Technology

Auction.com gearing up to work with real estate brokers and their clients

Channel LLC acquisition aimed at broadening platform, accelerating growth

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In a bid to broaden its platform and accelerate its expansion, online real estate marketplace Auction.com has acquired Channel LLC, a real estate technology provider “with a proven ability to engage residential brokers and consumers,” the company said.

Channel, which will retain its current office space in Newport Beach, California, will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Auction.com, with Channel’s staff joining the company as employees and CEO John Nicholas continuing to oversee its operations.

As the housing market continues to normalize, Auction.com is gearing up to cater to everyday buyers and sellers, not just investors.

“As we work toward growing our residential business, the ability to enrich our existing technology with a platform developed specifically to appeal to consumer buyers, sellers and their brokers aligns with our mission — to make transactions easier and more transparent in a trusted online environment,” Auction.com CEO Jeff Frieden said in a statement.

After raising $50 million from Google Capital last year, Auction.com brought LinkedIn Senior Vice President Deep Nishar onboard as an adviser to help the company serve a wider population of users. Last summer, Auction.com began inviting real estate agents to join an online community where they can engage other community members, including first-time buyers.

Auction.com Executive Vice President Rick Sharga said the company plans to roll out new agent and broker programs that will help the firm establish a hybrid model that allows Auction.com “to do the marketing and utilize the efficiency of an online transaction, while still providing Realtor services on a local market basis.”

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Sharga said a recent survey of registered bidders on the site bodes well for the effort. A third of respondents identified themselves as owner-occupants who intend to live in the home they buy, he said.

“Keep in mind that in order to register, someone is required to allow us to put $2,500 on a credit card hold — so these were not casual passersby; they were serious about wanting to buy a property,” Sharga said.

The survey seems to provide a “strong indication that the movement of real estate online is picking up momentum,” he said.

Auction.com is testing new versions of its platform that it hopes will better serve the needs of owner-occupant buyers. One publishes a reserve price, the minimum bid that a seller will accept in an auction. That would ensure that an owner-occupant selling their property on Auction.com could avoid running the risk of having to sell for less than a certain price.

Another includes a “buy it now” feature that lists a price that a buyer could pay to bypass an auction.

Auction.com competitor HomeSearch.com is also seeking to broaden its audience. Parent company Solutionstar acquired Real Estate Digital last year with the goal of transforming the online REO and short-sale auction platform into an end-to-end real estate marketplace rivaling Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com.

Last fall Solutionstar announced plans to acquire title insurance and settlement services provider Title365 to further that goal.

Email Teke Wiggin.