Five years ago this week, a coalition of leading real estate consumer advocates nationwide — including buyer agents, fee-for-service consultants, and for sale by owner publishers — cosigned an petition calling for a Real Estate Consumer Bill of Rights which Consumer Union, publishers of Consumer Reports, echoed in their testimony in Congressional hearings on banks as brokers:
"We also call on Congress to hold hearings on the real estate marketplace. …Are consumers being treated fairly by real estate brokers? Are commissions priced fairly?" asked Consumers Union legislative counsel Frank Torres during testimony May 2nd before the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit.
"Perhaps what we should be talking about is a Real estate Consumer Bill of Rights."
Bloggers, consumer advocates, and real estate innovators — not to mention the US Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission — are renewing investigations into competition in real estate with a new urgency fueled, in part, by discrimination against flat-fee MLS listing services and their customers, plus industry-supported efforts to establish minimum levels of service for brokerages in an increasing number of states.
Homeowners trying to sell "for sale by owner" also face subtle and overt forms of discrimination, as do homebuyers using alternative real estate business models. If you’ve been a victim, we’d like to hear from you privately at RECafe@mac.com.
Congressional hearings or not, doesn’t it make sense — as it did five year ago — to ask regulators and other public officials to begin talking about a long-overdue Real Estate Consumer Bill of Rights? Last October, The Real Estate Cafe began blogging about individual articles, and would be glad to restart that discussion before the National Association of Realtors Midyear Legislative Meetings in Washington, DC, May 15-20, 2006. We invite your comment below; on our record a podcast line: 617-876-2117; or if you’re really interested in getting involved, our wiki.