Investing: Realty Rumble

Web brokers say the real estate industry is trying to lock them out, but customers keep knocking

Barbara Erlandson was cruising along the information superhighway when she spotted her dream home on eRealty.com Erlandson, a marketing consultant in Leesburg, Va., saw images of a 200-year-old stucco house with hardwood floors and three fireplaces. That evening she drove by the house and, when she got home, dropped an e-mail to an agent at eRealty. The next day she visited the place with the agent and soon made an offer. A week after closing, she received a rebate check from eRealty for $4,250, equal to 1% of the purchase price.

For eRealty and other online brokerages, that's the...

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