INest, a new-home builder referral network, is one of those rare cases of a dot-com company that survived the bust and poised itself for growth. Like other successful survivors of that rocky period, iNest management was the key to its success, which paid off today as LendingTree announced it had purchased iNest.

Andy Wolf, founder and CEO of iNest Realty, built iNest’s growth from a one-person operation to one of the new-home category leaders. Prior to founding iNest, Wolf was chief operating officer of Morningstar Inc., the mutual fund rating company.

Wolf cites Morningstar as a significant factor in his catching the entrepreneurial bug. Prior to Morningstar, Wolf worked at the M&A and treasury groups at the Quaker Oats Co. (since acquired by PepsiCo). He earned an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, with a concentration in marketing. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame, and is both a CPA and a licensed real estate broker.

INest board member Joe Mansueto founded Morningstar, where he met Wolf.

INest will remain an independent brand, but over time, its offerings will be integrated into RealEstate.com. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

INest, founded in the Chicago area in 1997, focuses exclusively on the market for newly constructed homes. Through its patented Featured Builder program, iNest brings buyers and builders together by providing a directory of more than 500 Featured Builders and 8,387 new home communities in 20 top home-building states. To date, the company has facilitated more than $1.8 billion in sales contracts.

INest has created more than 500 marketing micro-sites for the builders featured on its Web site, creating a robust information center for home buyers to search for new home communities and view information about home styles and floor plans prior to visiting a builder sales office. Consumers who purchase a home from one of the company’s featured builders are able to use iNest’s cash-back coupon to receive a 1 percent rebate on the base price of the home.

LendingTree is owned by Barry Diller’s media conglomerate InterActiveCorp, which also owns Expedia, Match.com, Hotels.com, Ticketmaster and the Home Shopping Network.

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