RealEstate.com has opened two real estate brokerages in the West in the last month, following through with a plan announced last summer to enter the real estate brokerage business in select markets during the first half of 2006.

The company launched a brokerage operation in Denver last Thursday and one in Portland, Ore., at the end of March, a company spokeswoman confirmed. The company has not disclosed how many brokerage offices it plans to open.

RealEstate.com, an online real estate portal owned by LendingTree, provides real estate information for consumers at its Web site and helps connect them with real estate professionals. It also generates Internet business for brokers in its referral network through LendingTree.com, affinity programs with Costco and five major airlines, and other Internet channels.

This is the first time the company is engaging in the brokerage business.

Site visitors to RealEstate.com’s listings portal can click on “Portland” or “Denver” and search for local listings, or request an appointment or phone call with a RealEstate.com agent.

RealEstate.com’s Portland and Denver brokerage divisions offer full residential real estate services. For sellers, the company offers advertising in local and regional newspapers and magazines, RealEstate.com and other major Web sites including Realtor.com, according to a description on the Web site. For buyers, the company has a customer service team that will immediately respond to their inquiries, then pass them on to local RealEstate.com agents after initial contact.

The new brokerage operations will not compete for leads with RealEstate.com’s existing broker partners, according to an August interview with Tom Reddin, CEO of real estate for InterActiveCorp Financial Services and Real Estate, which owns LendingTree and RealEstate.com among other real estate-related Internet companies.

Reddin in August described the company’s consumer leads as falling into two separate pockets: those with a higher chance of converting to closed sales and those with a lower converting rate. The leads with a higher conversion rate tend to be those coming from the affinity programs and LendingTree.com, while the ones coming from other Internet channels tend to take longer to convert and have lower conversion rates.

“We’ve generated a tremendous amount of pure Internet volume and the majority of brokers in our network are not as interested in that volume as they are the affinity business and LendingTree,” Reddin said. “We see it as a market opportunity we can’t ignore.”

Brokers who receive leads from the company prefer those coming from the affinity partnerships and LendingTree because of the higher conversion rates, he said. Those brokers are less interested in pursuing leads coming from other places on the Web, which created an opportunity for the company to go after those consumers.

Consumers logging on to RealEstate.com can browse for-sale listings, get a home-price comparison, check neighborhood school and crime information, get pre-qualified for a mortgage, or find a Realtor or lender. They also can change their address or use a utilities sign-up service free, find a home inspector or mover, or get competitive quotes on homeowners insurance.

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