I am a Realtor in Marin County, CA. I personally have not paid attention to the look of the page, but have been concentrating on questions/answers posted by buyers/sellers/real estate pros. For example, I just saw yours and thought you posted a very interesting questions. Being in Real Estate business, disclose, disclose, disclose, and truth are alway top of my list, and I can see why you get a bit irrated or alarmed by Sami Inkinen's statement - disclose - I have not read that statement myself.
however, I can see why some of the questions/answers turn into leads for certain people. Consumers or Realtors come to Trulia, or for that matter, any other internet sites, to search for best information on things they are interested in.
A few R.E. resources said that 70+% of buyers looked for property online before they contact an agent., with the population become more sophisticated and intuned with internet, this is where I see leads for my listing and clients coming from. I can be very proud to tell my seller clients that their house is listed in many reputable sites for maximum exposure. For my buyer clients, I can also truthfully tell them that I look for houses listed in differnt sites to find the perfect home for them.
Being a Real Estate related site, I see Trulia as a great place to present my listing to a wide audiance around the world. Some people email me from different coutry, state, or city askking about my listings.
Also, by posting my thought-through answers to some of the questions that interest me, I do expect some people will find that I am knowledgable about real estate, the market in my area, real estate trend in general, and that I care and I am worthy of their business. This would be how leads are generated.
One thing Trulia does not do like other 'Lead Generation' sites which I tried when I was a new agent, but quickly abandoned, is that they don't send you leads that innocent subscribers filled out, not knowing it's going to be sent to agents. I could image some of the people who recieve my early emails had no clue where I came from and would certainly be offended. That's a real Lead Generation site for you.
Trulia lets us answer questions and from the answers, you can choose to contact the agent or not. The choice is all up to you and maybe in this way, some of the consumers will contact me because they trust me by learning about my philosphy online.
Hope this helps you understand how I personally see this site.
Thanks, Sylvia Barry
First, I think you are being very savvy to question ALL real estate websites motives. I am constantly solicited by websites, that in my opinion, bait and switch web surfers (buyers/sellers) and then sell their information on to real estate brokers as leads. What a false pretense to build a relationship with a client on. To my knowledge and in my experience Trulia does not do this. This is the first real estate website I've been willing to partake in because I think it is truly a valuable to real estate professionals and consumers. To my knowledge there is no charge to participate in this aspect of the site for either the consumer or professional. We enjoy Trulia and I like the fact that not only the consumer is getting educated through this website but other real estate professionals are too. I am not implying there are not brokers on this website with the sole motive to fish out leads but there are a lot here who just like to talk real estate. All these blogs speak for themselves.
This is an awesome place for the consumer to ask a question, anonymously, if they so choose, and get a myriad of responses without fear of being stalked for business. If a broker approaches you from this website unsolicited don't do business with them. I feel confident that the Trulia founders will ensure this does site does not become a lead fishing site. If it were to turn that way hopefully they will protect this valuable resource they have created by keeping this a forum for real estate. I think Trulia is on to something. We need more real estate forums. If Trulia charges for anything,or begins to, it should be to keep this site operational and increasing it's exposure, it's not free to operate a site like this. But I've never gotten the impression Trulia's motive was to fish out leads to real estate professionals. NEVER.
Here is a joke: A police man pulls a man over and says, "Let me see your real estate license." The driver says, "Don't you want to see my drivers license?" and the police man says, "No, not everyone has a drivers license."
A lot of people are in this business to get rich quick and according to statistics 80% of real estate professionals are out of business within the first few years. Real estate is a practice, just like any other profession. Every deal and piece of real estate is different and experience is the backbone of this business. Trulia is a great place for the public to see not all real estate professionals are the same nor are our experiences. Just like doctors and attorneys sometimes you need a second opinion and what a great place to get it.
Lastly, if I get a lead from Trulia, great, I won't turn it down, at least I've openly expressed my opinion and experience. I know the prospective client likes what I have to offer because they approached me freely and willingly with no false pretenses.
Ethics is at the core of this business which leads me back to the joke I told; consumer beware! Thanks for bringing the topic up.
My apologies for the confusion caused with the wording of that or other statements you may have read from us.
We've always tried to make sure - and will continue to - that consumers have free and open access (with no registration required) to information, expert opinions and tools that we offer to both home buyers and sellers. With this approach, consumers can freely conduct their research without being "forced to become a lead" or attached to any particular professional until they may decide to do so.
This is also great news for the highest quality real estate professionals. Professionals who truly demonstrate their negotiation/marketing/local market skills and knowledge, will certainly attract a lot of potential buyer and seller attention, which is a win-win for everyone: consumers get fantastic service and the best professionals can generate more business for themselves (yes, someone could say at that point "I got a lead from Trulia", but at that point it is the best possible outcome for both the buyer and the professional).
I hope this clarifies our position a bit. Let me know if you'd like to know more about how we operate.
(co-founder of Trulia)