A Realtor in Wisconsin wants to know why the local newspaper won’t run a front-of-section advertisement for his business, a flat-fee brokerage. The Realtor, Corey Scholtka, contacted the newspaper’s staff, his lawyer, the local and state Realtor associations, the media, and the Justice Department to find a resolution to the issue.

Scholtka, owner of Wauwatosa-based BuyHomes.com, said he learned from an advertising representative at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week that his ad, which had been scheduled to run on the front page of the newspaper’s Sunday real estate section, had been canceled. Scholtka had run the advertisement on the front page of the section April 4, and the ad was supposed to run twice more in the newspaper. Each front-page ad costs $2,000, according to Scholtka.

Scholtka said the sales representative told him the ad was being canceled because of he complaints from other brokers or advertisers. Scholtka then spoke with Marilyn Tanious, classified advertising director at the Journal Sentinel. He said that Tanious also indicated the front-page ad was canceled due to complaints and uproar from Realtors.

Tanious on Wednesday denied that complaints from other brokers caused the newspaper to pull the front-page ad.

“The decision is entirely at our discretion. It is not related to anything from the real estate community,” Tanious said. “The position that Corey is taking on this ad is not really based on facts. Lots of times we will run ads and end up not running them again. It is just our decision.”

She said the newspaper will run the ad in the inside pages of the real estate section, instead of on the front page. She did not elaborate on how the newspaper arrived at the decision to disallow Scholtka’s ad on the front page, deferring to a newspaper spokeswoman, who was not immediately available for comment.

Scholtka said Wednesday that the newspaper offered to run his ad free on an inside page of the real estate section, though he rejected that offer as “a matter of principle.” He said he may pursue legal action against the newspaper.

The newspaper had been running his weekly classified ad without incident for over a year prior to the front-page ad insertion, he said. The advertising is important to marketing his business, he said, and the Journal Sentinel is the only major daily newspaper in his business area.

Roy Scholtka, who runs a traditional, full-service brokerage in the Milwaukee area and who is Corey’s father, said he is upset at the situation.

“I think it’s ludicrous,” he said.”(Corey) certainly has a right to run his business,” even if the business model does not fit the conventional mold.

Both father and son are members of the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors. Roy Scholtka said he is a frequent advertiser in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and his ads have appeared on the front page of the real estate section.

Corey Scholtka said he contacted the local and state Realtor associations to keep them apprised of the situation. Association representatives said they were aware of Scholtka’s complaint but had not taken any action. Since he started BuyHomes.com in 2003, Scholtka has not been immune from attacks over his business plan, which features MLS listings for a flat rate, with additional brokerage services available for an hourly fee. In November 2003, Scholtka learned that more than a dozen sellers who paid for his services received fliers that stated, “Congratulations! You just through [sic] away $550.00 by listing your home with a Limited Representation Broker! Good luck trying to sell your home.” The flier was signed “Lots of Realtors.”

Scholtka charges $555 upfront to list a home for sale. He then charges the seller a .01 percent commission if BuyHomes.com locates a buyer. If a cooperating agent is involved, the seller pays a commission of 2 percent or more as a “cooperating agent finder’s fee.” He said he believes his business competes most directly with for-sale-by-owner operations.

“It’s indicative of this industry that innovation is resisted when it means change from the standard ways,” he said. “I feel that full-service has value–it’s just not for everybody.”

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Send tips, feedback or a letter to the editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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