Benchmark Backs Online Real Estate Brokerage

Online real estate brokerage zipRealty.com announced today that it has raised $16 million (US$) in a second round of funding led by venture capital firm Benchmark Capital.

Previous investors Vanguard Venture Partners and Barrington Partners also participated in the round.

ZipRealty.com, based in Berkeley, California, will use the funding to expand its service nationwide. The company launched its service in the San Francisco Bay Area on August 29th and expanded to the California coast in November.

ZipRealty.com Offers Cash Back To Customers

ZipRealty.com bills itself as the first online real estate brokerage, which serves both homebuyers and sellers.

One of the company’s biggest selling points to customers is that it can streamline the transaction process and save buyers and sellers thousands of dollars in closing costs. Clients who use zipRealty.com to buy or sell real estate receive refunds of up to $10,000 at the close of escrow.

ZipRealty.com offers access to lenders, title, escrow, price check, and inspection companies through its Web site.

The company employs customer-service representatives and real-estate professionals who are available to advise buyers and sellers and assist with on-site tasks.

“The real estate industry as a whole is long overdue for a dramatic change,” said Bob Kagle, general partner at Benchmark Capital and a new member of zipRealty.com’s board of directors.

“We see zipRealty.com as having an innovative solution that will improve the way people buy and sell their homes.”

Benchmark Has Backed Big Names

Best known for funding eBay, Benchmark Capital has built an impressive portfolio of companies that have gone public in impressive, if not spectacular, fashion.

These public companies include Ariba, CacheFlow, Critical Path, E-Loan, Juniper Networks, Northpoint Communications, PlanetRx, Red Hat, Scient, Webvan and Wink Communications.

Benchmark is currently managing more than $1.4 billion in venture capital.

Vanguard Venture Partners has also had success with its investments going public. Vanguard has been the lead investor for companies such as Cobalt Networks, Digital Island, Ciena ImageX.com, Network Appliance, Tut Systems and Advanced Fibre Communications.

ZipRealty.com Founded By Students

ZipRealty.com was founded in January by CEO Juan Muni and president Scott Kucirek, who both received their MBAs from the University of California-Berkeley.

Muni and Kucirek raised $1.7 million in funding for their company, making them the first UC-Berkeley students to secure venture capital while still in school.

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