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The Washington Post is switching its local real estate search from Classified to Trulia. The switch takes place in April, and is being announced just after CV’s introduction of the HomeFinder brand, which replaces the HomeScape brand.

The move from a CV product is somewhat surprising, in part because The Washington Post Co. is a CV shareholder, along with several other newspaper companies. CV also runs, HomeGain and A Post spokesperson said the company will continue to work with and maintains its relationship with CV.

While The Post has a history of paying top dollar to customize vendor products, Trulia CEO Pete Flint notes that Trulia’s  price — “free,” with shared advertising revenues — appeals to newspapers during this economic downturn. Trulia already works on a “free” basis with 150 local media properties, including the St. Petersburg Times, The Bakersfield Californian, The Press of Atlantic City, and various TV station sites from Fisher Communications and Belo.

Pricing may, in fact, have been pivotal in the decision. CV raised feeds for as it became a strong national brand. Some non-owner affiliates resisted those price increases. Up to now, however, CV’s owners haven’t generally cut ties (unless you count The New York Times Co., which sold its interest in the consortium several years ago).

Flint told us he sees the signing as “a great vote of confidence” in Trulia’s search technology. Users can refine their search results on Trulia based on criteria such as open houses, neighborhood, price, property type and new listings. Users can also view detailed maps, local price trends, property descriptions and other buy/sell related info. Noting that Trulia is co-branding the real estate site with The Post, Flint added that “we are very much looking forward to collaborating on their content and sales relationships.”

In making the deal with The Post, Trulia antes up the competitive front against Zillow, which is working with certain members of The Yahoo Newspaper Consortium (and others) on real estate search and services. Zillow recently indicated that its partnership with the newspapers, while promising, is unlikely to have a very large impact on its business.  According to comScore, Zillow and Trulia are basically tied in monthly traffic with a million unique visitors (in general, audience counts for real estate sites widely vary.)

While Trulia has a national sales force, The Washington Post “has a very strong local sales force,” said Flint. “This really allows us to extend our reach in the D.C. market. It is a bigger deal [for Trulia] than any other.”

Flint also noted that Trulia has been in talks with The Post for “a couple of years,” although only seriously for the past four months — or roughly double the tenure of new GM Goli Sheikholeslami, who took over last July. The deal does not include any syndication efforts across Trulia’s network for WaPo content, including columns from real estate legal authority Kenneth Harney and others, but it could become part of a broader deal in the future.

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