The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee has requested the federal government study the restrictions placed on Multiple Listing Services and their impact on home buyers.

In a Thursday letter, chairman Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) formally requested the General Accounting Office assess and report on four main areas: how the residential real estate transaction is evolving as a result of electronic commerce; any barriers to greater use of electronic commerce in residential real estate transactions; how removal of those barriers could benefit both consumers and real estate professionals and how those changes could affect home ownership.

“In particular, please review the role of multiple listing services,” Oxley wrote. “The MLSs effectively are the residential real estate marketplaces…Today all, or virtually all, MLSs appear to provide information about homes for sale in electronic form, yet there appear to be significant limitations on the accessibility of this information. Please review and explain any rules for Internet display of MLS information, and any other relevant regulatory structure. Please determine whether these relationships and regulations are promoting or limiting transparency, competition, and home ownership.”

At the end of the two-page letter, Oxley also outlined nine questions he would like addressed. Several deal specifically with the MLS, such as asking whether MLSs in effect function as the marketplaces for residential real estate. He also has requested the GAO look into the legal and practical effects of the IDX and VOW rules adopted by the National Association of Realtors.

“Could these rules result in the blocking of legitimate commerce, particularly against certain licensed real estate brokers?” Oxley wrote.

Other questions included:

  • “What is Realtor.com and how does this company generally promote the use of technology by consumers and real estate agents? Is this an IDX or a VOW site subject to the NAR rules?”

  • “What are the state law obligations of real estate agents and brokers to consumers to promote homes for sale, and how, if at all, are these obligations consistent with restrictions on display of information over the Internet?”

  • “Has the Internet facilitated the custom of agents representing both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction and, if so, is this good for the consumer?”

The request comes amid an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into a provision of a NAR 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 is an important trend for brokers and agents because the majority of consumers now begin their search for homes and real estate services online. Listing are a lure brokers and agents can use to attract these online consumers to their Web sites.

***

Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to samantha@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

Show Comments Hide Comments

Comments

Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
Success!
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription