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Realtor.com has revised its operating agreement to allow non-realtors to list properties on the website. In response to this broadening of listings, Realtors are outraged at what they deem a betrayal of their exclusivity as paying members.

Still, not all properties are eligible for inclusion on Realtor.com. For example, for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) properties are still denied this privilege, as they were before.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has stated this move was necessary to compete with similar websites like Trulia and Zillow, which list a wider variety of properties and are more known to the buying public.

The Realtor brand will still be highlighted on the website, with Realtor listings distinguished from non-Realtor listings by the Realtor Block-R. Realtors Information Network Inc. (RIN), a subsidiary of NAR, is currently considering additional ways to further distinguish Realtor listings from non-Realtor listings.

first tuesday insight

The nice thing about paying for a Realtor membership is that the organization is exclusive. As a member, agents have access to property listings and information unavailable to the general public. Realtors are set apart in a class of their own from other, generic agents.

Right?

Not so fast. The real distinction between Realtor-brand agents and other licensed agents and brokers has always been questionable at best. It’s true, NAR has a code of ethics and pledges honesty and fair dealing, but they’re no different from the rules handed down by the Bureau of Real Estate (BRE), the California legislature and our courts. If you are a bad actor, it is the BRE that pulls your license, not NAR.

Realtor members consistently acknowledge just two benefits of their membership:

  • real estate forms; and
  • multiple listing service (MLS) access.

It is for this reason they pay upwards of $500 every year in membership dues.

However, many are unaware that MLS access is not and cannot be exclusive to Association of Realtor (AOR) members, thanks to California court decisions in the mid-70s. [Marin County Board of Realtors, Inc. v. Palsson (1976) 16 C3d 920]

Want to cut your annual membership bill by more than half, but retain your MLS access? Become an MLS-only member of your local board of Realtors. It’s not like this will exclude you from Realtor.com anymore.

Related article:

Real(i)ty check: MLS access for non-CAR members

As for forms, California brokers and their agents have the freedom of using any they choose. Although many real estate agents erroneously believe they must use CAR forms, they actually violate real estate law by refusing to accept forms published by other entities. Agents have a fiduciary duty to their sellers to present all offers received, regardless of the form upon which it is written.

Related article:

Airing CAR’s laundry – dirty forms

Although many agents rail against the proliferation of free real estate information now available online, changes toward an increasingly open marketplace will not be reversed. In a Q&A published on realtor.org, NAR stated, “In today’s digital world, consumers get what consumers want. If a real estate listing site is not meeting consumer needs, other providers will step in to fill the void.”

Given the option between a listing site which provides information only on MLS homes, or a listing site which provides information on MLS and non-MLS homes, which do you think a home buyer will choose?

The march of technological advancement and limitless accessibility can only move forwards, not backwards.

Broadening access to allow non-Realtor listings on Realtor.com was inevitable. Now members need to ask themselves: Is a transition from Realtor membership to MLS-only membership also just a matter of time? It has been long in coming, and the big brokers imposing massive expense on their agents is the source of the problem.

Of course, you may be really attached to that big, fancy “R.”  In that case, no one can help you cut costs.

Re: “Some fear realtor.com changes will dilute brand, standards” from Inman News and Questions and Answers About the Realtor.com® Vote from the National Association of Realtors