EBay To Conduct First Online Auction of New Homes

Internet auction leader EBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) said Monday it will present what is believed to be the first nationwide online auction of new homes.

EBay and Oakland, California-based iBidCo will partner to produce the “live” online auction of 20 new homes on December 17th. The homes are in the Los Angeles, California suburb of Tujunga and were built by Premier Homes.

Doug Galen, general manager of EBay’s year-old real estate division, said the auction house provides worldwide exposure for the auction as well as the underlying technology to make it possible.

“We ensure that the seller receives maximum exposure,” Galen said.

Bidding Begins

IBidCo president and CEO Chris Albrick said teaming with EBay made sense because of the auction leader’s “strong consumer reach.” IBidCo is in the business of providing technology services to home builders, including online previews and tours.

The 20 homes up for bid are all within a gated community known as Fontaine at Renaissance. The three, four and five-bedroom homes range up to 3,000 square feet in size.

Bidding on each of the homes will start at US$295,000, the companies said.

Entering the Home

EBay first stepped into the real estate business in August 2000 through a partnership with ZipRealty. At the time, EBay said it was responding to consumer demand to consolidate scattered real estate listings and make them easier to find.

A year later, EBay purchased HomesDirect, an auctioneer of foreclosed homes that sold more than 100,000 pieces of property in 2000.

Providing further evidence that it wants to grab a bigger share of the real estate market, EBay announced last week that it had hired former Move.com executive Adam Friedman to oversee HomesDirect as chief operating officer and to help craft “strategy and vision” for EBay Real Estate. Friedman will report to Galen.

Big Ticket to Ride

Processing the online sales of big-ticket items such as homes and cars has long been part of EBay’s growth strategy.

CEO Meg Whitman recently predicted that EBay would triple its share of e-commerce within the next five years.

However, selling real estate on the Web is a difficult proposition, in part because state and local laws vary widely and in part because of the nature of home-buying.

EBay has said that in most instances, EBay home auctions result in preliminary deals that need to be completed and formalized offline.

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