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John Smaby, NAR President

According to an op-ed published on March 3 in the Wall Street Journal, “When You Buy or Sell a Home, Realty Bites,” featuring commentary from Jack Ryan, co-founder and CEO, and Jonathan Friedland, head of Brand, Communications and Policy at REX, a real estate brokerage that uses big data and machine learning, agents are no longer worth their present commission fees because “most buyers do the work themselves, spending months on the internet identifying attractive neighborhoods and homes before calling a real estate agent simply to open the door.”

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) came to the defense of the agent community in a Letter to the Editor on Sunday, March 10, titled “How REALTORS® Add Value for Their Consumers.”

“This shortsighted assumption infers that the only ‘work’ that goes into this transaction is the search for property itself,” wrote John Smaby, president of NAR. “NAR’s members showcase their value in guiding buyers as they sift through a sea of misleading information found online, while also helping clients navigate inspections and appraisals, secure reliable mortgage lenders and effectively prepare their homes for sale, along with so much more.”

Ryan and Friedland also accused NAR of anticompetitive practices.

“The authors erroneously argue that a 2008 decree between the Justice Department and NAR had the intent of helping buyers find homes online without the help of real estate professionals, and that NAR’s multiple listing services (MLSs) are anticompetitive,” Smaby wrote. “Both assertions are misinformed and fail to recognize that courts, regulators and online advertisers all agree that MLSs incentivize competition, increase efficiencies and lower costs.

“REALTORS® are more than agents and apps. They are community advocates who commit to a code of ethics and advocate for private property rights. In a transaction that is often the largest and most complex we will make in our lifetime, consumers want a trusted professional to guide them through this process. And there is no substitute for that,” added Smaby.

In response, NAR also sent RISMedia the following statement:

“REALTORS® help people buy and sell hundreds of homes over the course of their careers, giving them unparalleled knowledge of local market conditions. This is why a majority of homebuyers and sellers rely on REALTORS® for guidance when it comes to navigating the complexities of a real estate transaction. Even as technology leads to evolutions in our industry, REALTORS® are helping to drive technological innovations that ensure consumers are in the best possible position as they embark on the most intricate and impactful financial decision of their lives. As the nation’s foremost advocates for private property rights, no one has more to lose from a compromised housing industry than our members and their millions upon millions of clients.

“Ultimately, we recognize that every house and every neighborhood is unique, and with these great advancements in technology consumers across America still choose to hire real estate professionals to help them buy and sell their homes.”