The Houston Association of Realtors’ flagship listing site, HAR.com, is no longer displaying open houses in most Texas markets, including Houston and Austin, in hopes of slowing the spread of the new coronavirus. The trade group will also waive its third-quarter multiple listing service fees.
HAR announced the changes on Friday, March 20, and said they would be effective immediately. HAR’s nearly 40,000 MLS subscribers can no longer add, edit or search for in-person open houses or schedule broker tours in its Matrix MLS platform, HAR Chairman John Nugent told Inman via email. The move comes as other MLSs, such as those in Washington State and San Francisco, have suspended open houses and broker tours on their platforms.
“HAR is committed to doing its part to ensure that our Realtor members and real estate consumers are not unnecessarily putting themselves at risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus,” Nugent said in a statement.
“We appreciate that many folks want to continue conducting real estate business, but HAR, along with the Austin Board of Realtors, believes this is the most responsible and health-conscious way to operate at this time,” he added.
The Austin Board of Realtors, which has nearly 13,000 members and nearly 15,000 MLS subscribers, began suppressing the open house field in its MLS and wiping current open house data from display on Wed., March 18 “in an effort to help promote adherence to both local and federal health guidelines,” ABoR CEO Emily Chenevert told Inman via email.
“The field will remain out of use for the foreseeable future,” she added.
HAR.com currently lists more than 212,000 Texas properties for sale or lease — 98 percent of all Texas listings currently on the market, Nugent said.
HAR.com’s board of directors and local MLSs decide what will be displayed for specific markets, he added.
Only North Texas Real Estate Information Systems (NTREIS) in the Dallas-Fort Worth market has specifically requested that in-person open houses continue to be displayed on HAR.com, according to Nugent. NTREIS, which has nearly 40,000 subscribers, told Inman last week that it was leaving it up to brokers whether or not to conduct open houses.
HAR noted it offers an internet-based MLS, online transaction management, e-signatures, HAR.com and its mobile app to help its members work remotely.
“As HAR is strongly encouraging our members to utilize virtual open houses, we are developing a platform to allow for hosting and promotion of those virtual open houses and virtual showings on HAR.com. Stay tuned for more information soon about that service, which will be called HAR.com Live,” Nugent said.
HAR also announced that it would be waiving third-quarter MLS fees for all subscribers current with their second-quarter fees. At $35 per month per subscriber, “we would be waiving over $4 million in aggregate,” Nugent said.
The decision is HAR’s effort “to ease the financial burden on its subscribers during this challenging time,” the association said.
Neither HAR nor ABoR has made changes to its rules regarding showings or days on market (DOM) at this time. Both said they may consider other rule changes as the situation evolves.
“At each step of additional regulation or guidance related to the pandemic, we are carefully reviewing implications of the changes in the context of our marketplace,” Chenevert said.
“We have not made any additional changes to the MLS system to date. We are strongly encouraging members to follow [Centers for Disease Control] guidelines for social distancing and to adhere to local and state regulations related to the health crisis.”
HAR held a Member Focus Monday Facebook Live show at the beginning of this week to answer members’ questions about managing their businesses virtually and answer legal questions having to do with the outbreak.
This included questions having to do with the Texas Realtors’ new COVID-19 Addendum (TXR-2520). That document extends the closing date in a residential sales contract for 30 days if the closing cannot occur due to a voluntary or mandatory COVID-19 quarantine or closure, HAR said.