Small Banks Link Web Sites to Realty Listings

Article excerpt

Aiming to snare extra mortgage business through the Internet, several community banks have linked their World Wide Web sites to real estate brokers.

"This has been one of the single greatest marketing tools I have ever seen come along," said Michael R. Fitzgerald, a senior vice president at Salem (Mass.) Five Cents Savings Bank. "Not only does it provide some good will to the real estate community, but it also intercepts some homebuyers and sellers early on.

"This is one of those tools that just doesn't come along very often."

Internet surfers who click onto Salem Five's Web site see an icon that can link them to pictures of thousands of homes for sale or for rent in New England. About 700 people browse the real estate listings every week, Mr. Fitzgerald said.

The bank - which appears to have been the first to introduce the concept - also allows its customers to do a variety of banking transactions over the Internet.

"The number of listings on the site has grown to the point where we can say we have the largest on-line resource for homes for sale in New England," Mr. Fitzgerald said.

This month, Salem Five is adding the ability to list entire communities on its site.

"People who are building communities can put a whole development on-line and describe it," Mr. Fitzgerald said.

"We created an entirely new Web site and gave it to the real estate community, more or less. A number of our brokers use it to get more listings. A lot of people put up their homes directly," without using a broker, he said.

For Long Island Savings Bank, a $5.4 billion institution based in Melville, N.Y., the decision to hook its Web site to real estate listings was "driven by our interest in expanding our distribution channels and having greater exposure," said Tony Morris, senior vice president of marketing.

Since June, the bank's site has had links to thousands of homes for sale on Long Island. The real estate listings get 600 "hits" a day, Mr. Morris said.

"We cooperatively put together the site with the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island, to put what was on paper on the Web," he said.

"It lets people go through the selection process without having to go to each and every home they're interested in. …