ORLANDO, Fla.–Realtor-operated multiple listing services will have until July 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 during its annual meeting today voted to push back the deadline of the trade group’s 18-month-old policy. The deadline had been extended twice from its original implementation date of Jan. 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 at its annual meeting a year ago. The DOJ will not have a final decision on the investigation, which opened in late 2003, for another four months, according to NAR General Counsel Laurie Janik.

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.

The VOW policy delay follows a request made late last week by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) that the federal government study restrictions placed on MLSs and their impact on home buyers.

In a Thursday letter, Rep. Oxley 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.


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