By Alistair Barr
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Trulia, a real estate website that competes with Zillow Inc, unveiled a new service on Thursday that helps real estate agents identify the best leads by tapping a trove of data the company started analyzing last year.
The service, called Trulia Insight, shows agents which consumers have pre-qualified for a mortgage and whether they are looking to buy a home in the next six months.
The service also highlights which homes consumers have viewed on Trulia's website and whether they have saved particular home searches or specific properties on the site to look at later.
Trulia Insight is designed to help agents pick which home buyers to contact first and helps consumers get in touch with appropriate agents quickly, Chief Executive Pete Flint said.
Trulia is one of the latest companies to use the collection and analysis of large amounts of data to create new businesses - a trend known as big data. Professional networking company LinkedIn is considered a leader in this area.
Companies have always analyzed data to help them make decisions, but new technology, such as open-source software platform Hadoop, allows much larger amounts of data to be crunched quicker and more cheaply.
"We're sitting on a goldmine of data," Flint told Reuters. "A lot of that data we've done nothing with until recently."
Trulia hired data scientists and a chief economist Jed Kolko last year to help collect and analyze data from sources including consumer surveys online, web search behavior and email traffic patterns.
The company is crunching the data using Hadoop, with help from Cloudera, a big data start-up run by Jeff Hammerbacher, who previously built the data team at social-networking giant Facebook.
"Data and content is abundant," Flint said. "There are millions of messages and content, but insights and analysis are scarce."
Through the end of the first quarter, Trulia Insight will be offered as a free trial to customers who are already paying for professional services like Trulia Pro and Trulia Local Ads.
The company is adding more features to Trulia Insight in coming months and is considering charging for it as a stand-alone service in the future.
(Reporting By Alistair Barr)