According to NAR there has been a lot of speculation recently about the 2008 settlement agreement between the DOJ and NAR.
Even though NAR reached an agreement with the DOJ, they successfully discouraged most brokers from using a VOWs by allowing the MLS to charge a lot more for them. In many cases it costs twice as much to put up a VOW vs. an IDX website.
This price increase means that companies that market websites to Realtors almost always market the IDX version. As most Brokers are not programmers and do not have a large IT staff, this effectively eliminated most of the Brokers from using a VOW. They had no choice, only IDX websites are being offered by the popular website vendors.
In addition, they added rules to a VOW that and IDX site does not have to worry about. One rule eliminates 80% or more of website visitors by forcing visitors to sign up before seeing all the data.
So it is no surprise that NAR has said “… we do not know how many VOWs are still operating today …”. The answer is probably very few. They could easily find out how many VOWS there are by simply asking the MLSs for a count of VOWs and IDX websites. I believe they do not want to do this because everyone will see just how effective their road blocks to having a VOW have been.
While they have taken some steps to make an IDX more effective by releasing some of the data they previously required an IDX to hide, they should take a final step and release all the data, as that is what consumers want, and it helps Realtors too.
By hiding withdrawn and expired listings sellers do not know what prices are too high. A seller might price their property higher, not realizing a neighbor tried the same price and after 1 year their listing expired. If they had that data, they could price their home correctly. Pricing a home right benefits the Realtor who now can sell the home instead of having it sit on the market, and the seller too.
You might say consumers can get that information from Realtors, so no need to give them access. I say the days of Realtors being the gate keepers to MLS data should be long over. Consumers have told us loud and clear they want access to all the listings, they do not want to be forced to go through their Realtor to get this data.
PS: For those of you interested in the future of VOWs, you may want to read this article Drew wrote at the end of last year.