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The New York Times dove into an issue bothering many traditional real estate agents these days – the innovations in online home-buying and selling from such companies as Redfin, ZipRealty and BuySideInc.com.

Here’s an intro:

The Internet has radically changed the way consumers buy books and airline tickets, trade stock and learn news. But the real estate industry has resisted change – and protected its commission structure – by controlling the information on its Multiple Listing Service database of properties for sale.

“You can find out more on the Internet about an eBay Beanie Baby than you can about a $1 million house,” said Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin, a licensed broker in Washington State and California.

There were a couple of clouds in the sky for the usually-sunny National Association of Realtors outlook Thursday. The NAR released a cut in its 2006 sales forecast “as the market works its way through an inventory and price imbalance,” according to the update.

David Lereah, the chief economist for the NAR, said the resulting dip in price should only be a temporary one. But the association is expecting existing home sales to fall 7.6 percent from 2005’s sales, new-home sales to drop 16.1 percent, and housing starts to decline nearly 10 percent.

BusinessWeek magazine offered a hard-hitting edition of housing market news, with their “How Toxic Is Your Mortgage?” cover story. Then, a story posted Friday described the shift in real estate advertising, from traditional print ads to online promotion. As the bloggers at Inman News point out, the effects of such a shift reach beyond the real estate industry. The impact on the Sunday newspapers for many print outlets is also in question.

Forbes magazine joined the ranks of national news and business magazines to run an overview of the health of the national housing market on Friday. The story, titled “How Low Will Real Estate Go?”, discussed the waiting game between buyers and sellers and the economists’ perspectives – from the Realtors’ to the outsiders’ sides – on the future of the market.

Here’s a mention of America’s Finest City:

Areas that were once epicenters of the boom, like Phoenix, San Diego and Las Vegas, will be among the hardest hit, [Edward Leamer, director of UCLA Anderson Forecast] said. “Regions where a lot of the economic growth came directly from the real estate sector and where that was a huge plus, that’s going to turn into a huge negative,” he explained. “Wherever the party was the loudest, that’s where the hangover is going to be the greatest.”

KELLY BENNETT

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