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Zillow Raises $30 Million

SEATTLE (AP) – Real estate information startup Zillow Inc. said late Wednesday it closed a $30 million round of financing. Legg Mason Capital Management, a Baltimore-based global asset management group known for its mutual funds, led the round. In all, the operators of Zillow.com have raised $87 million since 2005.

Zillow.com amasses real estate data and lets Web surfers check out what their home might be worth on today's market. Home owners can post a virtual “for sale” sign on their house, and prospective buyers can post questions about the property and the neighborhood.

Beyond its usefulness to home buyers and sellers, the voyeuristic ability to check out what the neighbor's — or Bill Gates' — house is worth has become something of a pop-culture phenomenon.

Rich Barton, Zillow's chief executive officer, said in an interview Wednesday that trouble in the housing market didn't necessarily spell trouble for the company.

“Just because the housing market is in a transitional period and prices are down and volumes are down, that doesn't mean we're talking about our homes less,” Barton said. “In fact, we may be talking about them more.”

Zillow.com is advertising-supported, and the company employs 20 people around the country to sell ads that can be targeted as narrowly as a single ZIP code. Barton said he expected the company to benefit as more advertising dollars shift from print and TV to the Internet, even given the pressure of a down housing market.