ForSaleByOwner.com may be helping homeowners put listings on Realtor.com, but don’t call them "for-sale-by-owner" listings, site operator Move Inc. says.
ForSaleByOwner.com, a non-broker Web site that assists sellers in marketing their properties, is now offering to place customers’ listings on Realtor.com for $200. The company claims the proposed settlement of an antitrust suit the Department of Justice filed against the National Association of Realtors creates "new direct access" to NAR’s official listings portal.
Move Inc., which operates Realtor.com on behalf of NAR, says the settlement does not allow for-sale-by-owner properties to be placed on the site, and that ForSaleByOwner.com is misleading consumers and Realtors by suggesting otherwise.
A ForSaleByOwner.com executive told Inman News the company is placing listings on Realtor.com on behalf of its clients through its relationships with licensed real estate brokers, who enter the properties in a multiple listing service, or MLS.
Move Inc. spokeswoman Julie Reynolds said that means the listings aren’t technically "for-sale-by-owner," but are broker-represented.
In order for a listing to appear on Realtor.com, it must be entered in an MLS, Reynolds said. There are no unrepresented properties displayed on Realtor.com, and every property must be listed by a licensed real estate broker.
Reynolds said there is no formal relationship between ForSaleByOwner.com and Realtor.com, and that the company’s formal announcement of the new service was "misleading to both consumers and the Realtor community."
Realtor.com has asked ForSaleByOwner.com to retract a press release it published Wednesday, Reynolds said.
The press release does not explain that ForSaleByOwner.com contracts with brokers who enter listings into an MLS, and might lead some to believe just the opposite.
In the press release, ForSaleByOwner.com boasts it’s "the nation’s first ‘by owner’ real estate Web site to enable home sellers to advertise their home on Realtor.com without appearing on a local multiple listing service (MLS)."
The new service makes it easier for consumers "to use a ‘by owner’ approach" to selling their home, the press release said.
The ForsSaleByOwner.com Web site offers a Realtor.com "Showcase Listing" service as a $200 upgrade to most of its listing packages, which vary in price by market. For a property in San Francisco, ForSaleByOwner.com’s listing packages ranged from $72 for a one-month listing to $159 and up for "until sold" listing packages. A Realtor.com listing was included with ForSaleByOwner’s "Silver" listing package, which was priced at $479 in the San Francisco market.
For that, ForSaleByOwner.com says it will provide an enhanced Realtor.com listing for six months, allowing sellers to "post up to 25 photos, receive e-mail inquiries from buyers right in your inbox, and take advantage of a voice message system that gives buyers your direct contact information."
In an interview, Greg Healy, ForSaleByOwner.com’s vice president of operations, described how the company places listings on Realtor.com.
ForSaleByOwner.com works with a network of Web-based brokers who provide flat-fee MLS services, Healy said. The brokers are paid to list properties in MLSs outside of the seller’s market.
"We do leverage the current process" for placing listings on Realtor.com, Healy said. "We put the customers in an MLS. The key is we don’t put them in their local MLS."
Some sellers don’t want their listing to appear in their local MLS, Healy said, because they don’t want to be contacted by buyer’s agents who will expect to be paid a commission.
ForSaleByOwner.com, a subsidiary of Chicago Tribune owner Tribune Co., informs clients in an online disclaimer that in order for their listings to appear on Realtor.com, "you must indicate that you are willing to pay a buyer’s agent 1 percent of the sale price of your home. However, by entering this agreement, you are not obligated to accept any offer or pay any commission."
As for the press release’s claim that the new service is the result of the proposed DOJ-NAR settlement, Healy said the proposed settlement requires MLSs to treat Web-based brokers in ForSaleByOwner.com’s network the same as full-service, brick-and-mortar brokerages.
Healy would not identify any of the brokers ForSaleByOwner.com works with, but said, "We have a full network across the U.S."
"I think the DOJ settlement clears the playing field so NAR is not going to say these brokers don’t have access or rights to the MLS," Healy said. "The key sentence in the settlement is that they can’t be discriminated against based on the business model they run."
The settlement — which was announced in May and could become final this week — would prohibit MLSs from withholding data from brokers who operate "Virtual Office Web sites," or VOWs. MLSs would be required to admit brokers operating VOWs as members, and could not place restrictions on them that don’t apply to brick-and-mortar brokerage offices.
Realtor.com is the official site of the National Association of Realtors, which contracts with Move Inc. to operate the site. The settlement would rely on NAR for enforcement, requiring NAR to withhold insurance from and report to the DOJ any MLS that "refuses to adopt, maintain, act consistently with, or enforce" its terms (see story).
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