Hat tip to Mike, who sent this from the nytimes – I wish the associations of realtors would be more exclusive, and kick out the scumbags!:
Several Hamptons real estate executives said Tuesday that they had been contacted by Justice Department officials seeking information about a listing service that has been criticized as an effort to keep smaller agencies from having access to the area’s best properties.
The service, known as Realnet, allows members to share their listings with other members. Last year, George Simpson, who runs his own real estate listing company, sued more than two dozen local brokerages and Realnet. Mr. Simpson said that because only larger brokerages could afford the annual fee, which he said ranged from $15,000 to $50,000, those brokerages ultimately controlled “80 percent to 90 percent of the exclusive real estate listings.”
Three brokerages named in the lawsuit — the Corcoran Group, Brown Harris Stevens and Prudential Douglas Elliman — declined to comment or did not return calls. Realnet did not return a call and an e-mail message seeking comment.
By August, Mr. Simpson had withdrawn his lawsuit and said that he planned to refile his case under “different circumstances” and continue “moving forward with the crusade.”
But the original case apparently caught the attention of Justice Department officials. Mr. Simpson said that in the past month, he spoke for 90 minutes by telephone with several department employees about the structure of the real estate industry in the Hamptons and which firms dominated the market.
Members of a multiple listing service post their sales listings for other members to see; nonmembers could be at a disadvantage because sellers generally prefer to have their homes placed on listing services and exposed to as many potential buyers as possible.
John Nickles, a broker based in Southold and the chairman of the multiple listing service for the Hamptons and North Fork Realtors Association, said that he was interviewed on May 5 by two Justice Department lawyers, an economist and a paralegal. Mr. Nickles said that his brokerage could not afford the more expensive system; he pays $160 a month for access to the local multiple listing service that he leads.
Joe Kazickas, owner of an Easthampton real estate company that runs a Web site called Hamptonsrentals.com, said he was scheduled to speak to Justice Department officials on May 24. He said that smaller brokerages that could not pay for the costlier listing database would find it “very difficult to compete.”