Virtual Discrimination by Real Estate Brokers

A real estate broker who operates in 23 states has filed a complaint with Federal authorities against the local MLS for “restraint of trade” practices, according to Inman News. Ryan Gehris, who is a broker of record for flat-fee real estate company in 10 of those states, alleges that the North Carolina MLS’s requirement to physically attend specific MLS orientation classes discriminates against non-traditional web-based brokerages. I think he has a point.

handcuffed to laptop

Do I have to be here?

While I can see an argument for the advantages of attending specific events, I think that the mandatory requirement of attendance takes it too far. I think of it like networking – It makes sense to do it, but if you don’t it’s your business that is likely to suffer and that’s your choice.

In this age of WebEx, Skype or UStream.TV online meetings, it just isn’t necessary to physically go somewhere for most types of training, especially computer training. And the cost and time concerns associated with attending far away events can make it prohibitive, especially for agents that have other obligations and commitments.

The spokesperson for the MLS said the training is “not intended to be a burden to participants and is required because of the substantial changes in technology.” But if people can get a college degree with online training, it’s hard to imagine why basic MLS user training requires someone’s physical presence to be effective.

The real reason may be that the MLS would like to make it hard for non-brick-and-mortar business models because they do not like the competition. I say let their business model succeed or fail on it’s own merits, not because of discriminatory road blocks put in their way.

9 thoughts on “Virtual Discrimination by Real Estate Brokers

  1. There are laws like this that affect mortgage lenders too. Several states require a brick & mortar presence for licensing. FHA loans require you to have an office within 200 miles I believe of the home being financed.

  2. This does seem a little ridiculous when almost every state now has online real estate courses, and even accredited graduate schools have online courses. I do think the orientation is a reasonable requirement, but it should be more easily accessible.

  3. To speak on behalf of the MLS, it’s possible that the MLS does not have the ability to create a good online class, whether we’re talking monetary resources or the technical savy. Other times it’s an old fashioned mindset at work.

    Why not allow an out-of-area student to phone in and be patched through conference call style to the classroom? The student would be able to hear the instructor and work along with the other students.

    I suppose we could argue that some agents would then simply ignore the class at hand and do other work.

    Online can be simple and inexpensive, but there are pros and cons to cheap and easy.

    Online can be complex and expensive, and there are pros and cons to bigger and better.

    Speaking from the vantage point of someone who helps people in other states study for the WA State Mortgage Broker or LO exam, many out-of-staters have an extremely low interest in actually learning our state’s laws and just want the license so they can go-go-go make money-money-money.

    If the MLS has proof that a lack of LIVE classroom training leads to a high rate of unhappy MLS members, then the MLS has a good point.

  4. “If the MLS has proof that a lack of LIVE classroom training leads to a high rate of unhappy MLS members, then the MLS has a good point.”

    Jillayne, I think this is going to be hard for the MLS to prove, or even rationalize. Maybe they should just quickly put together an online training and get this PR disaster behind them.

  5. The MLS was only protected when it was published as a book. Now you can find Multiple listings of properties everywhere. The NAR does not control the MLS anymore. The people do! Let them decide what they want.

  6. I don’t think MLS’s really care about the networking aspect. The more requirements they can have for members (high entry fees, mandatory in-person orientation, etc.), the higher the barrier to entry. The beneficiaries are the existing members.

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