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zillowtrulianew1Zillow has been one step ahead Trulia since the early days — beating its longtime rival to market with an automated home valuation service; releasing mobile apps first and, most importantly, with an initial public offering in July 2011. Zillow also was first to raise additional cash in the public markets, raising $147 million in a secondary offering last September just days before Trulia went public at $17 per share.

Zillow used those funds to continue on an acquisition spree, one which has led the Seattle-based company to gobble up six companies (including and Mortech) in the past two years.

Now, Trulia is following suit. Today, the San Francisco online real estate company filed to raise up to $164 million in a public offering. And what do they plan to use the money for?

You guessed it: acquisitions.

“We plan to pursue acquisitions of complementary businesses and strategic partnerships to help us execute on and accelerate our growth plans,” the company writes in a SEC filing. By selling the common stock, a Trulia spokesperson tells TechCrunch that roughly $100 million will go to the company’s cash reserves, while the remaining money will go to selling shareholders.

Truia CEO Pete Flint
Truia CEO Pete Flint

The news comes as the so-called lock-up period ends for Trulia insiders, allowing some early shareholders to cash out.

Shares of Trulia have been performing well in recent months, up more than 27 percent so far this year. The company, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol TRLA, has a market value of $845 million.

Zillow also is doing well. Its shares just topped $50 today, giving it a market value of $1.74 billion. As you can see in the chart below, that’s an all-time peak for Zillow, which went public in July 2011 at $20 per share.

The battle between Trulia and Zillow, which are engaged in a legal fight in the federal courts over the automated home valuation technologies that they use, is a fascinating one. Both are positioning to be the dominant brand in online real estate.

Zillow started with the lead back in 2004 when it was founded by Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink, and they’ve been reluctant to give it up. Can Trulia change that course, and leapfrog its bigger rival?

Stay tuned. This is a fun one to watch.

The stocks of Zillow (blue) and Trulia (red) have performed well in recent months. Click on chart for graphic.
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