Real Estate Company Will Combine Online Listings

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Real estate company RE/MAX says it will create a Web site listing homes for sale across the country. Some observers say the growing availability of Internet listings will increase competition in the real estate industry and that could lead to lower commissions.


And the Internet has made slower inroads in real estate than in some other industries, but that could be changing. The giant real estate broker RE/MAX International has announced plans to create a nationwide listing of homes for sale on its Web site. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY reporting:

RE/MAX says the new Web listing, which it plans to debut early next year, will let customers seamlessly tap information on homes for sale anywhere in the country. In the past, many Realtors have jealously guarded their online listings in what critics have called an effort to stifle low-cost competition. Earlier this year, the National Association of Realtors relaxed a policy that discouraged sharing with discount brokers. The group acted under pressure from federal antitrust officials. The association's Steve Cook says Internet listings have changed the way people shop for houses. They now visit fewer, but check out more, for example. But despite predictions, Cook says the Internet has not displaced Realtors.

Mr. STEVE COOK (National Association of Realtors): Has the Internet overall had the same kind of impact on real estate that it has on, say, travel agents? No. Every piece of property is unique and different and it requires someone who's a specialist in real estate marketing. Every airplane seat is pretty much the same.

HORSLEY: Still, some observers say the growing availability of Internet listings will increase competition in the industry and that could lead to lower commissions. Editor Blanche Evans of the online trade journal Realty Times says as long as Realtors themselves are the source of Internet home listings, it will be hard for the Net to put them out of business. What's more, she says Realtors always have some inside information you just can't get from a computer.

Ms. BLANCHE EVANS (Editor, Realty Times): They know about houses that are coming on the market, for example, that aren't even in the MLS. The bottom line is no matter how many houses there are on the Internet, that's not all of them.

HORSLEY: Many buyers seem to agree. Buyers who shop for a home on the Internet are more likely to use a Realtor than those who don't.

Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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