Friday, October 12, 2007

Antitrust Division Web Site Touts Benefits of Competition for Real Estate Industry

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

Over the last few years, the federal antitrust agencies have kept a close watch on competition in the real estate market. In October 2005, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division and the FTC hosted a joint workshop to debate some of the issues. And, in July 2006, representatives from the agencies testified at a House subcommittee hearing about their advocacy efforts and enforcement actions in the industry.

Now, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division has launched a Web site aimed at educating consumers, policymakers, and the real estate industry about the benefits of competition. According to Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, the “Web site will help consumers and policymakers understand the benefits of increased competition among real estate agents."

The Web site, which was launched on October 10, includes maps identifying states with real estate laws that can inhibit competition, a calculator to help consumers tally their potential savings when brokers pursuing new business models compete for their business, and links to additional government resources.

State Restrictions

Some states have passed laws making it illegal for brokers to offer rebates or requiring them to offer a full package of traditional services regardless whether all consumers want them, according to the Antitrust Division. The Web site contains data showing that if these sorts of barriers to competition were eliminated, consumers could save thousands of dollars in real estate commissions when selling one home and buying another.

The Antitrust Division identifies 12 states that forbid buyers’ brokers from rebating a portion of the sales commission to the consumer and eight that states require consumers to buy more services from sellers’ brokers than they may want, with no option to waive the extra items.

The Web site address is:

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