This site is about the overreaching political power of the NC Association of Realtors flush with money from cashing in your equity 6% at a time, leaving you to pay for growth with property taxes, year after year, with or without cash flow. In the last few years NCAR has pumped millions of dollars into NC political campaigns at the state and local level. They have spent millions more to defeat Local Options for Local Governments with misleading ads.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Faced with the prospect of a crushing defeat this coming July in US District Court in Chicago, the National Association of Realtors has folded its hand in a case that accused the Association of unfairly restricting access by discount brokers to online listing information. Swimming in an acronym soup was a policy that kept home buyers from seeing properties listed by discount brokers while accessing listings through their realtors' web sites. IDX is the current electronic "Broker Reciprocity Program" workaround. VOW and another, short-lived system, IDL, were supended by NAR pending the US Department of Justice antitrust action. From the US Department of Justice settlement announcement:

Justice Department Announces Settlement with the National Association of Realtors
Settlement will Result in More Choices, Better Services and Lower Commission Rates for Consumers

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a proposed settlement with the National Association of Realtors (NAR) that requires NAR to allow Internet-based residential real estate brokers to compete with traditional brokers. The Department said the settlement will enhance competition in the real estate brokerage industry, resulting in more choice, better service, and lower commission rates for consumers. NAR has agreed to be bound by a 10-year settlement to ensure that it continues to abide by the requirements of the agreement.

In September 2005, the Department’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago, against NAR challenging policies and related rules that obstructed real estate brokers who use innovative Internet-based tools to offer better services and lower costs to consumers. The Department said that the policies prevented consumers from receiving the full benefits of competition, discouraged discounting, and threatened to lock in outmoded business models. The case was scheduled to go to trial in July 2008 before Judge Matthew F. Kennelly.

If approved by the court, the proposed settlement would require NAR to change policies and adhere to certain conduct remedies to resolve the Department’s competitive concerns.

Under the terms of the settlement, NAR will repeal its anticompetitive policies and require affiliated multiple listing services (MLSs) to repeal their rules that were based on these policies. NAR will enact a new policy that guarantees that Internet-based brokerage companies will not be treated differently than traditional brokers. Under the new policy, brokers participating in a NAR-affiliated MLS will not be permitted to withhold their listings from brokers who serve their customers through virtual office websites (VOWs). In addition, brokers will be able to use VOWs to educate consumers, make referrals, and conduct brokerage services. Such brokers will not be excluded from MLS membership based on their business model. NAR will report to the Department any allegations of noncompliance. NAR also has agreed to adopt antitrust compliance training programs that will instruct local Associations of Realtors about the antitrust laws generally and about the requirements of the proposed settlement specifically.

“Today’s settlement prevents traditional brokers from deliberately impeding competition. When there is unfettered competition from brokers with innovative and efficient approaches to the residential real estate market, consumers are likely to receive better services and pay lower commission rates,” said Deborah A. Garza, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division. “In addition, under this settlement, NAR will foster compliance with the antitrust laws by educating its members and its 800 affiliated MLSs.”

Read the Proposed Final Judgement and the Stipulation or the full Case Filings for "United States v. National Association of Realtors"

  • News & Observer
    Online brokers score a victory
    Regulators give agents access to withheld property listings, saying buyers will benefit
  • Los Angeles Times
    Realtors agree to share more multiple-listing service data with online brokers
    The settlement with the Justice Department could lower fees by aiding Internet competition.
  • Washington Post
    Realtors Settle Listings Battle
    Web Brokers to Be Allowed Access
  • New York Times
    Realtors Agree to Stop Blocking Web Listings
  • Inman News (Real estate)
    Industry reacts to DOJ vs. NAR settlement proposal
    Experts: Agreement provides more certainty for innovators
  • CNN
    Settlement may give online realtors access to more listings
    Story Highlights:
    - Consumers may save average of more than $2,000 under proposed settlement
    - Settlement means traditional realtors will be allowed to use online sites to sell
    - Brokers will demand lower commissions and pass savings on to buyers
    - The agreement must be approved by a federal judge in Chicago
  • "Consumers should be able to save up to 1 percent of the price of a home," said Deborah Garza, deputy assistant attorney general of the Antitrust Division. She bases the percentage on the typical discount an online broker currently offers.

    Citing 2006 figures, Garza said the median price of a home in the United States was $225,334. So, a drop of 1 percent in a Realtor's commission would be $2,253.

    "When there is unfettered competition from brokers with innovative and efficient approaches to the residential real estate market, consumers are likely to receive better services and pay lower commission rates," Garza said.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    Money Talks in Orange and Other Counties

    The price of winning a transfer tax referendum just went up. NC Realtors spent about $2 per registered voter in Orange County to achieve a 66% No to 34% Yes vote, double the amounts spent in the fall. This translates to a cost of about $7.50 per No vote, up from $6 in the fall.

    According to the Independent: Money talks in Orange County

    Real estate and homebuilders groups raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars to defeat the tax, according to an April 28 campaign finance report filed with the county board of elections. Citizens for a Better Orange County, the referendum committee organized to oppose the tax, spent $205,115 of the $234,239 it raised on direct mailings, polls and ads, some of which were produced by national political consulting groups. The N.C. Association of Realtors effectively ran the campaign from its Greensboro office
    Orange Citizens for Schools and Parks, a referendum committee organized in favor of the land transfer tax... raised $1,764 and spent $1,329 as of April 19.
    The measure was also defeated in three other counties on Tuesday: Ashe (55 percent against), Gates (71 percent against) and Tyrell (55 percent against).
    While Orange County Commissioners had allocated $100,000 for an education campaign there is no evidence that much of it was actually spent. According to Orange County residents, information flyers, in limited numbers, were not ready for mailing until after early voting had begun and, may not have been delivered before election day, if at all.

    Success for a transfer tax referendum may come in a war of attrition. Counties can keep placing the issue on the ballot but the deep pockets of realtors and homebuilders are not deep enough not sustain this rate of spending on a single issue on a statewide basis indefinitely. They've got bigger problems that will not be helped by declining infrastructure and quality of life diminution in NC housing markets caused by reduced public investment in publicly shared assets. The realtors' and homebuilders' strategy has been to achieve and early smack-down in a handful of counties to make other NC counties think twice about holding referendums. Repeated scheduling of referendums could eventually drain the war-chests of realtors and homebuilders with minimal outlay by counties.

    As always, for up to date news on transfer tax check the "Transfer Tax News" feed in the right hand column, updated as it happens.