FSBOs on Realtor.com? Not so fast

Update: Lisia Amburn, an AE from SVAR, has clarified things at least a little. Apparently, FSBO is “getting Brokers (REALTORS) to work with them and in turn getting them to put the listings on MLS’s and REALTOR.com.”

Realtor bloggers around the country have been burning up the tubes of teh Internets today because of this press release:

ForSaleByOwner.com Becomes First to Provide New Access to Realtor.com

NEW YORK, Nov 12, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — ForSaleByOwner.com today announced that it has become the nation’s first “by owner” real estate website to enable home sellers to advertise their home on Realtor.com without appearing on a local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This new direct access to Realtor.com follows the May 2008 settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Association of Realtors. [Emphasis ours.]

Huh? FSBOs listed on Realtor.com and not in an MLS? To say this is Big News would be a bit of an understatement, and the fact that NAR didn’t tell anyone about this agreement — well, something’s not right.

It’s so “not right,” in fact, that VAR CEO Scott Brunner shot off a message to Laurie Janik, NAR’s general counsel. “We’re all a bit blindsided by this news, and I’m wondering if or how I and other Virginia AEs missed it at last week’s NAR meetings,” he wrote. “It’s a significant and controversial decision.”

About 90 minutes later, Laurie wrote back:

Please reassure your members that there are no unlisted properties on Realtor.com.

We still cannot figure out the basis for the outrageous claims being made by ForSaleByOwner.com in this press release.  No relationship exists between that entity and Realtor.com.  Listings displayed on Realtor.com continue to be provided by the MLSs, and contrary to the headline, there is NO “agent free access to Realtor.com”.

So, bottom line as we know it now: Home sellers cannot list their properties on an MLS — and therefore on Realtor.com — without going through an agent.

NAR is working to figure out what’s going on, and we’ll have more as we know it. Stay tuned.

More as it develops.

About Andrew Kantor

Andrew is VAR's editor and information manager, and -- lessee now -- a former reporter for the Roanoke Times, former technology columnist for USA Today, and a former magazine editor for a bunch of places. He hails from New York with stops in Connecticut, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.
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13 Responses to FSBOs on Realtor.com? Not so fast

  1. Pingback: FSBOs on Realtor.com?!? | Real Estate Magazine - Real Estate Opinion Column - AgentGenius

  2. From what I’m seeing, this is FSBO.com subcontracting out the mls listing service to agents for a flat fee of less than $200 (it’s a $200 add-on for any of their service plans). That means there are agents who are accepting this and completing these “orders” (someone please tell me I’m wrong, here).

    That is now the value of realtor.com with showcased listing enhancements…$200 or less.

    Hopefully the TOS can be amended to supplant this…I pay significantly more than $200 to showcase my listings at this point and I don’t see that continuing if this keeps up the way it is.

  3. Tony Arko says:

    Nowhere did I see the NAR rep say that it won’t happen in the future. NAR does not own Move. How can the NAR tell Move Inc. who they can or can’t do business with? That would be anticompetitive and I am sure the DoJ would have something to say about that. And if they take realtor.com away from Move Inc. where would they put it?

  4. Scott Brunner says:

    Tony — If I’m not mistaken, the issue you raise is pretty ironclad in the management agreement NAR has with Move. Because Move is nothing without the listing data the NAR relationship brings, I wouldn’t expect them to open up R.com to FSBOs anytime soon, and certainly not without much very discussion at all levels of the REALTOR organization beforehand. Certainly won’t be done by stealth.

  5. Tony Arko says:

    Agreed Scott. But what happens when Move says the have to generate other sources of revenue in order to continue because they are not making enough money from REALTORS? What does NAR do with the listings if they end the agreement? Just saying. Also, where there is smoke, there is usually fire. And that news release is definitely smoke.

  6. I think what they are referring to is Flat Fee MLS. Trying to make a story out of nothing. THey have been able to do it for years. Heck I was their lackey agent when I first started.

    THey pay some broker $100 to list it on the MLS with “call owner”

    It is still technically listed by a broker.

    There are some benefits for FSBOS that use the MLS ONLY service vs straight craiglist fsbo. And that is, they sign a contract to offer a particular commission, vs regular FSBOS that can change their mind at any time and cut your commission in half.


  7. It’s simple—Limited Service Agency offers the ability for agents to place listings in the MLS for a fee from the FSBO with no other services offered and viola–entry into Realtor.com. We are our own worst enemy. Kudos to those among us who have the strength and commitment to stay a full service agency.

  8. It’s not the best analogy, but here goes. It’s kind of like Wal-Mart and other big-box stores coming to town. They drive out the small shops that offered better service, personal attention, and (in many cases) higher-quality products.

    For better or worse, though, people flock to the cheap, and the boutiques and mom-and-pop shops can’t compete.

    I’ve read people saying “it must be stopped.” The Devil’s advocate in me wants to ask, “Would you also fight to keep Wal-Mart (or Home Depot, or Dominos Pizza) out of your town?”

    To make a compelling argument for stopping this practice, you need to be able to answer that question. If someone says, “Heck, it’s just like Lowe’s driving out the corner hardware store — no one likes it, but that’s capitalism,” you need to have a good argument why it’s different, or “civilians” — and courts — won’t see your side.

    Me, even before I started working here I wouldn’t consider a FSBO. When I bought each of my homes, I wanted a REALTOR® working with me, for all the reasons we know. I also prefer small book shops and corner hardware stores, and yes, I would fight to keep Wal-Mart out.

    But, sadly, I think I’m increasingly in the minority when it comes to buying books and tools. In those cases and in others, “cheap” seems to rule the day — at least till someone is burned by a poorly written FSBO contract … or a toy with too much lead paint.

  9. @Joshua – Just wanted to clarify that FSBO.com is NOT the same company or website as ForSaleByOwner.com which is mentioned above. We are not affiliated with them in any way.

  10. Michael, Thanks for chiming in.

    SO you guys just doing flat fee listings into the MLS? Why the press release? To try and look new and improved? This is old stuff.


  11. Pingback: markhandlovitch.com » Blog Archive » What ForSaleByOwner.com said is SO not true!

  12. Seems to me all a fisbo seller should expect is to try to make it on their own. No cost – not much exposure but def worth a try considering what the realtor can earn on sale of say a $250,000 home. But unfair to cut into realtors ads.

  13. Kel says:

    If Realtor.com and local MLS Services do not accept FSBO’s then those realtors selling their MLS access should be removed as members of the local and state Realtor Boards. The reason FSBO’s want to be on MLS and Realtor.com is because they know it is a vital tool… A tool that is accessed by many people. Should they not be allowed to sell their own homes? Of course not! But should they use a Realtors MLS Service? My answer is no. If you can give me a good reason as to why they should be allowed to use MLS, aside from the fact that they would be exposed to Millions of buyers, I would love to hear it. Let them list their homes on other websites. Realtor.com is for PROFESSIONAL REALTORS.

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