I believe the new NAR virtual office web site (VOW) policy will take years to finish rippling through the industry. Compare it to IDX, which took four to five years to work its way through the industry: VOWs will be more difficult. Why?

  1. There are going to be a lot more VOWs.
  2. MLSs will want to regulate them, but they have few options for doing so.
  3. Even for MLSs that adopted the old VOW policy, the new policy is very different.
  4. The consequences of MLSs failing to implement the VOW policy are much more significant than the consequences of failing to implement IDX.

VOWs are going to proliferate under the new NAR VOW policy. That will be the subject of another post, I think.

Some MLSs have already asked whether they can “restrict” certain fields or listing records from display on VOWs. Their options here are very limited under the new policy.

Only 200 of NAR’s something-like-800 MLSs ever adopted the 2003 VOW policy. Most have had no policy; and the new policy offers some significant differences from the old one.

The settlement between NAR and the Department of Justice requires NAR to (1) enforce the VOW policy, by pulling certain benefits from local associations whose MLSs do not comply with it; and (2) report non-compliant MLSs to the DoJ. What’s worse, the correspondence between brokers, MLSs, and NAR relating to an MLSs’ compliance are subject to review by the DoJ, even if NAR eventually determines that the MLS is complying. It’s pretty clear DoJ is ready to go after MLSs that do not meet its standards; and it’s pretty clear that brokers and AVPs who want to innovate will press MLSs and NAR to interpret the policy liberally.

What do you think?

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