Andrea Brambila from Inman News reports that the DOJ and FTC have been requested to follow up on an earlier review of competition in the real estate industry, especially in terms of consumer and competitor accessibility to listing information. Though the DOJ and FTC haven’t yet confirmed any details, Andrea reports that the DOJ has confirmed a review will be conducted in the spring, which is timely given that the VOW consent decree between the NAR and the DOJ expires in November of this year.
The possibility of federal review probably is scary enough for most people, but then you add on to it wild-eyed speculation by lobbyists such as Daniel Castro of ITIF, a group Inman reports was partially funded by Zillow in the past, and pundits like Rob Hahn, about a federally mandated national listing database, and what was just scary quickly turns into all-out panic.
But let’s step back for a second, and think this through. There are two basic reasons this speculation is a lot of hullabaloo. First, consumer access to listings doesn’t seem like much of a problem today, let alone one justifying federal government spending (and, from the example of the now-shuttered AMP, we can easily see how a bureaucracy like the federal government would require a LOT of money to create a national listing database). Listings are on thousands of web sites, from ubiquitous national portals to thousands of IDX web sites. Second, as Glenn Kelman from Redfin made clear recently, the MLS creates opportunity for innovation and competition from brokers rather than hinders it. Putting these two things together, any review by the DOJ or FTC likely will find that availability of listing information is not a problem needing federal budget dollars to improve.
Rob Hahn similarly speculates about a federally mandated national database that is “easily available to all data users, including consumers, Wall Street, government, and academia” but he doesn’t even attempt to address the question of what “easily available” means, including who would authorize that access.
P.S. I also understand that sold and off-market listings present a different case, but that case isn’t terribly controversial, whereas the active listings is, so the above post is only concerned about the latter.