Tuesday 5 June 2007This is more than 16 years old. Be careful.

Trulia is a real estate search engine, it looks nice enough. I am not in the market for such a thing, but it is fun to poke around the neighborhood and see who is asking how much for what.

The unusual thing at Trulia is Trulia Hindsight, an animated timeline of a neighborhood showing when houses were built. It’s fascinating to watch neighborhoods develop, with houses erupting like popping kernels of corn as time progresses. Their blog points to a few interesting examples, showing both slow organic growth and developer-created outbreaks.

As usual, there’s some problems with dirty data: the Gloucester timeline shows a huge building boom at 1900, but Gloucester is an old town (1606!), with historical houses all over the place. I suspect that at some point many very old houses were given a build date of 1900 as a placeholder.

Hindsight is a cool visualization, one of the mashups that is being made possible by having all of our data on the internet. But I’m not sure that it really helps people buy houses. It helps Trulia get some traffic (it’s the only reason I’m writing about them, for example!), but is there a deeper form of house shopping I’m overlooking?


The issue you point out about lots of properties popping up around 1900 is something we're (Stamen and Trulia) actively looking into. My own personal theory is that 1900 is close enough to the formation of the IRS that it's probably the first time those properties were assessed for tax purposes, and not the actual year built as it says in our database. But like I say, we're actively looking into it and should be able to give a more authoritative answer in our FAQ soon.

Also, who said it was meant to help people buy houses? does that, this just helps people find out about how cities and neighborhoods grew in the US - and hey, maybe it helps them find Trulia when they need it too :)
This is a fantastic tool! It is weird that it has updated satellite photos which are not on the generic google maps site. Just an interesting observation. Interesting how the house prices are going down in my neighborhood. Still higher than I paid, so I am still happy :-)
Doug - we're using Microsoft's Virtual Earth as the satellite layer, which often has different images to Google Maps/Earth. Sometimes they're newer and sometimes they're older.

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