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Homestore could lead online real estate pack in 2005

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After years of blows from scandalous news headlines, pricey lawsuit settlements and stock trading at under a buck at one point, the blood may finally be clearing from Homestore's battlefield. The buzz on Wall Street implies that 2005 could be Homestore's big comeback year, with profitability on the horizon and the possibility of entering the lead generation business. A number of stars are aligning for this conclusion, but the largest indicator lies in a recent deal the online company made with real estate franchise giant NRT. An agreement between the companies announced late last week essentially boosts NRT's local brokerage exposure on Homestore-operated Realtor.com, a consumer Web portal with more than 2 million home listings. NRT's companies get expanded marketing on Realtor.com, and Homestore gets a pool of some 58,000 real estate agents to buy their enhanced listings features. The NRT deal is not small by any means. Homestore estimates it will make $3 million to $5 million i...