The Massachusetts Attorney General has made a bold step toward helping consumers by forging an agreement with the Nantucket Association of Real Estate Brokers Inc. that effectively opens up the pool of prospective agents.
Prior to Nov. 14, the association and its Multiple Listing Service made it nearly impossible for off-island realtors to list homes there. Requirements for membership pretty much excluded off-island agents from the market unless they had a physical office there, were involved in the community, and paid a $5,000 membership fee. The state alleged the restrained competition violated Massachusetts consumer protection and antitrust laws.
“Competition is important to our markets and helps to ensure better results for consumers,’’ Attorney General Maura Healy said. “Organizations should not use membership rules or requirements to limit competitors where there is no basis to do so.’’
The November agreement between Healy’s office and the Nantucket association opened membership to off-island brokers and reduced the initiation fee from $5,000 to $500. The agreement also eliminated the requirement that brokers be actively involved in the community.
What does the agreement mean to the home buyer or seller? Without access to their listing service, nonmember agents were virtually boxed out of the competition, limiting consumer choices on who should represent them. It’s not to say that island brokers haven’t been providing quality services to their clients, but people on Nantucket are going to be better served by having the ability to choose from a wider pool of agents based on track record, experience, knowledge, and fees.
As it stands, of the 24 sales on the island this year, six were by off-island brokers. That’s a quarter of the real estate transactions in 11 months. It’s evident that island residents have been trying to expand their options to find other agents to work with beyond Nantucket. This appears to be demonstrative of the evolving world of real estate. Technology has expanded regional limitations on the state and national level, and now we’re seeing it on Nantucket.
The world of real estate continually evolves hand in hand with technological advancements. Years ago, for example, there were more than 15 Multiple Listing Services in Massachusetts. Now the largest, Massachusetts Multiple Listing Service, covers all of the state, but there are some areas such as Cape Cod where other MLS systems are used in addition to the state one. This evolution to centralizing listing services enables realtors to sell property effectively anywhere. A more holistic system is changing the game for real estate, and there is no reason that agents should be prevented from working anywhere in the state in which they’re licensed. Homes are sold online. As long as you price a home correctly — which isn’t hard because you can pull comparable sales figures off MLS — you can sell it. I could sell a home here in Watertown as well as I can sell one in Holden.
Real estate transactions are one of the largest financial decisions people make, and now island residents are better able to choose the agent they feel comfortable having manage this sometimes overwhelming experience.