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Farecast and Mpire: Smart sites that will save you money

Farecast and Mpire: Smart sites that will save you money

The Web is a fantastic platform for comparing current prices on items. But what about prices tomorrow? Will the price on the thing you want drop? And what about historical data? If you're buying or selling an item on eBay, you could probably use a price history before you kick off a transaction.

Fortunately, pricing analytics are coming to consumers. First up: a travel site, Farecast, that tells you if you should buy those airplane tickets you're interested in now or if you should wait for the price to drop. Farecast uses historical airfare data to predict prices. For a given trip, it will advise you to buy now or wait, depending on its predicted price curve.

Since the airlines are secretive about how they price tickets, the modeling behind Farecast can't be 100 percent reliable, but the system gives a confidence level on its recommendations, and it can make you a lot smarter about spending your money. Farecast goes live later this month.

Also coming soon: Mpire, a system that currently brings pricing analytics to eBay sellers. For any given item, it will tell you how much the item has sold for in the past (which is also useful to buyers). It also recommends the best day and time to end your auction, the type of listing that is most successful, and other information that can help you maximize your selling price. The founders of the site hinted at the release this month of buyer-focused tools, not just for eBay but other commerce sites, too (like Craigslist). I'll report more on this when the news comes out.

It's about time buyers got better pricing transparency and analytics. As I write this, neither Farecast nor Mpire are live with their buyers' services. If you want to experience first-hand what access to pricing data does for the buying experience right now, check out the house-buying site, Zillow.com.