Multiple Listing Services owned by Realtor groups now have until Jan. 1, 2005, to implement the National Association of Realtors’ virtual office Web site (VOW) policy, which governs how brokers can display one another’s home listing data online.

NAR’s Board of Directors voted to push back the deadline during its midyear legislative meeting Saturday in Washington, D.C. The deadline already had been extended from Jan. 1 to July 1, 2004.

Meanwhile the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust division is still investigating NAR’s policy, which is why the Realtor group extended the original implementation deadline in November. The DOJ opened the investigation last fall.

The Realtor group adopted the VOW policy at its midyear meetings a year ago this month.

VOWs are an easy way for brokers to display for-sale listings online, and some companies are using the technology to gather buyer leads. But some brokerages are strongly opposed to their listings being displayed on their competitors’ Web sites.

The DOJ’s investigation has focused on a provision of NAR’s policy that permits brokers to opt out listings from other brokers’ VOWs on a blanket or selective basis. The DOJ also has been interested in a provision that restricts the use of names and contact information collected through a VOW in connection with referrals of business to companies other than real estate brokers.

The display of online listings via VOWs differs from NAR’s policies on Internet data exchange (IDX), which is an online data display method that uses broker reciprocity. Listing content that appears on VOWs tends to be richer than that used in IDX. Also, consumers searching VOWs for homes must first register with the Web site displaying the data.

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