Friday Flash: The Trulia story, cool calcs and talking brands

So, industry politics aside, how might one assess a Trulia IPO?

I’ve heard whispered numbers, off-the-record tidbits and armchair investment banking for the past 24 hours and I can’t say I’ve gained any conclusive insight.

I do think, though, that the Trulia “story” seems less than obvious.

Move is the incumbent. They have the best data, hands down, and likely always will.

Zillow is the white-hot challenger. The billion-dollar company that’s become a household name with consumers.

What is Trulia?

Or, more pointedly, what is different about Trulia? What does Trulia offer a consumer, a broker or an agent that Move and Zillow do not?

Yes, it is possible that the category can support three significant home search/home marketplace sites over the long haul (in fact, I hope this is the case). And it is also the case that Trulia does some things that Move and Zillow also do better.

But aside from the (yet to be released) numbers, I think the extent to which the company can put some narrative daylight between itself and its competitors will figure strongly in the IPO’s reception.

SmartAsset launched this week. The company aims to help people make big decisions with greater confidence.

They’ve started with home buying, and it’s pretty impressive.

I logged in with Facebook, put in the usual numbers (estimated credit score, gross income, savings, monthly expenses) and got back a series of really unusual analyses.

How my net worth looked over time under various housing scenarios; how my tax situation would be impacted by a move; a chart showing how much home I can afford that was both simple and robust.

This blows away the old-timey mortgage and rent vs. buy calcs that are still prevalent on most real estate websites.

Who in the industry’s gonna call them first?

My, how the CMO has changed” – a short and worthwhile read from John Battelle in which he illustrates the seriousness with which many brands approach the “conversational economy.”

GM’s in. Dell’s on it. Hell, even Comcast is on board.

But can a real estate brand – a large one – ever do this? Can it make promises to consumers on behalf of its agents? Can it intervene in a customer experience gone bad? Can it engage with authority?

Right now, it’s damn hard. But I think this is a problem that’s going to have to be solved.

ListHub announced that it is adopting the RETS standard for syndication purposes.

In English, that means that brokers using ListHub will be able to add more stuff to the listings they send to third-party sites.

Of particular interest to brokers will be the ability to add two email addresses to each listing – one for the listing agent and one, optionally, that ties to their internal lead routing system.

The big picture here is that there’s a battle going on to control the means by which listings make their way to Trulia and Zillow. These companies would rather have direct agreements with brokers and MLSs for listings than remain dependent upon ListHub, which is owned by Move. ListHub would like to maintain its position as the biggest listings syndication pipe and has been adding features like this toward that end.

This tug of war is far from over.

I hope to see some of you at the Inman show next week. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend!

[Disclosure: Move, Inc. is a 1000WATT client.]