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Stocks H / Housevalues, Inc.


Subject: and more Date:  2/11/2006  12:40 PM
Author:  boringusername Number:  61 of 120

I sold my HouseValues on a little pop a few weeks ago. I broke even and I feel lucky, perfect timing would have netted me a little more, but timing doesn't work.

When I sold it I had not yet seen Now I am more convinced than ever that I did the right thing. I sold HouseValues based on four things:

1. I would not want to be one of their users. They lead you to their site promising to tell you what your house is worth and then they hook you up with a real estate agent. That real estate agent is some combination of self selected (having signed up for the HouseValues program) and randomly selected (if HouseValues truly doesn't send each contact to multiple agents). Is this how you would find a good real estate agent? What about asking friends who sold their house? What about paying attention to the signs to see who is farming your neighborhood? What about interviewing two or three and picking the one that you work best with?

I would not pick a real estate agent the HouseValues way and I consider what they do deceptive which seriously turns me off.

2. I would not want to be one of their agents. First and foremost, any service that forces you to a year long contract does not have enough confidence in the value of their product to trust customers to stay around. Forget the arguments over the churn rate math, forget the questions about whether the agents posting in the flame message boards are a select few or truly represent the majority, and forgeet the endless arguments about whether there ever will or will not be a class action lawsuit. The fitness club sales tactics say it all.

3. I saw nothing compelling about their technology. I've built internet web services with similar technology. What I saw of HouseValues web site I could cook up in a weekend of programming; and I'm not a talented web developer, I'm a hacker. Internet businesses that are succeeding need a combination of fresh breakthrough technology and a killer business plan. TomG looks at HouseValues numbers and evaluates them as a business and I can't argue with him there. I was tempted to stick in there because he makes a compelling argument in their favor and I'm still learning. But, I see plenty of investment opportunities in companies that both the Fool and I like - why hold a stock I don't like? I do know more about internet application development than TomG and HouseValues doesn't have diddley.

4. The real estate market, especially here in Silicon Valley, is a mess. We have huge numbers of new agents. I know far too many