The Inman Innovator awards will be presented July 28 at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco.

Six online real estate companies and services will compete for the Inman Innovator Award this year in the online real estate category, which recognizes excellence, innovation and success in Internet-based business models.

The 2004 finalists for online real estate are myFICO.com, HouseValues, Reply! Real Estate, LendingTree, HomeGain and ServiceMagic.

MyFICO.com

MyFICO.com is the consumer Web site launched by Fair Isaac Corp., the creators of the FICO score. The FICO score is a standard measure of borrower credit risk and is used to make more than 10 billion credit decisions each year. MyFICO.com enables borrowers to log onto the Web and check their score themselves, learn how to improve their scores and find out what effect their scores really have on their chance of securing a mortgage or other type of loan.

Consumers can access credit scores and reports from the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Prospective home buyers also can find out how their score would translate into an interest rate and loan amount they’d likely be approved to obtain.

HouseValues

HouseValues provides online marketing services to real estate agents through two separate operating brands, HouseValues and JustListed. The company has been growing steadily since its inception five years ago and in May raised $14.5 million in investment funding.

HouseValues provides home seller leads to realty agents who purchase the territory where the prospect is selling their home, while JustListed provides home-buyer leads. Prospective home buyers and sellers who sign up for the services receive free home-price valuations or for-sale listings information from participating real estate agents. Their contact information is forwarded to the agent who purchased the region where they are either selling their home or plan to buy.

Reply! Real Estate

Reply! Real Estate is the new operating brand of Next Phase Media. The company in June launched the new brand, which incorporates its online real estate, autos, loans and home improvement lead generation services into a single Web portal at Reply.com.

Reply’s online real estate categories include AgentConnect and RealtyNow, which match prospective home buyers and sellers with real estate agents. The company also operates iCastle, iMotors.com, OpenAuto.com and CarClub.com. The new Reply.com portal includes school district information, neighborhood crime rates, costs of living, climate details for specific regions and how-to guides, among other things.

LendingTree

LendingTree matches consumers with lenders and real estate agents. The company’s online lending exchange includes more than 200 lenders, while its real estate services arm includes more than 700 real estate brokers and 10,000 real estate agents. Media mogul Barry Diller’s Interactive Corp acquired the company last year in a deal valued at around $700 million.

LendingTree in December bought RealEstate.com and Domania, which provides retention marketing and customer acquisition products and services for lenders. Early this year, LendingTree struck a deal with The Real Estate Book that gave the company permission to display the real estate publisher’s 300,000 homes-for-sale advertisements on RealEstate.com and LendingTree.com.

HomeGain

HomeGain matches real estate agents with home buyers and sellers online. The company last year said it achieved profitability and this year celebrated five years in the online real estate business. HomeGain said it increased its revenue 50 percent, signed up more than 200,000 prospective home buyers and sellers, and added 11,500 real estate agents to its service in 2003.

The number of real estate agents who use HomeGain’s services increased 19 percent from 59,000 at the end of 2002 to 70,500 at the end of 2003, the company disclosed. Agents pay a monthly membership fee to market their services to people who register through HomeGain’s Web site, then pay the company a referral fee when a transaction closes.

HomeGain founder and CEO Bradley Inman is also the founder and publisher of Inman News.

ServiceMagic

ServiceMagic, which matches home buyers, sellers and owners to real estate agents, lenders and residential contractors, also reported profitability in 2003. The online company’s membership network has grown to more than 2 million homeowners, 22,000 real estate brokers and agents, 23,000 service contractors and 180 banks and mortgage brokers.

In March, ServiceMagic entered a partnership with MSN, establishing itself as the exclusive provider of home improvement contractor services on the MSN House and Home Web site.

The most innovative real estate and mortgage industry companies will be honored at Real Estate Connect, July 28-30 in San Francisco. Real Estate Connect brings together the top leaders from the real estate industry, including mortgage lenders, technology firms, industry analysts and news media.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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