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eBay stakes a claim with real estate site

The leading auction site says it will acquire real estate auction site HomesDirect.com to expand its presence in the online real estate market.

    eBay on Monday announced it will acquire real estate auction site HomesDirect.com to expand its presence in the online real estate market.

    The San Jose, Calif.-based company bought HomesDirect from parent company Idealab, an Internet incubator that developed companies such as the now-defunct eToys and Ticketmaster, among others. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

    "We realize there's an opportunity for eBay in real estate," said Doug Galen, general manager of eBay's real estate site. "This is a great step forward. It will help our community to more easily find property."

    As a result of the merger, HomesDirect chief executive Nalini Sri-Kumar will leave the company. eBay plans to retain HomesDirect's 30 employees, Galen said.

    HomesDirect representatives were not available for comment.

    The company, which lists foreclosed property from the Veterans Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, operated at a loss after being acquired by Idealab last year, Galen said. However, the company's losses won't materially affect eBay's third-quarter earnings, eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said.

    HomesDirect is only one of many players in the online real estate market. Bid4Assets, for instance, frequently auctions off property foreclosed by local and state governments. Homestore.com, which bought Move.com earlier this year, has built itself into the top spot in the online real estate listing market.

    eBay has set a goal of reaching $3 billion in revenue and $30 billion in transactions through its system by 2005. To achieve that goal, the online auction giant has been expanding beyond collectible toys and other novelties into big-ticket areas such as automobiles, electronics and office equipment.

    Last summer, eBay began linking to real estate auctions directly from its home page and signed a deal with ZipRealty.com to bolster its real estate section. As part of that deal, ZipRealty agreed to place its real estate listings on eBay, unless the property owner objected.

    In December, Englewood, Colo.-based Archstone Communities experimented with listing apartments for rent on eBay.

    eBay will continue to maintain HomesDirect as an independent site, much like Half.com, Galen said. eBay plans to link to the site from within its real estate section.