Sitemeter is a wonderful “bloggers” toy and tool. It allows bloggers to follow their traffic and it gives them an idea of where their readers are coming from via internet service providers and business web sites. During a analytic check yesterday, I noticed that a employee of The Department of Justice was surfing my site; and their main focus was an article written about one of the 350 victims of Ed Okun: “One of the 350 Victims of Ed Okun’s Bankrupt 1031 Tax Group Speaks Out: The Most Compelling Case Yet For Action To Be Taken.” Out of curiosity aka fear, I followed the referrer link. The link dropped into the DOJ web site and the following article was the first order of business.
Maybe it is a good time for Realtors, brokers, and Mortgage professionals to monitor this web site. It seems that “Big Brother” may have actually woken up and is about to watch you after all:
Antitrust Division Launches Web Site on Competition in the Real Estate Brokerage Industry
WASHINGTON — “The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice launched a new Web site today to educate consumers and policymakers about the potential benefits that competition can bring to consumers of real estate brokerage services and the barriers that inhibit that competition. Among its features, the Web site includes maps identifying states with real estate laws that can inhibit competition, a calculator to help consumers tally their potential savings when brokers pursuing new business models compete for their business, and links to additional government resources. The address is: http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/public/real_estate/index.htm.
“Buying or selling a home is the largest financial transaction most Americans will ever undertake,” said Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department’s Antitrust Division. “This Web site will help consumers and policymakers understand the benefits of increased competition among real estate agents.”
The estimated median commission paid by home sellers in 2006 was $11,672, according to the Antitrust Division. New real estate brokerage models have the potential to reduce that amount by thousands of dollars. For example, in states that allow open competition, some buyer’s brokers rebate up to two-thirds of their commission to the customer, and some seller’s brokers offer limited-service packages that let sellers list their homes on the local multiple listing service (MLS) for as little as a few hundred dollars.
In a number of states, however, laws have been passed making it illegal for brokers to offer rebates, or requiring them to offer a full package of traditional services regardless whether all consumers want them. The Antitrust Division Web site contains data showing that if these sorts of barriers to competition were eliminated, consumers could save thousands of dollars in real estate commissions when selling one home and buying another.
The Web site also explains how consumers are harmed when states forbid competition between lawyers and non-lawyers to conduct real estate closings, and when brokers tailor the rules governing local multiple listing services to exclude lower-cost rivals.
Consumers are encouraged to contact the Antitrust Division if they have information concerning anticompetitive conduct in the real estate brokerage industry.”
The fact that the DOJ is encouraging consumers to contact them if they (consumer) feel they have been a victim of “anticompetitive conduct” by a real estate or mortgage professional should serve as notice to those in the industry.
Will this information provide more safety to consumers involved in 1031 exchanges? It seems unlikely unless the DOJ makes the effort to SEO their site like any good blogger. In this instance without a ad campaign online or in the media, this site may never reach it’s intended target.
For more pertinent information on 1031 exchanges and the real estate industry check out http://www.therealestatebloggers.com. Tom writes an excellent warning: 1031 Exchanges Coming Under Greater Scrutiny From The IRS.