Bank of America has launched a new feature on its Web site that lets consumers search local MLS listings in select markets.

The Bank of America Real Estate Center provides access to Multiple Listing Service properties in Las Vegas, San Diego and Tucson, Ariz. The bank plans to expand the listings to include other cities, including those in other states. The site features a map showing the dozen or so states the bank plans to expand into within the next six months.

“The Real Estate Center will help member brokers expand their business and demonstrates Bank of America’s commitment to the real estate, home builder and relocation community by growing their business and delivering value to consumers,” said Steve Ozonian, the bank’s national home-ownership services executive. “By working together, this kind of alliance will help deliver innovative solutions for homebuyers and sellers as well as help all parties be more successful in their business. The is a demonstration of how homeownership service providers can work together to provide a better experience for the consumer.”

The listings are provided through the bank’s preferred network of real estate brokers. The company displays a disclaimer at the bottom of the Real Estate Center Web site that might help reassure those worried the bank is trying to get into the brokerage business. It reads: “Bank of America does not engage in the brokerage of real estate properties.”

Still, the move puts the bank even closer to the point of purchase, a fact even pointed out in the company’s press release on the topic.

Lenders in general are spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to get as close as possible to the point of purchase in the real estate transaction. Most large banks have attempted to access the consumer through a variety of channels, often by leveraging their brand, rather than relying upon referrals from real estate agents. Many have branches throughout the country where consumers can go to apply for mortgages. Or consumers can apply for loans directly on the lender’s Web sites.

This isn’t the first time the banking giant has tried to provide property listings on its site. In 2001, the bank launched the Home Solutions Web site, and had a multi-year marketing agreement with online real estate giant Homestore. Through the agreement, Homestore would provide property listings and other information for the Home Solutions Web site, but Homestore pulled its listings a week after the announcement.

Through Bank of America’s new Real Estate Center Web site, the bank also will be able to provide brokers and builders with qualified leads. It plans to expand the site’s functionality to its corporate relocation service clients as well.

In addition to viewing the MLS listings in those select cities, consumers can search for bank-owned properties. Clicking through on that option gives consumers to view basic information about the property and keeps them on Bank of America’s Web site. If consumers opt to look at MLS home listings, they’re taken to a real estate broker’s Web site. The bank’s logo can be found at the top of the site, along with its disclaimer.

The Real Estate Center site, located off the bank’s homepage, also has features traditionally found on lender Web sites. Those include various mortgage tools and calculators such as product and rate comparisons and the ability to estimate monthly mortgage payment amounts. Consumer also can get estimates on their home’s value.

Bank of America has more than 11 million online banking customers, averages 16 million unique visitors each month to its Web site and was ranked No. 1 by Vividence for best overall online banking experience.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to samantha@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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