Online home auctions look like a growth business. But who will do the growing? By Charles Wardell

In late 2000, iBidCo ( hosted the first-ever virtual home auction. By the end of 2001 it had sold more than 300 homes online and seemed to have a lock on the space. Its successes included a marketing agreement with Builder Homesite (BHS) (, and a nascent relationship with online auction giant eBay ( The latter led to a Dec. 17 event in which online bidders joined a live ballroom home auction.

Now Concord, Calif.-based iBidCo's partners have spurned it. BHS and eBay recently agreed to create a "new homes destination" on eBay and to promote a series of online home auctions. But while iBidCo was conspicuously absent from the deal, it wants in. The three companies are talking, but are keeping mum on the details. Queries to all three got curt responses: "It would be inappropriate to comment," says Doug Galen, general manager of eBay Real Estate. "We're working to see if there is an opportunity for them."

Meanwhile, iBidco is forging other relationships. An agreement with Coldwell Banker Builder Marketing in Chicago ( will spawn a series of online events that include grand openings and closeouts of new-home developments. iBidco president Chris Albrick is working with the Builder Marketing Society, which represents 65 of the nation's largest new-home marketing and sales companies. (They control 11 percent of new-home sales in the United States)

Albrick expects to announce six relationships like the one with Coldwell Banker this year. But he adds that the details will depend on what happens with BHS and eBay.