Antitrust Lawyer Blog Commentary on Current Developments

U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission Issue Report on Competition in the Real Estate Brokerage Industry

On May 8, the DOJ and the FTC issued a joint report, “Competition in the Real Estate Brokerage Industry,” to inform consumers and others involved in the industry about important competition issues involving residential real estate, including the impact of the Internet, the competitive structure of the real estate brokerage industry, and obstacles to a more competitive environment.

This report helps inform Americans about their real estate brokerage options and alert state legislatures and real estate commissions about the danger of enacting laws and regulations that harm competition.

The report followed a workshop conducted by the agencies in October 2005, entitled “Competition Policy and the Real Estate Industry.” The workshop focused on issues related to the competitiveness of the residential real estate industry and covered topics such as multiple listing services, online “virtual office Web sites,” discount and fee-for-service brokers, and minimum service requirements. Panelists at the workshop included real estate brokers, state regulators, and academics.

As discussed in the report, the review by the DOJ and the FTC suggests that, although the real estate industry has undergone a number of substantial changes in recent years – particularly as a result of technological advances such as the Internet – competition in the industry has been hindered as a result of actions taken by some real estate brokers acting through multiple listing services and the National Association of Realtors, state legislatures, and state real estate commissions. In addition, consumers likely would benefit significantly from additional knowledge about the range of options available in brokerage services and fees. Based on their review, the DOJ and the FTC recommend the following to help maintain competition and protect consumers in the real estate brokerage industry: