Amid pushback to its new ban on pocket and off-market listings, Bright MLS argued Tuesday that the rule shouldn’t impact discount brokerages that offer reduced compensation to buyers agents.

The Mid-Atlantic trade organization explained its position in a letter to discount brokerage Assist-2-Sell. The letter argues that the recently implemented pocket listing ban allows Bright MLS members to enter properties into the multiple listing service (MLS) “with an offer to share any portion of a seller’s commission with a cooperating buyer’s broker; the offer may be as low as the client and broker desire, down to one cent.”

“Low-fee programs with reduced offers of compensation, or that do not contemplate the seller paying a cooperating broker at all, are unaffected by our new policy,” the letter continues. “These types of listings have long been entered into Bright’s system and its predecessor MLSs.”

Brian Donnellan

Bright MLS CEO Brian Donnellan wrote the letter, which is a response to Assist-2-Sell’s own letter raising concerns about the policy. In its letter, Assist-2-Sell argued that by banning pocket listings, Bright MLS has created a “restraint of trade” and is impeding members’ ability to offer “non-MLS marketing programs.”

Both correspondences stem from Bright MLS’s decision to roll out a ban on pocket listings in mid October. The new rule was a slightly edited version of a proposal the National Association of Realtors (NAR) floated in early October. That proposal is still under consideration.

The policies from both NAR and Bright MLS have prompted widespread debate within the real estate industry. That debate took a confrontational turn last week, when Compass sent a “pre-litigation letter” to Bright MLS calling its pocket listing ban “problematic.”

Assist-2-Sell said in its letter to Bright MLS that it shares Compass’ concerns and worries the policy will disrupt its “direct to buyer” program that doesn’t rely on the MLS.

Bright MLS’s response on Tuesday, however, argues that discount brokers like Assist-2-Sell should be able to carry on with business as usual and that the new rule should not “impede those brokerage business models.”

“These types of programs may continue to compete as they have for years,” the letter adds.

The letter also argues that the policy increases transparency and results in listings being distributed more widely.

Asked about Bright MLS’s letter, Assist-2-Sell co-founder Lyle Martin told Inman in an email Tuesday that “it does not resolve our concerns with Bright’s new Off-MLS policy.” He added that his team plans to discuss the letter internally before responding.

However, the letters from both Assist-2-Sell and Bright MLS both mention the potential for further discussion, and the industry-wide debate over the role of pocket listings is almost certainly far from over.

Read Bright MLS’s latest letter here:

Update: This post was updated after publication with additional comment from Assist-2-Sell.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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