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Media-Backed Web Sites Now Include Classified Ads

August 06, 2000|JENNIFER OLDHAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The newest online real estate hub hopes to set itself apart by combining a diverse family of Web sites with the online distribution network and classified listings held by the nation's largest media companies.

The Web site, HomeScape.com

(http://www.HomeScape.com), is backed by Chicago-based Classified Ventures, a network of seven major media companies. These companies include the Los Angeles Times and its parent company, Tribune Co. The partnership also owns several sites featured on HomeScape.com.

Like other major real estate sites, HomeScape.com offers information on buying, selling, moving, renting and financing. It has access to about 900,000 home listings--covering about 70% of the nation--through HomeFinder.com.

These listings include classified and for-sale-by-owner listings that aren't available from multiple listing services and other major real estate Web sites, said Matt Wise, the site's vice president and general manager. The site also provides new home leads from NewHomeNetwork.com (http://www.newhomenetwork.com) and rental information through Apartments.com (http://www.apartments.com).

HomeScape.com faces tough competition from veteran real estate portals like market leader Realtor.com (http://www.realtor.com), which dominates the online real estate category.

"We do have a little catch-up game to play," Wise said.

Analysts say HomeScape.com will need to prove to consumers that it's providing a broader range of home listings than what's currently available on the Internet. Home listings have been the Holy Grail of successful online real estate ventures.

"There's a lot of overlap here. Listings are available in a lot of different places," said Robert Sterling, an analyst in financial services and real estate at Jupiter Communications in New York.

Realtor.com is currently the front-runner in the listings war, with 1.4 million listings. But the site does not have access to for-sale-by-owner and other exclusive listings. Microsoft-backed HomeAdvisor.com (http://www.

homeadvisor.com) has about 750,000 listings.

HomeScape.com is the latest addition to Classified Venture's stable of Web sites, which include Auctions.com (http://www.auctions.com) and Cars.com (http://www.cars.com). Major media companies, including the Tribune Co. and the Washington Post Co., founded the network in late 1997 to protect the $15-billion, classified-advertising market from erosion by online sources.

The network hopes to drive consumers to HomeScape.com by linking the site with the home pages for its 130 newspaper affiliates. The new real estate site is currently available on about 100 of these sites and will be linked to the rest by the end of the year, Wise said.

"Newspapers are traditionally the No. 1 place people go to look for real estate information," Wise said. "So it's a natural extension for people to go online to look for information from them."

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