A congressional hearing next week will focus on competition and technology in the real estate industry.

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity will meet on Tuesday, July 25, to hear testimony from industry representatives.

Pat Vredevoogd, a Realtor from Grand Rapids, Mich., who is president-elect of the National Association of Realtors trade group, and Aaron Farmer, the owner of Texas Discount Realty who battled with state officials over controversial real estate policies, are scheduled to testify at the hearing, among others.

Hanging in the backdrop is a federal antitrust lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the Realtors association over online property-listing policies, a series of actions by the Justice Department and U.S. Federal Trade Commission to oppose state laws and rules that restrict rebate and discount practices in the real estate industry, and a June report by a consumer group charging that the industry lacks sufficient competition.

The committee hearing, titled “The Changing Real Estate Market,” “will focus on the changing real estate market and the growing role of the Internet in real estate transactions and its impact on home ownership and consumers,” according to a statement by U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, subcommittee chairman. “Specifically, this hearing will address such topics as new and innovative brokerage business models, multiple listing services, and the implications of state-imposed minimum-service requirements.”

The subcommittee operates under the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, which is led by Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio. It was Oxley who last year ordered a U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation of price competition in the real estate industry.

Steve Cook, a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, said today that the group will issue a statement Tuesday about the congressional hearing.

Representatives for the Consumer Federation of America and American Real Estate Broker Alliance, a group that represents flat-fee real estate companies, are also expected to testify at the hearing, according to Bruce Hahn, president of the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance. The consumer federation last month issued a report charging that a range of factors serve to stifle competition in the real estate industry.

Subcommittee members hope to hear testimony on how consumers have benefited from the integration of the Internet and real estate services, whether state licensing laws are supportive of brokers with “innovative business models and pricing,” and the impacts that state-imposed laws that set minimum-service requirements for real estate professionals have on consumers and the real estate market, according to a statement by Ney.

Also, the subcommittee is seeking testimony on the mechanisms that brokers and agents are using to modernize consumers’ real estate experience “in terms of cost, service and convenience,” and whether brokers with innovative business models are facing barriers.

The hearing is scheduled at 2 p.m. Tuesday in room 2128 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.


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

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