PRO CONSUMER: NAR DOJ Settlement

Many of you saw on the front page of the WSJ yesterday the 3 year old battle between the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Department of Justice settled on Tuesday.

*** If you dont have the time to read this post…the most important part of this settlement is: Under the terms of the settlement, the Realtors will enact a new policy that guarantees Internet-based brokerage companies (US) will not be treated differently than traditional brokers!!! ***

Beginning in 2005, the antitrust lawsuit was against the real-estate trade group, according to a DOJ news release. NAR policies challenged in the lawsuit were believed to prevent consumers from receiving the full benefits of competition provided by the online newcomers (US) and they also discouraged discounting or any type of “alternative” business model that saved consumers $$$.

The case was scheduled to go to trial in July.

Specifically, the lawsuit challenged some of the group’s rules on how traditional brokers were permitted to interact with a new breed of broker based online.

These online brokers allow their customers to access listings via password-protected sites instead of requiring a broker to facilitate their searches, according to the release. The Virtual Office Web sites or VOWs, often increased the productivity of brokers affiliated with the systems, which translated to lower commission rates for sellers and rebates for buyers.

Prior to the lawsuit’s filing, multiple listing services permitted traditional brokers to withhold their listings from VOWs (a policy suspended during the investigation). NAR didn’t however, permit brokers to withhold listings from a traditional broker member of an MLS.

If approved by the U.S. District Court in Chicago, the proposed 10-year settlement would require the association to change the policies and resolve the competitive concerns. NAR also will enact a new policy to guarantee Internet-based brokerages won’t be treated differently.

In a news release, NAR pointed out that it is not required to make payments or admit any liability or wrongdoing in connection with the settlement.

Richard F. Gaylord, president of the National Association of Realtors, called the settlement a win-win for the industry and consumers.

“Competition is alive and well in the real estate industry. In fact, the competitive nature of our industry is even more apparent in times of market turmoil like those we are currently experiencing” Gaylord said in a news release.

Joe Ferrara over at the Sellsius Blog took a unique look @ this outcome which shows the few giant steps forward for innovative web-based real estate brokerages (US) … but also the small setbacks.

Setbacks to web based brokerages & buy-side consumers include:

  1. The ability for sellers to withhold listings and property addresses from display on the Internet.
  2. The ability for sellers to prevent comments, reviews and AVM valuations from attaching to their listings on the internet, which we do allow right now.

Read More here on Sellsius

Bottom line is that we are not so much affected by this because we are a real estate brokerage offering full service just like any other real estate broker/agent. I guess we will see how fast this stuff starts getting put in place now…stay tuned.

US DOJ Settlement Link

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