CataList Homes, a real estate brokerage company based in Southern California that offers low-cost real estate services for buyers and sellers, is opening its Web site to for-sale-by-owner property listings.

FSBO home sellers can now post property descriptions and photographs to the Web site at no cost, and CataList offers to submit these listings to Google Base, a free classified site.

Michael Davin, co-founder and chief marketing offer for CataList, said that while accepting listings from sellers who are not using a real estate professional might seem counterproductive, “I think it’s part of a consumer culture we’re trying to build at our company, which is inclusive vs. exclusive.”

He added, “There has been a lot of industry debate about whose MLS data is it, who should see the data, what’s best for the Realtor versus what’s best for the home seller.”

Sites such as Google Base are opening up the market for home sellers and real estate professionals alike to post properties at the same site, he noted, while FSBO properties are not allowed in Realtor-operated multiple listing services and are not displayed at and other popular property-search sites.

“I think it’s a gesture and a statement that we’re opening our doors and our site traffic to FSBOs that are shut out of (other sites),” he said.

It is also a potential new stream of business for CataList, as National Association of Realtors data shows that many FSBO sellers later turn to real estate professionals to assist in selling their properties.

“If (FSBOs) like what we’ve done with them and they think we’re pro-consumer, we’re the next step to the left — we think we can get a lot of FSBO listings. If they sell their (own) home — great. If they don’t, we’re there to help them. It’s a smart business move for us.”

CataList recently announced the launch of Microsoft Virtual Earth mapping tools to display property listings at its site, and also offers Google Maps views of selected properties. The company has other new initiatives in the works, too, Davin said.

More than 90 percent of online real estate search traffic occurs on Web sites that are broker or Multiple Listing Service data-driven, according to a CataList announcement.

“For FSBO home sellers, this translates into poor market exposure and a lower price achieved,” the announcement states. Davin said the move by CataList seeks to broaden the consumer audience for FSBO properties.

Davin founded CataList in 2001 with Hal Ellis, co-founder of commercial real estate company Grubb & Ellis, and the company now operates nine offices in Southern California.

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