RealPatrol.com, a real estate search site, claims to be "the largest U.S. archive of real estate property listings," with information on about 3.9 million properties.

The site, which launched a year ago, uses automated data-capture programs, known as "spiders," to collect real estate photos and information from a range of Web sites, according to RealPatrol CEO Benjamin Ovadia.

Such data-collection practices, sometimes referred to as data "scraping," are controversial in the industry and can run afoul of industry data-sharing rules and even copyright laws.

Ovadia said the company, based in Cherry Hill, N.J., hasn’t run into trouble yet with its data-collection practices, and that the site features information on "pretty much anything we can get easily — whatever we can find on plain sight on the Web. Most information is pretty easily accessible on the Web."

Brokers who viewed the technology in demonstrations at real estate conferences were "pleased with the extra coverage and extra exposure," he said.

There are plans to add a feature by the end of this month that will allow agents and property owners to add information about individual properties to the site’s search database.

Realtor.com, a popular real estate search site operated by Move Inc. through a contract with the National Association of Realtors, reports an inventory of more than 3 million Realtor-listed new and resale for-sale and rental properties.

The RealPatrol Web site states that the site "covers all aspects in the real estate arena, from home buying to apartments for rent to commercial real estate." Ovadia said that the site is now focused on for-sale properties though there are plans to add rentals.

Web metrics company Hitwise reported that RealPatrol.com joined the top-100 list of real estate category Web sites in March based on traffic to the site, ranking 73rd on the list.

The site is free for consumers to use though it provides a registration option. Consumers who register are asked to enter their name, e-mail address, phone number and location, and can also click to "find and compare real estate agents" or to request mortgage or debt consolidation offers.

RealPatrol’s business plan is to profit by selling users’ contact information to mortgage professionals and moving companies, and to sell ZIP code-specific leads to real estate agents.

RealPatrol’s founders and most of its managing board also operate Nadlan.com, a real estate site in Israel. The word "nadlan" is Hebrew for "real estate," and that site ranks among the top real estate search sites in Israel, Ovadia said.

There are also plans to launch a search site in the United Kingdom at the end of this month, and to launch a Canadian site by the end of the year.

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