Are realtors going the way of travel agents?

May 28, 2008

The National Association of Realtors and the Justice Department reached a settlement on a pending antitrust case that was to go to trial in July here in Chicago. The dispute was over whether the NAR could exclude online real estate brokers from the multiple listing services (MLS)-the most important warehouse of home listings-and the site agents use to find you a house. During the housing boom, realtors protected their role in the home buying process basically through a monopoly on information-the MLS. At stake is the sacred 6% commission that goes to the buying and selling agents. The settlement will allow online brokers access to that data, and may change the model of buying and selling homes. Just as Orbitz, Travelocity, and Expedia transformed the travel industry, this could open the door for similar changes in the housing sector. I imagine many buyers and sellers find traditional realtors worth the money. But from my experience, I want the information in my hands without someone filtering it for me. Information wants to be free, and now the NAR will have to decide whether they adapt to the changing landscape, or they take the path of the RIAA and begin to fight with the changing demands of their customers. What do you think? Are traditional agents worth it, or do they take an unfair cut for what they provide? More detailed background on the issue from TechCrunch and Freakonomics. Update: For all you renters out there, here's the world's best buy vs. rent calculator.
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