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Homestore.com beats Street in first quarter

Homestore.com topped analysts' estimates in its first quarter Wednesday but still posted a loss of $10 million, or 14 cents a share, on sales of $38.6 million.

First Call Corp. consensus expected the online real estate site to lose 16 cents a share in the quarter.

Ahead of the earnings report, Homestore.com (Nasdaq: HOMS) shares fell 1 13/16 to 23 1/8.

The $38.6 million in sales represents a 271 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter when it posted a loss of $17.2 million, or 31 cents a share, on sales of $10.4 million.

Including a variety of stock-based and amortization charges, Homestore.com lost $29.2 million, or 39 cents a share, in the quarter.

Company officials credited a surge in professional subscription sales for the upside surprise.

In the quarter, professional subscriptions jumped to 107,000, up 70 percent from the year-ago quarter.

In March, its site hosted 3 million unique visitors, up 25 percent from the same time last year. More than 1.1 billion homes were viewed on the Homestore.com network during the quarter representing an 88 percent increase over the fourth quarter and a 116 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter.

"Our first quarter results confirm that Homestore.com's momentum continues to build," said CEO Stuart Wolff in a prepared release. "The strong results across all of the key drivers of our business confirm that we are further extending our leadership position in this very large market."

Last quarter, Homestore.com met analysts' estimates, losing $16.2 million, or 23 cents a share, on sales of $28.1 million.

Its shares peaked at 138 in January before falling to an all-time low of 14 1/16 in April.

All seven analysts tracking the stock rate it either a "buy" or "strong buy."

First Call analysts expect it to post a loss of 39 cents a share in the fiscal year.