The National Association of Realtors said this week it will reaffirm its commitment to maintaining MLS rules regarding virtual office websites. The NAR's VOW policy was first spelled out in 2008, and is designed to allow for competition and technological innovation in the real estate brokerage industry to thrive.
The NAR's consent decree had expired on November 18.
“Despite low usage of VOWs, MLSs must remain committed to ensuring that brokers seeking to establish a VOW are able to obtain timely access to MLS data,” Rene Galicia, NAR’s director of MLS engagement, wrote in an article published on nar.realtor. “The work of the real estate industry and MLSs should not end at meeting the minimum requirements of the VOW policy. Keeping the DOJ’s initial concerns in mind, we should commit to supporting an environment where innovation, competition, and cooperation continue to thrive.”
With the expiration date of the agreement looming last June, NAR General Counsel Katie Johnson had told a workshop hosted alongside the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission that competition in the industry was becoming increasingly fierce. As such, she said that any intervention by regulators would stifle that competition.
“Our multiple listing services are the envy of the world,” Johnson said. “Regulators in other countries recognize the pro-consumer benefits of having an orderly marketplace, where all the information is located … and where there’s price competition.”
Nontraditional business models are becoming more prevalent in the real estate industry, but the NAR says MLSs can help to promote and protect competition by increasing access to their listing data and improving consumer experiences via new offerings, Galicia said.
“MLSs are an essential partner for brokerages seeking to innovate their cooperation efforts through the handling of listing data. Ensuring fast and efficient access to quality, reliable, standardized data will allow brokerages and their technology partners to innovate and shape the cooperation landscape of the future.”
Galicia said any future changes to the NAR's VOW policy will be thoroughly vetted to ensure they would not only benefit the industry but also “steer clear of any potentially anticompetitive implications.”