Can a lawsuit engender a love affair? Yes, judging by the latest turn of events in the strange saga of The Real Estate Book and RealEstate.com.

The real estate magazine publisher has signed an agreement that will put its 300,000 homes-for-sale advertisements on both RealEstate.com, the very Web site The Real Estate Book last year sued for misuse of its data, and LendingTree, which in December bought RealEstate.com from Primedia after the lawsuit was settled. LendingTree was tangentially involved in the lawsuit as a curious bystander because RealEstate.com had attempted to redistribute The Real Estate Book’s content to LendingTree without The Real Estate Book’s permission.

The new agreement is interesting because this time RealEstate.com and LendingTree have agreed to use the content in a way that fits The Real Estate Book’s requirements.

Both Web sites will include the listing agent’s name, brokerage company, telephone number and e-mail address and a link to contact the agent directly from the displayed listing information, according to Glenn Goad, SVP of interactive business for Lawrenceville, Ga.-based Network Communication, which owns The Real Estate Book.

“The consumer will have the opportunity to contact that listing agent directly….That will be processed through The Real Estate Book lead management system, and we will deliver that lead to the listing agent,” Goad said.

A LendingTree navigation bar also will be displayed alongside The Real Estate Book content. That means prospective home buyers and sellers also will be able to use the LendingTree find-a-Realtor service from The Real Estate Book information search function.

Registration won’t be required to access the data.

LendingTree, a unit of Interactive Corp., operates an online lending marketplace and an online find-a-Realtor service. The corporation recently purchased both RealEstate.com and Domania from Primedia with the intention of further expansion in the online real estate space.

Network Communications distributes 10 million magazines each month in 500 markets in the United States and Canada. Titles include The Real Estate Book, Apartment Finder/Blue Book and Mature Living Choices, among others.

The Real Estate Book content helps to complete LendingTree’s one-stop real estate stopping experience, according to company President and COO Tom Reddin.

“People now can come to LendingTree to search for homes, get a mortgage and find a Realtor. It’s the whole package,” he said.

The deal is essentially a swap that doesn’t involve cash payments, according to Goad and Reddin. LendingTree gets content about for-sale homes in most major metropolitan areas around the country while The Real Estate Book gets additional online exposure for its advertisers’ listings.

“If someone comes to LendingTree today, there is no chance to see our advertiser. Come Feb. 5, there will be a whole new audience that gets to see and interact with our advertisers. Some of (that audience) will choose the find-a-Realtor path, but today everybody chooses that path. Our advertisers are going to gain additional exposure that they don’t have and the consumer can choose to contact them directly,” Goad said.

The deal is exclusive to the extent that no other real estate magazine publisher will be able to display its advertisers’ information on either LendingTree or RealEstate.com. That restriction bans the likes of Harmon Homes, Primedia and Homes & Land, but it won’t stop brokers who publish their own for-sale house magazines nor does it preclude LendingTree obtaining for-sale house data from brokers, agents, MLSs or other non-magazine sources.

In fact, LendingTree already is looking at other sources for real estate listings for its two Web sites. Reddin wouldn’t specify who’s interested, but he said a majority of the 680 brokers in the LendingTree system as well as other brokers, agents and MLS have requested such capabilities.

“If there is a mutual benefit for them and LendingTree, we will do that,” he said.

The Real Estate Book advertisers will have the option through the company’s order entry system to exclude particular properties from display on the Web sites; however, Goad said advertisers elect to display online 99 percent of the time. The advertiser doesn’t pay any additional fee for the online exposure of the listing.

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