New Rule Opens Door for Online Real Estate Brokers

and home buyers could save hundreds or thousands of dollars on commissions as online real estate brokers can compete with their local counterparts more effectively.

The Justice Department yesterday announced that it has reached a tentative settlement with the National Association of Realtors on an antitrust lawsuit that accused NAR of discrimination against online real estate agents by denying them the access to MLS databases. A key allegation of the lawsuit is that current NAR rules “obstructed real estate brokers who use innovative Internet-based tools to offer better services and lower costs to consumers.” And one of the “innovative” tools is rebates offered by the buyer’s agent.

According to a USA Today article which quoted Deputy Assistant Attorney General Deborah A. Garza of the Justice Department’s antitrust division as saying that the settlement

really does free brokers generally to engage in whatever they feel is the most efficient and effective way to compete.

because it can lower the cost of buying a house. The Justice Department’s antitrust division also has an online rebate calculator to help home buyers figure out how much money they can save if the buyer’s agent does offer a cash rebate, as well as a list of stats currently banning such rebate (New Jersey, unfortunately, is one of them :( ).

As the internet has changed our shopping experience and saved us money at the same time, the new settlement, if approved by the court, can be expected to bring fresh ideas into the way we buy/sell homes. So if you are buying a home, make sure to check if there’s any online realtor operating in your area and don’t forget to ask whether the agent you choose offers rebates.

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