Internet Brands Inc., a company that operates an assortment of real estate, automotive and travel Web sites, has launched Loan.com, a site that links consumers with a network of lenders and includes a search for low rates.

The company also announced the acquisition of DoItYourself.com, a home improvement and home repair Web site founded in 1995 that includes community forums and advice from professionals. Hardware and Tools Corp., formerly known as DoItYourselfWarehouse.com Inc., sold the site to Internet Brands and will continue to operate the e-commerce portion of the business, which has been renamed HardwareAndTools.com.

The Loan.com Web site includes a directory of lenders, a “Loan Analyzer” tool that compares lenders’ rates and works to match a borrower with a loan product, and a “Truth About Loans Center” that includes advice on frequently asked mortgage questions, according to the company announcement.

“Consumers and ethical lenders are frustrated by the games being played in the mortgage lending marketplace,” said Bob Brisco, Internet Brands CEO, in a statement. “Unscrupulous lenders lure consumers with teaser rates, charge hidden fees, and lie about closing dates. Consumers are wary and ethical lenders have difficulty competing against these tricks.”

He added, “In addition to low rates, consumers are looking for whom to trust. We created Loan.com to empower consumers by providing them with the information and tools they need to make a smart borrowing decision and they never have to enter their personal information to see the latest offers from ethical lenders.”

The Loan.com site has the support of Upfront Mortgage Brokers Association, a group founded by Jack Guttentag, a syndicated Inman News columnist and mortgage expert. That group requires its members to operate under specific guidelines.

“We support the direction of Loan.com in trying to clean-up unethical practices in the mortgage industry,” said Jeff Jaye, EVP of the Upfront Mortgage Broker’s Association, in a statement.

Lenders on Loan.com are charged based on the number of times consumers click on their listing and they are able to target where their listings are displayed by geography and loan program.

The site includes a “Borrower’s Bill of Rights” and a list of lenders that have pledged to adhere to these principles, which include: a competitive rate quote; a rate quote that won’t change; an accurate explanation of credit status; fair fees; upfront and full disclosure of all lending fees; an accurate closing date; immediate notification of underwriting issues; confirmation of a rate lock; advocacy with a lender/underwriter; no surprises at closing; and help after the closing.

“Your lender has a responsibility to act ethically and with your best interests in mind. Some lenders take advantage of the great complexity of the process in order to profit at the consumer’s expense. Unfortunately, federal and state laws only provide limited protection, since many “shady” practices are legal (the laws can’t cover everything),” according to a description at the Loan.com Web site.

“Although lenders are not obligated by law to deliver most of these rights, we believe every lender has an ethical responsibility to provide all of them to every borrower. The lenders in our ethical rate directory have attested that they adhere to these principles.”

Internet Brands’ home division also includes LoanApp.com and automated real estate valuation site RealEstateABC.com (see Inman News story). The automotive division includes CarsDirect.com, Autos.com, Wikicars.org, GreenHybrid.com, NewCarTestDrive.com and Autodata Solutions, and the travel division includes VacationHomes.com, Vamoose.com, Wikitravel.org, World66.com, BBOnline.com, CruiseMates.com, and CruiseReviews.com. The company was founded in 1998 as CarsDirect and adopted its new name in June 2005.

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