Licensed real estate agents and brokers will be able to gain access to electronic home sales listings without joining a Realtor trade association, the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors said yesterday in settling a lawsuit filed by a rival group.
An association of black real estate agents and brokers accepted an offer by the board yesterday afternoon that will allow non-Realtors to pay a fee to use the computer service, known as the multiple listing service (MLS) in the trade.
The Real Estate Brokers of Baltimore -- formed in 1947 when blacks were barred from all-white realty associations -- sued the Realtors board in November, accusing it of racial discrimination and antitrust violations for denying nonmembers access to electronic home sales information.
"The primary goal was access to the multiple list without having to be a member of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors," said Charles G. Byrd Jr., of Brown, Alston & Byrd. "This has achieved the primary goal. Real estate agents can gain access without being a member of the National Association of Realtors," of which the Greater Baltimore board is an affiliate.
Members of Real Estate Brokers will be able to "join the multiple list without dual membership required," he said.
The notion of non-Realtor brokers or agents using such systems, considered a primary tool for linking buyers and sellers, remains radical to many in the industry, who say trade associations should limit their services to dues payers.
Addressing concerns that non-Realtors would not be subject to the same ethical standards as Realtors, the board is requiring all users of the service to comply with the board's guidelines, rules, professional standards and ethical codes, said Christine Vasiliou, the Realtors group's executive vice president.
"To access the MLS, they need to abide by these rules," she said, adding that the board has made no distinction between Realtors and non-Realtors in the type or extent of access granted.
Members of the 257-member Real Estate Brokers, known as Realtists, have been forced to pay dues also to join the Realtors group -- and gain access to the MLS -- or face putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage, the group had argued. The Real Estate Brokers charge $175 annually in principal brokers dues, while the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors charges $354 for annual state, local and national fees, Mr. Byrd said.
The service, used in about 650 brokers' offices in Baltimore and four surrounding counties, lists almost all resale homes on the market, typically thousands at a given time, by price, description and location. Run by board subsidiary Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Information Technologies Inc., (MARIT) the listing is one of the oldest and largest on the East Coast.
The fee structure for non-Realtors has not yet been set, Ms. Vasiliou said.
In its June 1 offer, which gave the plaintiffs until yesterday to accept, the Board of Realtors said it was not admitting liability
for claims outlined in the lawsuit.