Consumers paid an estimated $65.7 billion in residential real estate brokerage fees in 2005. Observing that 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. Furthermore, 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. This has raised concerns about potential barriers to greater use of the Internet in real estate brokerage. In this testimony, which is based on a report issued in August 2005, GAO discusses (1) factors affecting price competition in the residential real estate brokerage industry and (2) the status of the use of the Internet in residential real estate brokerage and potential barriers to its increased use.
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