Executives with online closeout retailer Overstock.com Inc. say their initial foray into the world of property listings is powered by Vast, but that they plan to add property data from multiple listing services and for-sale-by-owner aggregators to achieve comprehensive coverage of the United States.

The Overtstock.com real estate search channel currently claims about 3 million listings, and will eventually let consumers shop for a loan and other real estate-related services, such as title insurance, appraisals and home inspections, company officials said.

With about 15 million unique visitors a month "looking to stretch their budget" — a figure expected to grow to 30 million around Christmas time — expanding into real estate search was "a very natural move," said Patrick Byrne, Overstock.com chairman and CEO.

While listings are concentrated on the coasts and in Texas, Idaho and Nevada, Overstock.com intends to launch a "phase two" expansion of listings in the next 30 to 60 days, adding properties from 10 to 15 of the largest MLSs, said Bill Floor, Overstock.com real estate director. Floor said those additional listings will come from Vast and other sources, and that the site will continue to add one or two MLS systems a week until it achieves complete coverage.

Depending on the source of the listing, search results may link back to the listing broker’s Web page. "We want to drive traffic to them, and enable our customers access to properties from a trusted source," Byrne said.

Vast is a vertical search company that in December began indexing property listings for use by other Web sites, from sources including RealtyTrac.com, ForSaleByOwner.com and auctioneer Williams and Williams. Vast also accepts bulk listings from brokers, and agents can point the company to their site URL so their properties can be indexed by Vast (see Inman News story). Overstock.com intends to work with other aggregators of for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) listings to expand its coverage of those properties.

The site currently features about 2 million single-family homes, including 246,000 condos and townhouses, plus nearly 300,000 properties categorized as foreclosures.

Another feature of the Overstock.com real estate channel is an "O-HotValue" designation, indicating that a property may be a good deal in its market. Several Inman News readers were skeptical of the tool’s value when the new real estate channel was featured in a story Friday. Some said featured properties had been on the market for some time or were distressed properties, indicating they might have other issues and not be bargains after all.

Floor said the "O-HotValue" designation relies on six or seven calculations, including price per square foot for the median-priced home in a given ZIP code. Byrne said the algorithm isn’t perfect but will be fine-tuned over time. The site also automatically highlights auction, distressed and foreclosed properties.


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