- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2001

My job in bringing to you the latest information on real estate Web sites keeps getting harder because each day another real estate site moves from dot-com to dot-bomb.

When someone gives me a tip on a hot new site, before I send in my column, I must call up the site one more time to make sure it is still alive.

For instance, just a few weeks ago, RealEstate.com (which, like many of its competitors, ran a multimillion dollar media campaign for the past several years, including in the D.C. market) laid off most of its staff and canceled a planned public offering, while merger talks with Homes.com fell apart. After loaning the group $10 million, venture capital firm Sand Hill foreclosed on RealEstate.com's assets when the company could not repay the loan.

The site is still operating, though the company is not. Go figure.

Microsoft took back control of its on-line real estate site HomeFinder.com from the independent company it helped establish when the site was started a few years ago. Now it is looking for a buyer for the mortgage services section of that site.

Homebid.com recently sold its assets to Homestore.com, the operator of several real estate Web sites, the largest being Realtor.com. The deal included all intellectual property rights for Homebid.com's Offer Manager technology. The service allows real estate professionals to manage offers and negotiate sales on line.

Meanwhile, Offer Manager is expected to be folded into ERealtor.com, an on-line real estate transactions system that Homestore.com is developing with the National Association of Realtors, among others.

Homestore.com is one of the few on-line real estate groups not crying "uncle" under the strain of a slowing economy. The group also has picked up Move.com. As you log onto the latest member of the Homestore.com family of sites, a pop-up box introduces you to the mother company, complete with links to house-hunting sites.

A closer look at Homestore.com, however, provides a view of how the California-based site has evolved into more of a portal for other on-line services than a destination for home enthusiasts.

Recently, I used the site to seek out information on ceramic tile. The Do-It-Yourself section comes with plenty of usable advice on home projects, including ceramic tile. The pull-down menu in this section covers projects from carpentry to windows and some even include video tutorials.

Besides the assumptive sections, such as Homes, Apartments, Financing and Moving, Homestore.com now has areas for what to do with your house once you move into it. Decorating, Lawn and Gardening, as well as Appliances and Electronics, all have useful articles and tips on the designated topics, as well as handy pull-down menus on each section.

On Decorating, you can pull down a menu to take a look at various celebrities' "Homestrologies" horoscopes based on their home lives. See what's happening with Barbara Walters, President Bush, even Oprah Winfrey.

Under Appliances and Electronics, you'll find some neat articles about beefing up your home electronics, such as "Make Your Own Movie Theater on Any Budget," "Home Theater in a Box" or "Why Upgrade to DVD?"

As the real estate Web-site fallout continues, we can only hope that those that are left standing will follow the lead of HomeStore.com by creating a site that can truly help the homeowner. (By the way, I just checked, and it is still on line.)

M. Anthony Carr has written about the real estate industry for 12 years. Comments and questions can be sent to ([email protected]) .

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