Cathy Whatley

Homebuyers will be able to access more comprehensive information about residential properties over the Internet as the result of a new policy governing the display of real estate listings adopted last Saturday by the National Association of Realtors.

Beginning next year, brokers who participate in the nation’s approximately 900 multiple listing services will be allowed to display MLS property listings so that they can be accessed by consumers on Web sites that provide online brokerage services, which are known as virtual office Web, or VOW, sites. At the association’s 2003 Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo, NAR’s board of directors approved the policy, which is the result of over a year of research and deliberation by two NAR work groups.

Customers of real estate brokerages that participate in a multiple listing service and operate a VOW will be able to view MLS listings, which typically contain a great deal more detailed information about properties than the online advertisements currently displayed on most real estate sites.

“The new policy on VOWs will make it possible for real estate consumers across America to see virtually the same information about residential property that professionals use. The policy also protects the integrity of that data, respects sellers’ rights to privacy and maintains the viability of the MLS system,” said NAR President Cathy Whatley, owner of Buck & Buck in Jacksonville, Fla. “Under this new policy, Realtors will remain at the forefront of the real estate transaction and more consumers will have access to more information than ever before.”

Sellers and the brokers representing them will have the right to withhold their listings from display on others’ VOWs either on a blanket or a selective basis even though the properties may be available for sale through an MLS, according to the policy adopted by the NAR board.

Before consumers can access listings on a VOW, the policy requires that they first must become bona fide customers of the brokerage operating the VOW and sign a terms of use agreement. Any agreement imposing a financial obligation between a consumer and the operator of a VOW must be established separately from the terms of use.