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This Is the Sound of Chinks Appearing in Armor

There have been many discussions on this blog, probably too many, about Realtors. (Click here or here or here, or, if you’re really twisted, just type “Realtor” in this page’s search box.) The gist? The National Association of Realtors has done a great job protecting its members but at the expense of allowing homesellers and buyers to enjoy a truly competitive environment.

Today’s N.Y. Times carries an article by Vikas Bajaj, nestled quite innocuously on page C3, that seems to portend at least the short-term future of the real-estate business.

“The Federal Trade Commission,” Bajaj writes, “said yesterday that five regional real estate listing services had agreed to treat listings from discount brokers no differently than those from traditional agents … The announcement suggests that regulators are making headway in their campaign to deal with practices in the real estate industry that they say have reduced competition and supported high sales commissions … The National Association of Realtors said it disagreed with the F.T.C.’s characterization of listing services, noting that the systems assist competition by making it easy for buyers to search for homes. But officials for the group added that the settlements with the five firms indicated that the government might now be amenable to reaching a national deal with the industry.”

Here is the F.T.C.’s announcement; and here is the N.A.R.’s official blog, which doesn’t yet carry news of the F.T.C. deal, but I am hoping it soon will.