So traditional brokers have won "minimum service" laws in many states that force discount brokers to offer more services -- and thereby force consumers to pay higher fees.
When I confronted David Lereah, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, about that, he said,
"Not everyone is providing the adequate amount of services to protect the consumer."
Excuse me, but if I want a Realtor to protect my interests, I'll hire one. I didn't hire them to protect me from concluding I don't need their services. If I think I'm better off selling my home with less help than they want to sell me, that should be my choice.
Part of being a free person is deciding for yourself what's in your interests. That doesn't mean you can't get expert help, but it does mean you get to decide when, how much, and from whom. If the Realtors think "for sale by owner" and discount brokerages are bad options, they should -- as they do -- make their case through advertising.
Ironically, the same industry asking government to keep home sales expensive has itself been a victim of government meddling. Real-estate agents share information through what are called "multiple listing services." It's one of their best services, and it costs money and effort to maintain. But the federal government is trying to force the brokers to let their competitors take advantage of their invention.
Why not let real-estate services compete on the open market? Traditional brokers provide a lot of knowledge and effort, and their multiple listing services reflect big investments; if you want the benefit of their energy and expertise, it's only fair that you should pay for it. But if you think you're better off with a cheaper alternative, that should be your choice, too. The government should stick to enforcing the contracts you willingly decide to make.
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