The real estate industry is all about access to information: the less the consumer knows and the more information is held exclusively by brokers and their agents, the more a consumer is dependent on the brokers. Our GAR has fought a losing battle for decades to keep as much information away from consumers as was possible. Here’s just a sampling of those efforts.
Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
Only in the Manhattan real estate market do brokers still enjoy “exclusive listings”, forcing a buyer to deal with a single, individual broker if she wants to buy in a particular co-op. Greenwich realtors had that same system for years and fought a ferocious battle to keep the Multiple Listing Service out. The MLS, you see, provides all agents with the same information: price, price history, details of each house, etc. so any agent can show and sell any house in the system. Clearly it is in a home seller’s interest to have his house exposed to the entire marketplace of buyers and not just a handful of customers of a particular brokerage firm, but real estate brokers pay only lip service to the concept of placing a customer’s interest first; it is, to coin a phrase, “all about them”. And so the GAR resisted the introduction of a MLS for years and only gave up that fight when every other state in the union union had installed it.
Having lost that battle, our GAR, comprised of Greenwich brokerage firms, came up with the idea of creating their own private MLS system rather than join the state-wide MLS, the C(onnecticut) MLS . This was not done from some motive to help Greenwich homeowners but rather to protect the business interest of member firms of the Greenwich Association of Realtors by keeping out – of – town agents from knowing anything about Greenwich properties and preventing them from showing Greenwich houses to their own clients.
For Sale Signs
Dressed up as an altruistic means of preserving the Greenwich landscape, this is really just another ploy to keep knowledge away from consumers. If you didn’t know what was sale, you needed the services of a real estate agent to tell you (then).
Why aren’t addresses given in local real estate advertising?
Certainly not to protect a homeowner’s privacy. Notice that open house ads do provide addresses, because otherwise how would anyone find the house? The fact is that newspaper real estate ads aren’t intended to, and don’t sell a particular house. They’re run to placate and sooth the ego of anxious home sellers but most important, to draw in new customers for the firm. If there’s no address given, anyone interested in a particular house is forced to call the brokerage firm and inquire. Homeowners should know that usually the agents fielding calls about your property are (a) the least experienced, least productive salespersons – good agents are out of the office with their own clients – and (b) usually know absolutely nothing about your house, having never seen it. They’ll read the listing details to a caller but their training and their job is to convert the caller into a customer of the firm, not sell your house.
Public Open Houses
Again, the purpose of these is to gain new customers for the listing firm and any sale of your own house arising from the open house is pure coincidence. Notice those raffles at open houses? Ever wonder what they have to do with selling the house you’re viewing? Absolutely nothing, of course; they’re there to lure you into yielding your name and contact information so that an agent can be assigned to pester you in the future. Rest assured that when that call comes it will have nothing to do with the house you saw.
This is probably the most telling, and revealing side of the business that is Greenwich real estate. When the MLS was introduced, it was in the form of loose-leafed pages, each containing information on a particular house. Each agent was required to assemble her own “book” of those pages and she wasn’t given access to listings that had come to the market before she started, so new agents had almost no access to the broader Greenwich inventory.
This was be design: agents hate competition from their own firm’s agents every bit as much as they hate competition from outsiders. Books eventually added pictures in the mid-1980s, approximately 150 years after the invention of photography and, finally, were assembled into one bound volume issued every week. Agents were forbidden, under pain of expulsion from the GAR, from lending that book to their own clients or anyone not a member of the GAR.
The Coming of the Internet
The Internet has destroyed all this – information wants to be free and the secret knowledge clutched so tightly by Greenwich realtors has escaped. Anyone can now learn an advertised home’s address, anyone can discover its sales history, anyone can see pictures of the property on line. The GAR has fought this development for over a decade, losing ground every day and yet still refusing to change the business practices that served it so well over the years. Addresses still aren’t given in real estate ads, listing sheets given to clients must be carefully sanitized and stripped of sales history, days on market, original sales price, etc., even though all that information is now publicly available on the Internet. Why? Pure denial, but that happy state is crashing down, which is fun to watch.
Later – how the Connecticut real estate brokerage firms hijacked buyer representation and turned it from a benefit for buyers to a trap for the exclusive benefit of Realtors.