, creating an urgent crisis as homeowners have lost homes, construction workers have lost jobs and renters face stiff obstacles to buying. Prices still sag and inventory clears slowly as the struggling economy depresses buying power and homes move slowly through the foreclosure process. … continue reading