Recently I was given an opportunity to share a summary of the settlement between the United States Department of Justice and the National Association of REALTOR regarding Virtual Office Websites. Before the meeting, we stood together with our right hand over our hearts and chanted the Pledge of Allegiance To the Flag of the United States of America. As I stood before the MLS Board, their shareholders, and broker members, I was awash with the feeling that in some way, the Department of Justice was acting in a way that reduced the freedom of our republic and the libertarian view of our founding fathers, and the MLS in which I stood.
Now the Department of Justice has a new target. They are mingling in the governance of the Consolidated Multiple Listing Service of Columbia, South Carolina stating that their fees are too high, and forcing them to accept listing contracts like exclusive-agency whereby a consumer represents himself or herself in a transaction. Is the Department of Justice going too far in their interference with private industry?
In our country, consumers are free to buy and sell homes at will without using an agent. I do not think that anyone would challenge that right of citizenship. Furthermore, anyone in the world is afforded that right regardless of citizenship. Our property may be owned by anyone from anywhere on the planet.
Nevertheless, there are groups of like-minded entrepreneurs who have joined together under the notion that they can offer consulting services to buyers and sellers of real estate in exchange for a fee. They are called Real Estate Brokers or Agents. These like-minded people have agreed among themselves to contribute a percentage of their earned income toward gathering and sharing real estate information amongst themselves in an orderly and ethical way. They have fees, rules, and a governing body that mirrors that of our country’s legislature. They call it an MLS.
Over a span of years, this practice and philosophy has attracted the interest of independent real estate brokers across the nation. In every corner of our great country, similar groups have formed and adopted similar governance but always staying true to a national code of ethics, but free to reflect the unique desires of their local constituents.
It would seem that the Department of Justice would like to nationalize the real estate industry by their recent actions. I think they are going too far. They claim they are trying to protect consumers and open doors for alternative business models. Last time I checked, consumers were well protected in their real estate transactions. Furthermore, the door to alternative business models is open. Let them start their own MLS.