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eBay to launch new home auction

The online auction giant has launched a new homes area in its real estate category and has teamed up with a consortium of homebuilders to list new homes.

    New homes are the latest items that eBay is trying to convince members to buy through its site.

    The online auction giant has launched a new homes area in its real estate category and has teamed up with a consortium of homebuilders to list new homes on its site. The consortium, Builder Homesite, has already begun placing advertisements on eBay for homes that are under construction or are ready to build, and will launch a new home auction next month.

    "The builders already have evidence that people will buy homes on auction online," said Tim Costello, chief executive of Builder Homesite. "It seemed natural to partner with eBay to see if we can create a viable online marketplace."

    eBay representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

    Meg Whitman, eBay's chief executive, has set a goal for the company of reaching $3 billion in revenue on about $30 billion to $40 billion worth of sales through its site by 2005. As part of that effort, the company has been increasingly focusing on moving beyond selling trinkets and collectibles to promoting the sale of real estate and other big-ticket items through its site.

    Last month, the company said it would make real estate auctions binding; unlike with most auctions on the site, eBay previously did not consider bids placed on real estate to be a binding contract.

    In February, eBay incorporated the listings of real estate auction site HomesDirect.com, which it acquired last August, into its own real estate area.

    Meanwhile, San Jose, Calif.-based eBay raised fees in February on many of its real estate listings.

    As part of the agreement between eBay and Builder Homesite, the consortium has listed some 8,000 new homes on eBay as part of a "pilot" launch, Costello said. These listings are in an advertising format, rather than an auction format, he said, which means that eBay members can use the ads to contact the seller to get information, but can't actually place bids. The advertisements are primarily for floor plans of houses, Costello said.

    "These are developments that are being built within the next three to five years," he said. "It's a little unusual for eBay to have products like that."

    Next month, Builder Homesite plans to list about 100 already built new homes in an auction on eBay. The auction will last from June 15 to June 24, but members will be able to preview some of the upcoming auctions early next month, the companies said. As with the current new home ads, the auction will include houses from around the nation, Costello said.

    Based in Austin, Texas, Builder Homesite is a consortium of 32 homebuilders across the nation. The company works with homebuilders to list new homes on Internet sites such as Microsoft's MSN HomeAdvisor and Citysearch's LivingChoices.com.

    Builders that Builder Homesite works with can choose whether or not to have their homes listed on eBay. The company charges builders a fee based on the performance of their ads and will charge a transaction fee on successful auctions, Costello said.