NAR, DOJ Reach Settlement on Anti-Trust Suit

The Department of Justice and the National Association of Realtors have reached a settlement on an anti-trust suit regarding the listing of internet-based real estate brokers. NAR will now be required to allow internet-based brokers to compete with traditional real estate brokers. The DOJ brought suit against NAR, the industry’s trade organization, in order to level the playing field for the internet outfits and increase consumers’ choice and competition in the real estate industry. NAR has agreed to a 10-year agreement to abide by the terms of the settlement. DOJ initially filed suit against NAR in 2005, charging that its refusal to list online brokers harmed consumers by denying them the benefits of competition and adhering to obsolete business models. NAR had made rules changes in 2003 and 2005 that obstructed these brokers from listing their properties on NAR-approved multiple listing services. Brokers using virtual office websites will not have access to these services, and will not be denied membership based on their business models. “Today’s settlement prevents traditional brokers from deliberately impeding competition. When there is unfettered competition from brokers with innovative and efficient approaches to the residential real estate market, consumers are likely to receive better services and pay lower commission rates,” Deborah Garza, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division stated in a release.The agreement will have to be approved in court. DOJ’s antitrust case was due to be heard before Judge Matthew Kennelly in June 2008 before the settlement was reached.