David Barry is at it again.

The San Francisco lawyer, who for decades has filed antitrust lawsuits against real estate industry groups across the country, is now leading an Open MLS Institute that seeks to open up property listings information to consumers nationwide.

Barry is serving as director and executive officer for Open MLS Institute, a nonprofit corporation with a mission “to bring competition to real estate markets in the United States by opening multiple listing services nationwide. We are committed to championing innovators and energetic competitors, and to combating longstanding policies — both formal and informal — that unfairly and unethically obstruct these innovators,” according to a statement at the institute’s Web site, at http://openmlsinstitute.org.

The institute seeks to create MLSs that offer free online information about homes for sale and for rent, and that allow consumers and agents to list a property for sale or rent and allow anyone to download content. “By spearheading MLS reform, the institute seeks to end such unethical practices … that have long prevailed in the real estate industry,” the Web site states.

Mark Jansen, who formerly served as CEO for RE InfoLink, a regional MLS in California’s Silicon Valley, serves as chief operating officer for the Open MLS Institute. Stavros Mendros, a city councilman in Lewiston, Maine, who is pushing for a statewide open MLS in Maine, serves as co-director for the institute. Mendros this month filed a ballot initiative with the Maine Secretary of State’s Office to establish a statewide open MLS.

“The institute actively supports that initiative, aiming for the November 2007 election,” according to the institute’s Web site.

Barry in December announced a similar ballot initiative in California, though that proposal subsequently died for lack of financial support, he said. June Barlow, general counsel for the California Association of Realtors trade group, had said the California initiative was “ill-conceived,” and also said, “There’s no need for an effort like this because free enterprise has worked well for a number of years.”

Barry said the experience was worthwhile. “We learned a lot from the California initiative. It was a very, very positive experience in terms of trying out an idea and getting industry reaction and consumer reaction. Had there been money available it would have been pursued. (We would have) had to start spending money at the rate of $25,000 a day,” he said.

The Open MLS Institute Web site includes an “Ethics Quiz” that features questions for real estate professionals. One question asks, “When deciding which homes to show to buyers, do you withhold homes offering a low commission to buyer agents?” while another asks, “When representing sellers, do you consistently place listings in the MLS within 24 hours of taking the listing?”

The site lists several companies that have offered financial support to establish the institute, among them: Redfin, Catalist Homes, e-ListState.com, Trust MLS and Voyager 360.

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