First there was Realtor.com and hundreds of start-ups. In 1998, Microsoft entered the fray, and the two-man face-off got bloody. In the end, both were injured beyond recognition. Microsoft went home and Homestore has been licking its wounds since. In the gap, a few heads-down start-ups began to show form: ServiceMagic, ZipRealty, HomeGain and HouseValues. But generally speaking, the identity of the online industry was muddled. Last year, Barry Diller jumped in through LendingTree and began buying up tired dot-com assets. His sheer presence put online real estate back in the spotlight. Friday, the field got more crowded with news about mortgage giant Bank of America and real estate powerhouse Cendant. Both are investing in online real estate enterprises through consumer portals. Last week, CompleteHome began offering a cash rebate of up to $3,600 to consumers who use a referred agent to sell their existing home and buy a new home – a call from the playbook of Zip and LendingTree...
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