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Home arrow Real Estate News arrow General News arrow Real estate industry are shaken up by Internet brokers

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Real estate industry are shaken up by Internet brokers
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Monday, 04 September 2006

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The Internet has radically changed the way consumers buy books and airline tickets, trade stock and learn news. But the real estate industry has resisted change and protected its commission structure by controlling the information on its Multiple Listing Service database of properties for sale.

Redfin and other innovators, including ZipRealty and BuySideInc.com, are using technology to reduce costs and to save time for their brokers. Agents don't find and recommend homes -- customers do that on their own, using Internet listings -- and that enables agents to charge less for the services they do provide, chiefly handling the paperwork and negotiations.

"You can find out more on the Internet about an eBay Beanie Baby than you can about a US$1 million house," said Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin, a licensed broker in Washington state and California.

The MLS is the only place that contains nearly all the homes for sale in a community. Only brokers can post there, but agents can also display selected information about a listing on their own Web sites and on Realtor.com, a site that works with the National Association of Realtors.

Economists who have studied the current system say that it also does little for most agents -- except for a few stars, whose impressive earnings give hope to the large majority of less-successful agents and thus encourage them to protect the status quo. Rivals on the Internet say they do this by refusing to cooperate with buyers using Web-based brokers and by denying MLS information to some online firms.

BuySideInc.com, an online buyer's broker in Chicago that offers a 75 percent commission rebate, said that at one point 12 percent of its customers reported that traditional agents had refused to show houses to them.

The rate is now down to about 6 percent, perhaps because of responses like this: One client who was denied a showing made an offer anyway that was contingent on getting a tour -- a move intended to alert the seller to the refusing agent's actions.

The US Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have fought these tactics in Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma, among other states, and the department is suing the National Association of Realtors, the powerful trade group of agents and brokers, over what it calls anticompetitive rules.


Edwina Baniqued

 
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