Something that should be of great interest to both real estate professionals and real estate consumers is the ongoing lawsuit between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
For those not aware the DOJ has filed suit against the NAR alleging that they have established policies and pratices that are potentially anti-competitive. The DOJ complaint specifically states that some NAR policies regarding the use of the Internet:
…constitutes a contract, combination, or conspiracy by and between NAR and its members which unreasonably restrains competition in brokerage service markets throughout the United States in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1. (link to complete DOJ complaint)
Jason Golding, CFO/General Counsel of Point2 Technologies, a provider of web site services and technological tools to real estate agents, has penned a blog post linking to a "White Paper" that nicely summaries some of the DOJ vs. NAR issues. It also presents how Point2's National Listing Service (NLS) can be utilized by agents regardless of the outcome of the DOJ's suit.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of the NAR (gasp!). My wife and I both pay our dues because our broker mandates that we do so. What do we get for our money? Basically, the right to call ourselves REALTORS. The NAR is does spend a lot of time lobbying "on our behalf" and supposedly has the best interests of all its members in mind. But the simple fact is, in an organization of 1.5 million people, no single entity can keep the best interests of all members in mind. I get a relatively useless magazine (actually we get two copies – there is no way to opt out of receiving multiple copies if multiple Realtors are at same address — Hello??), and I get a Code of Ethics I'm sworn to uphold (I really don't need an organization to tell me how to be ethical. And if someone does, then odds are overwhelming they won't understand a tenth of the Code they are swearing to).
But, I'm even less of a fan of government getting mixed up in free enterprise. You can't legislate common sense or good business practices. The free market in a capital society is, over time, incredibly efficient and effective.
As Russell Shaw pointed out in a fantastic post on this subject, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is misunderstood by many — by the DOJ, by consumers, and by many real estate agents and brokers. The MLS was never designed as a marketing venue for homes. It is simply a broker-to-broker offering of compensation.
As a marketing tool, quite frankly my MLS sucks. It allows me to upload six tiny pictures and about three sentences of description. I can't link to anything. It doesn't force the lazy (but ethical!) agent to even complete all of the available descriptive fields such as room dimensions. Hell, an agent can (and many do) put a listing in the MLS with NO pictures, NO description, NO square footage, basically no nothing. How is that a viable marketing tool? It's not, and it was never intended as such. It's a tool to let Broker A tell Broker B, "Sell this listing of mine and I will pay you X". Period.
I can (and do) put my listings on hundreds of web sites. With the capabilities that Point2 Agent provides me, I can put up to 36 large hi-definition photos in a listing. I can have paragraphs of descriptive text. I can attach listing brochures and other files that an interested buyer can view on-line and/or download. I can add soothing and peaceful background music or a voice-over of property features. I can gather viewing statistics. My seller can log into their listing and add their own information about the property. And I can easily syndicate that listing to 23 national real estate web sites and hundreds of local agent sites. THAT is a marketing tool!
The government needs to bug out,and MAYBE the NAR can assist with that. Maybe not. Time will tell.
[tags]NAR, DOJ, MLS, real estate disintermediation[/tags]