"While eBay has said that it remains committed to its core and original person-to-person auction business, it has added substantial fixed-price offerings during the past six months — expanding Half.com, an e-tailer it bought in 2000, to include electronics, computer equipment, sporting goods and trading cards. Kathman noted that eBay is already well into its long-range plan to sell "newer, higher-ticket items like cars and computers and even real estate.""
The last time I really looked into eBay’s attempts at facilitating car and real estate transactions was about nine months ago. They’re a nice growing cash machine overall, but they were far from convincing. Their cobranded site with Autotrader irked users, while the real estate section had only a few listings. Auctions might work for exotic cars and houses, but I’m not sure people will buy and sell more mainstream goods that way.
While Homestore seems to fare well thanks to its ties with the National Association of Realtors and exclusive "Gold" deals with brokers and MLSs (but that might change), the jury is still out on the car market.
A quick glance on eBay today gives us 115 residential goods in California and 341 BMWs accross the USA… there’s still room to grow! Apparently, real estate agents are not exactly eager to pay to be featured on eBay (through its alliance with Homeseekers), and the FSBO (For Sale By Owner) US market is small (about 15% of deals, as opposed to 50% here in France). It seems brokers prefer to promote their own site. They might not like being laughed at either.
Disclosure: I own Microsoft stock as a former employee, but my work was not related to MSN. I make wacky predictions once in a while, though of course I’m not going to be held accountable!
05/14/01 update: eBay expands real estate category.
05/25/01 update: I had missed two acquisitions by Expedia that demonstrate how Microsoft is expanding its vertical properties through external growth when they feel it’s worthy.