I Dunno. Can You? Welcome to Trulia Voices

avatarthumbnail.jpgWe’ll do this one Jeopardy style and start with the answers …

Yes, the closet is part of the marster [sic] bedroom & can be easily measured as well as the actual master bedroom floor plan.

No need to buzz in. The question was “Can I get the measurements for each room including the master closet?” and was about a home in Fort Mohave, Arizona. The (hopefully) sarcastic answer was provided by an agent in Oklahoma City, which isn’t all that close to Fort Mohave. And I say hopefully sarcastic because it’s frightening to think someone would regard that as a helpful answer.

From the perspective of an agent, what exactly was the point? If you’re into some form of self amusement, the Internet is filled with sites that can help you waste up to 4 minutes of your day. Beyond that, was the sole reason for the answer the ability to increase your Trulia profile’s “answers” total?

From the consumers’ perspective (and make no mistake, Trulia Voices is intended to be a platform for the consumer), the answer’s pretty much par for the course for a property-specific question asked on Voices.

And it highlights the potentially fatal flaw with Trulia as a potential MLS killer: the site is able to attract potential buyers, but once they’ve been attracted they’re left on the vine. It reminds me of the quote at the end of Charlie Wilson’s War (which is worth the watch):

“These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world… and then we f—-d up the endgame.”

Trulia’s attempting to change the real estate world but the endgame’s a disaster. Take a look at the questions being asked by the consumers …

  • Can you please give me the name and number of your mortgage company?
  • Please call me at [number redacted] with more info.
  • I would like to know the total amount to move in and where to put in an application. [Eds note: question submitted on a home no longer on the market.}
  • Is this property still for sale? [URL contains the word “sold”]
  • Where is this house located? [Listing with no address provided]
  • Why is this house listed with zero bedrooms and zero bathrooms? [Because it came from RealtyTrac and this is a notice of Trustee’s Sale]
  • Is this property still available, occupied, how is the general area and how much work does it need?
  • Was this property built energy efficient [on listing with “address not disclosed”}

Your perception may be different, but to me it seems like the bulk of these questions and others similar to them are being thrown into the collective for an answer from a specific person. I don’t think someone was asking for any lender’s information. My sense is they were looking for Trulia’s lender – and there isn’t one.

And the format itself is such that most questions are treated like so much chum in the water by agents in the local market and elsewhere. I do see some people’s point that there can be value answering a very, very general question in a market other than your own (value mostly seen in SEO) but more often than not the answers are like the example at the top of the post – completely irrelevant and beyond useless.

Suggestions have been made in the past in this space and elsewhere but here are the changes Trulia ought to consider so that the consumer who stumbles onto the site actually gets the information they need:

  • Inquiries about particular properties get funnelled to the listing agent and not subjected to the Trulia Voices dogpile.
  • Trulia Voices answers need to be limited to agents at least in the same state as the area listed in the question.
  • Trulia Voices needs a sheriff to police the answers and eliminate the blatant spam or stupidity. Thumbs up/thumbs down didn’t work and voting “useful” isn’t. Even flagging blatant spam doesn’t seem to work, judging by the fact this question still lives on despite violating Community Guidelines.

People are arriving at Trulia presumably expecting a relatively comprehensive search vehicle and actual help with the buying or selling process. Voices is an imperfect forum for the latter but at least could approach a more user-friendly state with some simple tweaks.

Because if the presentation of real estate data is supposed to be about the consumer, then the vehicle by which the consumer receives his or her information needs to be formatted in such a manner that his edification is the central purpose, not an afterthought.

UPDATE: Not five minutes after posting this, someone asked for photos and HOA fees for a specific property. Here was one of the responses:

Are you being represented by a BUYER’S AGENT (A buyer’s agent protects your best interest and works for you). You can use a BUYER’S AGENT even with NEW HOME BUILDERS.

I have sold 2 units in this same complex – If you are not working with a BUYER’S AGENT, please contact me for specific information I have on this complex. You can find my contact info on my website below.

As I’m confident you’ve noticed, the answer has nothing to do with the question. It’s pure spam from someone trolling Voices.

This is one of the reasons I rarely if ever join the “conversation” there. I don’t want to be associated with agents who shamelessly promote their own agenda while ignoring the questions being asked.

[tags]Trulia Voices, Phoenix real estate[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at allphoenixrealestate.com.


  • Melina Tomson 9 years ago

    You know, I’m in Salem Oregon and there have been about 5 questions on Trulia about specific properties that are located in other Salem’s across the country. They just got routed to the wrong Salem.

    Agents still answer the questions. It’s crazy.

    Me…I just suggest they post their question in the proper Salem…Salem, Mass, Salem, NH…you get the idea. Maybe a local agent could tell them about that pet policy for those Salem, Mass condos…

    Apparently many of the local Oregon agents feel comfortable talking about pet policies from across the country…

  • Mark 9 years ago

    Perhaps Trulia could provide a geographic preference menu as an option for those posing questions. In other words, if ‘posers’ are from Canada but interested in property in Phoenix, those from the buying or selling public would have check box options to receive responses from ‘professionals’ from anywhere & anyone (and in your case, their dog). Geographical responses could be further fine-tuned down to the state level, down to County jursidictions, and drilled down further so that only city or neighborhood specialists respond.

    However, I’ve got the feeling that Trulia enjoys telling the world of the immense traffic and dialogue generated by its Voices online community.

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