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After VOWs, what next?

Perspective: Settlement of NAR, DOJ raises plenty of new questions

The U.S. Justice Department and National Association of Realtors have at last settled their long-running dispute over the competitiveness of virtual office Web sites. The settlement is good news for real estate, but VOW innovations may yet play out in surprising ways that neither the DOJ or NAR could have anticipated, and the settlement itself still leaves plenty of intriguing questions to ponder. In case anyone's still confused, a VOW is a Web site that functions like a "virtual" real estate brokerage office in the narrow sense that registered users can use the Web site to access just about the entire MLS database of for-sale homes. Only selected information that's protected for business or privacy reasons is excluded. These Web sites enjoyed some popularity as new innovations some years ago. But the extended controversy over their use and allegations of anti-competitive practices stalled the VOW revolution in its early days. The settlement involves wins, losses...

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