Real Estate Brokerage: Factors That May Affect Price Competition

GAO-05-947 Published: Aug 31, 2005. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 2005.
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Highlights

Consumers paid an estimated $61 billion in residential real estate brokerage fees in 2004. Because commission rates have remained relatively uniform--regardless of market conditions, home prices, or the effort required to sell a home--some economists have questioned the extent of price competition in the residential real estate brokerage industry. Further, while the Internet offers time and cost savings to the process of searching for homes, Internet-oriented brokerage firms account for only a small share of the brokerage market. Finally, there has been ongoing debate about the potential competitive effects of bank involvement in real estate brokerage. GAO was asked to discuss (1) factors affecting price competition in the residential real estate brokerage industry, (2) the status of the use of the Internet in residential real estate brokerage and potential barriers to its increased use, and (3) the effect on competition and consumers of residential real estate brokerage by state-chartered banks in states that permit this practice.

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