What Do the Natl. Assn. of Realtors and Genghis Khan Have in Common?
Nothing, except for the fact that I’m going to write about both of them here.
A couple weeks ago, I posted about Thomas Robinson, an accounting professor at the University of Miami who, through ancestral DNA testing, had been deemed the first American to be able to genetically claim to be a descendant of Genghis Khan. Well, it turns out that someone fudged the test. Robinson had first been informed of his relation to Mr. Khan by Oxford Ancestors of England. But, with induction into the Mongol royal house underway, as well as a potential movie deal, Robinson asked for a second opinion from Family Tree DNA of Houston. No Khan connection, said the Houston outfit; and a second British DNA company concurred. Which makes me realize: if I’m running an ancestral DNA company like Oxford Ancestors, it’s pretty easy to tell any customer that he is related to some warlord or artist or athlete even if he’s not, and the odds of him ever finding out — unless I have the misfortune to claim he’s related to someone really famous, and goes to the trouble of getting a second opinion — is quite rare.
As for the National Association of Realtors: there are at least three bad things happening:
1. The Department of Justice’s antitrust case against the N.A.R. is moving forward; settlement talks between the two parties have broken down — over the issue, I am told, of whether certain new breeds of real-estate brokers should have full access to the MLS system.
2. The Consumer Federation of America has released a report about the real-estate “cartel,” a report claiming to show how “many traditional real estate brokers, and their associations, successfully stifle competition, what reforms are needed to protect home buyers and sellers, and how these consumers can protect themselves.” In the Washington Post‘s rather entertaining summary, the C.F.A. boss called the current commission system “cockamamie” (a word you don’t hear enough these days), to which an N.A.R. official replied, “It’s clear and evident that they don’t understand the real estate business.”
3. I have been told by a heretofore reliable source that the House Financial Services Committee (Housing Subcommittee) will soon hold a hearing to explore the competitive (or anti-competitive) practices of the brokerage industry. “This is significant,” explains my source, “because this is the first Congressional action on real estate – dipping the toe in the water – in many many years (other than the question of whether national banks can engage in brokerage). Congress has for the better part of a century obeyed the National Association of Realtors’ instruction to allow the brokers to run the MLS system.”