Real estate brokerage company ZipRealty announced net loss of $7.3 million in the first quarter, or 31 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $3.1 million in first-quarter 2007.

The company reported that it increased its agent count by 105 from the close of fourth-quarter 2007 to the end of first-quarter 2008, and its first-quarter count was up about 22 percent compared to first-quarter 2007.

ZipRealty reported that its agents closed 3,121 real estate transactions in the first quarter compared with 3,110 in first-quarter 2007, though the dollar volume of transactions declined about 15.3 percent, from $1.04 billion in first-quarter 2007 to $884 million in first-quarter 2008.

Pat Lashinsky, ZipRealty CEO, said during an earnings conference call Wednesday that the company has seen a rise in transactions involving foreclosure-related properties and short sales. Those transactions represent more than 40 percent of the overall market in some cases, he said, and "are taking place all over the country," though to a lesser extent in some areas.

He said that this rise in alternative transactions is somewhat representative of the market, though he expects that ZipRealty is seeing a larger percentage of these transactions than some other companies.

There is a high demand for those properties among the company’s buyer clients, he said, because of the affordability of those properties.

Lashinsky said he expects up to a 10-15 percent reduction in home prices throughout the year, with about 10 percent to go through the rest of the year.

Prices, he said, may be driven down by the rise in foreclosures and real estate-owned properties that were foreclosed upon and repurchased by banks. Also, the inventory of for-sale homes continues to increase, he said. "We’ve planned for some significant pricing declines."

The company grew market share for most of its existing markets in the first quarter, he said, with "double-digit gains vs. competitors at large."

The company expects agent productivity and agent count to continue to rise this year but did not offer specific guidance on this growth. Lashinsky said that the company has retained all but four of its top 200 agents.

Net revenues were $20.6 million in the first quarter, down 11.8 percent compared to first-quarter 2007.

The company had about $72.4 million in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments as of March 31, and no long-term debt. Last month, the company repurchased all shares of common stock held by Pyramid Ventures, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, in a transaction valued at about $17.4 million.

ZipRealty also announced the settlement of a lawsuit for $625,000 relating to the company’s compensation practices.

In 2008 ZipRealty has plans to expand into two to four new markets, including the Long Island, N.Y., market in the first quarter.

Revenues are expected to range from $114 million to $118 million for the full year in 2008, and the company expects to report a net loss of $8.9 million to $10.4 million this year.

Lashinsky announced that a company milestone was reached last month in ZipRealty rebating a total of $100 million to home buyers since its launch in 1999.


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