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More than ten years ago, the FTC and the Department of Justice published a joint report outlining some concerns about impediments to competition in the residential real estate industry.   At an upcoming June 5 workshop co-hosted by both agencies, a wide range of experts will explore what competition looks like today.  

When the 2007 report was issued, the internet was young, and innovative real estate agents had just begun to create “virtual office websites” to market homes for sale.  Discount and limited-service brokers were also arriving on the scene to offer an alternative to traditional full-service real estate brokers.  These changes were good for consumers.  But as the FTC/DOJ report cautioned, other developments were impeding competition and reducing consumers’ choices for real estate brokerage services.  In particular, the report identified certain industry practices and state laws that restricted the flow of listing information and reduced competition among residential real estate brokers.

Fast forward to today: consumers can view homes for sale anywhere in the world from their mobile phones. As a consequence, sellers want their home to appear wherever buyers are searching, including on portals that are not affiliated with a real estate brokerage.  Consumers who are ready to buy can set up alerts for new listings in neighborhoods where they want to live.  They can search, sort, and take virtual tours of homes for sale whenever and wherever it is convenient for them.  According to industry sources, home buyers and sellers routinely rely on these sources to learn about local housing markets prior to contacting a real estate professional. 

In light of how consumers now typically start the home buying and selling process, what is the state of competition among residential real estate brokers today?  The FTC and DOJ will explore this question with industry stakeholders at the June 5 workshop, for which the agenda is now available. The event promises to be an interesting look back – and look forward – at trends in the real estate industry.

The day will start at 9 am with introductory remarks by FTC Chairman Joe Simons.  Panel #1 will offer an overview of developments in technology and listings information flow, and how these advances have changed the consumer experience and the structure of the real estate industry.  Panel #2 will feature real estate professionals sharing insights on emerging and evolving fee and service models.  Panel #3 will delve into regulatory and policy issues affecting competition in the residential real estate marketplace and ask what obstacles to competition remain.  The workshop will conclude with remarks from Bob Potter, Chief of DOJ’s Competition Policy and Advocacy Section.

The event is free and open to the public.  Registration begins at 7:45 a.m. at the FTC’s Constitution Center Conference Center, 400 7th Street, S.W., in Washington, DC.  We are also accepting public comments on the topics discussed at the workshop through July 31, 2018.

Can’t make it to Washington on June 5th? We’ll post a link on the event page just before 9:00 ET that morning so you can watch the webcast live.  You can also follow us on Twitter at using the hashtag #RealEstateFTCDOJ.

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