Category Archives: Politics & Regulation

The Realcomp Anti-Trust Ruling Will Affect MLS Syndication

6thcircuit

Inman News reports that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Realcomp II in a years-long case:

Michigan’s largest multiple listing service “unreasonably restrained competition” among real estate brokers by refusing to transmit exclusive agency property listings favored by discount brokers to Realtor.com and other public-facing Web sites, a federal appeals court has ruled.

At issue was whether Realcomp’s refusal to transmit Exclusive Agency listings to places like Realtor.com was anti-competitive. Since Realcomp’s policy only applies to a tiny fraction of listings in the market, Laurie Janik, the outgoing General Counsel of NAR, suggested this wasn’t that big a deal:

NAR General Counsel Laurie Janik said that because other MLSs don’t have similar rules in place, the appeals court ruling is unlikely to have a wider impact. “I’m sure it’s extremely disappointing news to the folks at Realcomp, but it’s not the kind of case that’s going to send ripples across the rest of the industry,”

That’s especially true since the NAR’s MLS Policy prohibits the MLS from excluding Exclusive Agency listings from feeds, as Realcomp had done.

Nonetheless, I respectfully disagree with Ms. Janik. I think this ruling will send ripples across the rest of the industry. At the very least, it should since the next case that comes down the pike will surely look at Realcomp II, Ltd. v. FTC as precedent.

(By the way, for the non-lawyer folks, this case is especially significant because it came from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The only higher court is the Supreme Court. At least within the Sixth Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, this ruling is binding. And throughout the country, the ruling will be extremely persuasive.)

Before we dive into why I think this ruling is significant, since I am doing law-blogging here, I have to say that this is in no way a legal opinion (I mean, c’mon, it’s a blog post) and that you should consult your own qualified legal counsel.

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Zillow Plays the Race Card in Advance of Hosting HUD Secretary Donovan

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Last Thursday, Zillow released a report on minority access to mortgages in partnership with the National Urban League. In case you were wondering what the conclusion of the report might have been, it was titled, “A House Divided: How Race Colors the Path to Homeownership“. The topline conclusion comes from Stan Humphries, Zillow’s Chief Economist and its lead point person on policy matters (along with Katie Curnutte, Zillow’s extremely able head of PR):

It’s been more than 50 years since Dr. King fought for equality, yet it is apparent that the American dream of homeownership is not equally shared by all, even today. Our research shows that minority home buyers are encountering difficulties that often aren’t shared by white home buyers, and that even after they achieve the dream, they have been less likely to see a similar return on their investment.

Sounds dire. Horrible. How can this be in 2014?!?

And Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, beats along with the drumbeat, saying there is “hard work that remains to ensure that all Americans achieve the dream of homeownership and begin to build real and lasting wealth.”

The House Divided report was released to coincide with the live web-streamed Town Hall meeting with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, scheduled for tomorrow. The topic? If you guessed how hard minorities have it when it comes to housing, you get a cigar. The event is actually entitled, “Building Equality in Housing”.

There’s just one small problem. These conclusions and these highly charged assertions are simply not supported by the data.

I received the advance copy of the Report last week, and immediately saw some issues. I haven’t written about the Report because I wanted to clarify a few things to my satisfaction. To Zillow’s credit, it has been nothing but responsive and helpful, and I’ve had a chance to speak with Stan Humphries, Katie Curnutte, and with one of the economists on Zillow’s staff who worked on the report, Skylar Olsen. They were extremely helpful despite the fact that it was obvious from the get-go that I was highly skeptical.

In fact, they sent me a subset of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) dataset they used for the report, and allowed me to do some investigating of my own. (If they sent me the full dataset, I’d have needed a new computer….) Let me cover the Zillow report first, then get into why I think this is a completely unwarranted leap based on extremely thin, if not nonexistent, evidence.

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Why You Should Know About Aereo

I’m reasonably certain that 90%+ of my audience — that would be you — have no idea what Aereo is. And until recently, there was no real reason to know, unless you lived in the NYC area and just looooved over-the-air TV.

But last Friday, the US Supreme Court chose to hear a case involving this odd little startup, ABC, Inc. vs. Aereo, Inc., and that could have immense implications for intellectual property law. I think there could be direct relevance to real estate given the industry’s recent and ongoing fights over who owns what and how. Nothing may come of it, but Supreme Court cases rarely result in nothing, so those of you in this arena might want to check out Aereo, what’s going on, and get your lawyers involved.

FYI, I haven’t followed the case that carefully, so I’d love to hear from the legal eagles in our business (Brian? Mitch?)

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Seven Predictions for 2014: Power Ballads Edition

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You realize these fashions WILL be coming back, right?

I wanted to get to this before 2014 dawned, of course, but… it was more fun to hang out with my boys. And by that I don’t mean my posse of secret real estate pundits, but my actual biological progeny.

In any event, it’s customary here at Notorious to make predictions that are sure to go wrong, or your money back! 2014 should be no different in that regard.

This year’s musical selection comes to us from the days of my youth. I never imagined that we would one day have an entire satellite radio channel devoted to hair metal but… what a wonderful world this is indeed! For those of my friends attending Inman Connect in NYC, I heartily recommend stretching your vocal chords with these selections at karaoke. :) Continue reading

Grading Time! Reviewing My 2013 Predictions

Derek Jeter

Is it time for this Hall of Fame career to come to an end?

Welcome to another edition of an annual tradition, in which I go back and grade myself on my predictions made at the start of this year. My track record so far:

  • 2010 Predictions: 6 of 10 (.600)
  • 2011 Predictions: 4.5 of 7 (.642)
  • 2012 Predictions: 2 for 7 (.286)

As ever, I hope to be wrong most of the time, since my predictions tend to be a bit of a downer. But let’s see how I did in 2013.

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