Microsoft Launches HomeAdvisor

Redmond, Wash., July 13, 1998 — After extensive consumer research and collaboration with leaders from throughout the real estate and mortgage-lending industries, Microsoft Corp. today launched a preview version of the Microsoft ÒHomeAdvisor™ online real estate service, the first comprehensive guide to finding homes and loans online. HomeAdvisor, a free service available on the Web, is available immediately as a fully functional preview version at ( .

Microsoft HomeAdvisor is the first online real estate service to fully integrate the best information and tools in one easy-to-use Web site. Designed from the ground up with extensive input from consumers and Realtors, HomeAdvisor helps streamline the entire home-buying process by simplifying dozens of core tasks from finding a Realtor and the perfect neighborhood or home to qualifying for a mortgage online.

“Buying a home is perhaps the most important and exciting decision consumers make in their lifetime. Until now, there have not been a lot of great Web sites to help them through the process,”
said Pete Higgins, group vice president at Microsoft.
“Working with others in the real estate industry, Microsoft has provided, in HomeAdvisor, a powerful set of tools and services to make the home-buying process easier and more enjoyable.”

Recognized industry leaders echo Higgins’ confidence in the ability of HomeAdvisor to deliver value to both consumers and the real estate industry.
“HomeAdvisor has developed a business model that embraces the critical role agents play in the real estate transaction process,”
said Bruce Benham, vice president of information technology of RE/MAX International Inc.
“Our top priority is getting the broadest exposure for our customers, and we believe the innovative approach of HomeAdvisor will help us do an even better job of that.”

Innovative Features

HomeAdvisor employs the latest technology to provide an easy-to-use, comprehensive home-buying guide. HomeAdvisor presents information and tools in five core areas, designed around the tasks and information that home buyers care most about – understanding the home-buying process; finding the right neighborhood; finding the right home; securing a mortgage; and understanding the offer and closing process.

  • Getting Started provides a road map to the overall process, from determining the best time to buy and how much you can afford to finding an agent and reviewing step-by-step checklists.

  • Neighborhoods helps users find their ideal community by integrating information on schools, crime and demographics in one easy to use neighborhood finder.

  • Homes provides home listings, including pictures, from leading multiple listing services and real estate brokerages nationwide. Users can search for homes based on criteria such as price or number of bedrooms, or by comparing two homes side-by-side. In addition, HomeAdvisor offers innovative new features such as Home Tracker, which sends an e-mail as soon as new homes become available that meet the user’s criteria.

  • Financing offers the ability to qualify for a mortgage for free in about 15 minutes. In addition, there are tools to help determine if it’s a good time to refinance. Rate Tracker tracks mortgage rates, and sends an e-mail when they fall within a user’s desired range.

  • Offer and Closing provides advice and tips on how to make the right offer on a house, an explanation of closing forms and inspection expectations, and comprehensive lists of local closing service providers in all 50 states. In addition, the innovative Defect Detector feature provides a database of more than 400 potential inspection issues, including pictures, descriptions and tips.

Industry-Leading Editorial Content

All areas of HomeAdvisor include editorial content provided by Inman Decision Support, the leading independent publisher of real estate advice. This information represents a virtual encyclopedia of real estate insight, which is seamlessly integrated with the rest of the product. A database of more than 3,000 commonly asked questions and answers, as well as a glossary of common real estate terms and definitions, helps consumers understand industry jargon and communicate clearly with real estate professionals.

HomeAdvisor also has developed relationships with high-quality information providers to ensure rich, timely information on neighborhoods, such as affordability, crime statistics, demographics and local school information. School Match, CrimeCheck, Bank Rate Monitor and Claritas Inc. are among the site’s leading data content providers.

Home Listings

The real estate-friendly business model in HomeAdvisor and its ability to help agents sell more homes faster has led to relationships with leading multiple-listings services, national real estate franchises and independent real estate brokers throughout the nation. These charter alliances represent more than 500,000 home listings nationwide, with new listings added every day.

“It is clear that the HomeAdvisor product is real estate-friendly and will offer home buyers a great experience as they move their home-buying research to the Web,”
said Helen Hanna Casey, president of residential sales for Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.
“We believe the exposure provided by HomeAdvisor, in addition to other Web sites, will create a larger audience and more qualified home buyers for our services.”

The HomeAdvisor charter listings include the following:

Multiple listings services: Arizona RMLS, Daytona Beach Association of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Metro Listing Services (Georgia), MLS of the Bonner County Association of Realtors (Idaho), Naples Area Board of Realtors (Florida), Northern New England Real Estate Network (New Hampshire and Vermont), Northwest Montana Association of Realtors MLS Inc., Real Estate InfoLink (Northern California), Real Estate Information Network Inc. (Virginia), Regional MLS of Minnesota, SANDICOR Inc. (Southern California), Southern California MLS and Sandpoint MLS (Idaho).

Real estate brokers and franchises: Better Homes and Gardens; Gary Green, Realtors/Better Homes and Gardens; Howard Hanna Real Estate Services; John Hall & Associates Inc.; Com-Stock Net Services Inc.; The Corcoran Group; The Halstead Property Company; John L. Scott Real Estate; RE/MAX International Inc.; RE/MAX of New Jersey; and RE/MAX North Atlanta Inc.

Mortgage Loans

Microsoft also has worked with leaders in the mortgage-lending industry to provide consumers with access to the most current financing opportunities, including thousands of loan products that are updated daily. This approach, as well as the ability of HomeAdvisor to provide lenders with a high-volume distribution channel for mortgage origination, has attracted relationships with leading firms, including Principal Residential Mortgage Inc., HomeSide Lending Inc. and American Finance and Investment Inc.

The response from HomeAdvisor charter lenders to its innovative approach has been enthusiastic.
“HomeSide is excited to be teaming up with Microsoft as a charter lender to offer consumers an easy and convenient way to obtain a home loan,”
says Robert Davis, HomeSide Lending’s vice president and chief information officer.

“HomeAdvisor blends Microsoft’s technology and marketing prowess with Principal Residential’s 60-plus years of home-lending experience,”
said Paul Bognanno, president and CEO of Principal Residential Mortgage Inc.
“This is a great combination for the growing segment of consumers who want mortgage products and services delivered in a new and innovative way.”

Microsoft Real Estate Advisory Board

The Microsoft Real Estate Advisory Board, composed of leaders from throughout the real estate and mortgage banking industries, was created more than a year ago to help guide the team in shaping the product strategy while using technology to address real estate and mortgage lending issues. The result is a comprehensive online home-buying service for consumers that also creates new business opportunities for industry participants while providing them with leading technology.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

The information contained in this press release relates to prerelease product that may be substantially modified before its first commercial release. Accordingly, the information may not accurately describe or reflect the product when first commercially released. The press release is provided for informational purposes only, and Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to this press release or the information contained in it.

Microsoft and HomeAdvisor are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries. Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at on Microsoft’s corporate information pages.

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