March 16, 2000 4:45 AM PST

Microsoft plans home mortgage venture

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Microsoft is teaming with a number of financial institutions and mortgage firms to launch a company that will simplify real estate and mortgage transactions, the software giant said today.

The move is the latest effort by Microsoft to boost its MSN.com site as it competes heavily with other Internet services companies such as America Online and Yahoo.

Although Microsoft will hold a majority stake in the new venture, other backers include housing giant Freddie Mac, financial firms Chase Manhattan and Bank of America, and Wells Fargo subsidiary Norwest Mortgage.

The new company, HomeAdvisor Technologies, will debut in the form of a Web site, HomeAdvisor.com, in the coming weeks. Microsoft said the site will help automate many of the steps required to approve and finance a mortgage, including credit checks, appraisals and underwriting decisions.

Company executives said the venture is the latest step in fulfilling the MSN vision of the "Everyday Web," which includes building strategic partnerships to deliver a host of services, information and marketplaces for MSN customers.

Another one of the new company's offerings is a transaction system that will combine Microsoft technology with electronic loan decision and processing tools--such as credit, underwriting and property valuation--from its partners to automate the mortgage and real estate transaction process.

The transaction system will be maintained by HomeAdvisor and distributed by partners to banks, lenders and real estate companies, the company said.

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As part of today's news, HomeAdvisor also announced the acquisition of Tuttle Decision Systems, a mortgage technology company that enables the venture to provide risk-based, lockable loan rates from various lenders in order to keep costs down, the company said.

Microsoft is entering a congested market, with players such as Homestore.com, an online lister of homes for sale, providing mountains of home listings and mortgage information.

Earlier this week, Homestore.com said it is working with the National Association of Realtors to develop a way for consumers to buy homes over the Internet. Home buyers should be able to bid for houses online, get loans, do title searches, arrange home inspections and track information through personal accounts, the company said.

 

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