Realtors Take Aim at Home Telecom Sales

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Cable-telecommunications salesmen will soon have to beat new competitors to the doors of new homeowners.

The National Association of Realtors recently partnered with Homestore.com Inc., a real estate information Website developer, to form FireTap Communications Inc. The strategic-technology venture will provide broadband services to realtors, and will also design residential and small-business service networks for consumers.

The NAR has 750,000 members in the residential and business real estate market.

The venture envisions delivery of high-speed Internet access via digital-subscriber-line, wireless, cable-modem and fiber-network technology; local and long-distance telephone; dial-up Internet access and hosting; and digital television.

America Online Inc. signed a multiyear strategic marketing alliance earlier this year with Homestore.com. The No. 1 online service committed to be a strategic partner to FireTap, according to Homestore.com. AOL will provide co-branded Internet-service-provider access and long-distance services for the venture.

Encore Venture Partners L.P.-a private venture-capital fund that focuses on emerging technology-has also made a "substantial equity investment" in FireTap, the partners said.

Homestore.com will share its industry and customer lists with FireTap. The tele-communications venture can use that information to build specialized services for realtors, brokers, real estate investment trusts, builders and mortgage lenders.

FireTap can also design consumer networks in developments, which they can promote to users of Homestore.com's various Web sites. Those include Realtor.com, HomeBuilder.com, SpringStreet.com, Remodel.com and Homefair.com.

Homestore.com also has distribution relationships with AOL, Excite@Home Corp. and GO.com.

The venture aims to build on the more than 3 million consumer contacts reported monthly by Homestore.com's network.

Most of those hits are by people at or near the point of moving, which the venture targets as a key time in the decision-making process on telecommunications needs, as well as location.

Millions more can be touched via Homestore.com's professional users. And the NAR has "RealtorRewards," a membership-benefit program, which the partners believe will also help to drive members to use its services.

FireTap will have offices in Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Dallas; and Washington, D.C. Its call center will be based in Scottsdale.

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