Yesterday, news outlets in Boston began reporting that Massachusetts legislators had introduced the first Cell Phone Bill of Rights in the nation. (A simple Google search seems to challenge that, as a similar bill was introduced in California a year and a half ago; but that’s a side point.)
The $2 trillion dollar a year question is: "Why is it that consumer advocates and legislators in progressive states like Massachusetts and California can rally around feel good legislation, like MASSPirg’s Cell Phone Users’ Bill of rights, but neither state has been a first mover on a Real Estate Consumer Bill of Rights?" To my knowledge, no real estate consumer bill of rights exists at the state or federal level, despite Consumer Union’s (non profit publisher of Consumer Reports) calls for one 4.5 years ago in Congressional hearings on banks entering the real estate brokerage business.
Yes, there are tens of millions of cell phone users nationwide
(which is probably why WBUR hosted a talkshow in November 2003 called Cell phone nation), but don’t most cell phone plans cost less than a $1,000 per YEAR? Compare that to real estate. Mortgage payments of less than $1,000 per MONTH
in Massachusetts or California are rare to non-existent. The most
expensive "smart phones" cost about $500, and it’s nearly impossible to
find a single-family home in many communities in Massachusetts and
California for LESS THAN $500,000!
Do the math. Doesn’t that
suggest that a Real Estate Consumer Bill of Rights would be a thousand
times more important than a cell phone bill of rights? So, what would
it take to get a Real Estate Consumer Bill of Rights going, who should
cosponsor it, and what would you like to see included? To get started,
what can real estate consumer advocates learn from borrower’s bill of rights developed at the state and federal levels?
Over the next ten days, we’ll blog about 10 things that might be
included in a Real Estate Consumer Bill of Rights. If we create enough
momentum, we post those ideas into a wiki, and invite readers to
coauthor a draft bill of rights. If it is credible enough, we’ll
submit it as written testimony at the upcoming hearing on anti-competitive practices in the residential real estate industry, cosponsored by the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission
in Washington, DC on October 25, 2005. We invite you to post your
comments on this blog, or call us at 617-876-2117 to leave a one to
three minute sound bite (which we may include in an upcoming podcast).