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HomeFinder.com Awards $25,000 in Total Cash Prizes to Three First Time Home Buyers in Cash to Close Sweepstakes

National sweepstakes garnered nearly 20,000 entries from across America and entry data indicates buyers are still in the market

CHICAGO, Sept. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- HomeFinder.com (http://www.homefinder.com), a popular home search site, launched the HomeFinder.com Cash to Close Sweepstakes June 1 with the hope of helping three potential buyers realize their dream of buying a home. After a six week online and mail-in entry period that ended July 15 with almost 20,000 entries collected from across America, HomeFinder.com today announced the Sweepstakes, Platinum and Gold Prize winners of the random drawing, all first time home buyers hoping to close on their home within the next six months.

Paige Howarth, a 29-year-old graphic designer from Manchester, CT, has won the Sweepstakes grand prize of $10,000. Howarth, who plans to wed in 2011 and use the winnings to purchase a home with his fiancee, was floored by the news.

"Owning a home... it's the American dream," Howarth said. "I never expected to own a home and now it's about to happen, it feels like fate intervening."

Howarth, who has been renting for the last 10 years, missed the deadline to close on a home in time to qualify for the federal home buyer tax credits, which expired April 30.

"We couldn't get all our ducks in a row," he said. "It [tax credits] came and went, and now this Sweepstakes win from HomeFinder.com more than makes up for it."

Launched just after the tax credits expired, the HomeFinder.com Cash to Close Sweepstakes was created in part to continue the momentum the credits generated, helping to incite more home buyers to make their move in this market of record low mortgage interest rates, affordable prices and surplus inventory.

For Ryan Burmester, a 33-year old farmer and Iowa transplant living in Scottsdale, AZ, the Platinum prize winnings of $8,000 are only the cherry on top of an already enticing buyer's market.

"If you're a first time buyer like me and you have good credit, it's not a bad time to get into the market," Burmester said. "When everyone else is jumping out of the water, sometimes it's a good time to get in."

Burmester, who has been pre-approved for FHA financing and has been actively searching for a home for the last four months, is hoping the cash prize will help him qualify for a conventional loan and help widen his search of available homes for sale.

"It's really unbelievable because it's going to help me a lot," he said. "It will help set me free of rent and allow me to keep my own equity."

Linda Stuetz, a 36-year-old tennis coach from Denver, CO and winner of the $7,000 Gold prize, is also looking forward to using her winnings to take a trip to nearby Aspen, support a local charity and purchase her first home with her longtime partner.

"A house represents freedom to me," Stuetz said. "Freedom to do whatever I want without having to ask anybody."

This sentiment was also echoed by the Cash to Close Sweepstakes entry data. Despite recent reports predicting a continued slowdown of home sales, Sweepstakes entrants showed strong buyer interest and shorter than expected buying timeframes for the remainder of the year. Overall, 60 percent of entrants reported they are planning to close on a home within six months, with 16 percent planning to close within three months and six percent planning to close within 30 days.

"We're thrilled with the interest generated by our Sweepstakes and the chance to provide our own stimulus plan to help hopeful buyers get into a home," said Tim Fagan, president and CEO of HomeFinder.com. "Our goal was to help make home ownership more attainable...and we've ultimately accomplished that for Paige, Ryan and Linda... three soon-to-be home owners."

About HomeFinder.com

HomeFinder.com is one of the most trusted Web sites for consumers to search for a home and connect with a real estate professional. Distinguished by its inventory of comprehensive property listings and rich content, HomeFinder.com provides more than 3.5 million listings with customized searches and multiple options to view and manage results.

HomeFinder.com also provides simpler, more valuable online advertising solutions for agents, brokers and builders, combining the brand power of more than 120+ local newspaper Web sites with exposure on a national scope, in a platform that tracks every phone call, email and click a consumer makes.

Owned jointly by three leading media companies, Gannett Co. Inc. (NYSE: GCI), The McClatchy Co. (NYSE: MNI) and Tribune Co., the HomeFinder.com Network includes The Arizona Republic, Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times and The Indianapolis Star. For more information, visit http://www.homefinder.com.

SOURCE HomeFinder.com

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