Online Real Estate Comes to Washington D.C.

A New York Times editorial (“Commission Accomplished“) by a very sober but friendly looking Brookings Institution senior fellow, Robert E. Litan, highlights the model that Redfin pioneered, an online real estate brokerage, and discusses the anti-competitive forces arrayed against it.

The article makes a comparison that has long been a Redfin favorite, between the stock market and the real estate market. The market for stocks and bonds is regulated by the SEC, the NASD and state laws. As a result, it is easy for E-Trade to have the same access to inventory that Merrill Lynch enjoys. But Mr. Litan notes that the market for listings has “no state or federal oversight.” The difficulty of getting access to listing data is a big reason why Redfin is in only two states, not 50.

The article proposes that the Federal Trade Commission pre-empt laws and regulations that are ostensibly designed to protect consumers but which in fact only maintain realtors’ monopoly. It also mentions that there are hearings on the matter scheduled next month in Washington, D.C., led by Ohio Congressman & fair-competition-crusader Michael Oxley, co-author of the Sarbanes-Oxley bill that brought higher standards of accountability to publicly traded businesses.

If you want to let Mr. Oxley know how you feel, you can drop him a line in less than a minute, just by filling out an online form (the Web site only accepts comments from residents of Findlay and its surroundings, postal code 45839).