State Roundup: California, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island

February 1, 2006

California: “Open MLS” sought

San Francisco attorney David Barry, who’s been behind many antitrust cases against local MLS systems, most recently an unsuccessful case seeking open access to data from the Northern Kentucky Multiple Listing Service, has turned his sites on his home state. Barry in late December filed a ballot initiative with California’s attorney general seeking a statewide MLS that would be open to both real estate practitioners and the general public. To get the initiative on the ballot, Barry will need to obtain, and have verified by the secretary of state, 373,816 signatures in support of the effort. “Barry’s effort is ill-conceived,” says June Barlow, vice president and general counsel of the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. “We’re always exploring ways to make the MLS more efficient. But the free market should develop the solution, as opposed to legislating a business model through the initiative process.”

Massachusetts: Transfer tax opposed.

The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® calls a plan to fund affordable housing with a 1 percent transfer tax on homes priced above $750,000 in Martha’s Vineyard and other parts of Dukes County unfair. Home owners and home buyers in targeted areas shouldn’t have to pay for something that’s the responsibility of the entire community, says Stephen Ryan, MAR general counsel and director of government affairs. “MAR opposes transfer taxes in any locality because they’re essentially an entrance fee into a town,” he says “Home buyers who are new to the area are subject to the tax without ever having voted on it.” Instead of the tax, MAR says, affordable housing can be funded through a re-allocation of existing state affordable housing preservation funds or an override of an existing law that limits annual property tax hikes. The proposal, included in bill S. 2230, is pending in the legislature’s Joint Committee on Revenue.

Rhode Island: Insurance protection

With buyers in the state finding it hard to obtain affordable home owner’s insurance, the Rhode Island Association of REALTORS® has added a paragraph to the sales agreement its members use encouraging buyers to investigate insurance options early in the transaction. The earlier buyers shop for insurance, the better their chances of finding affordable coverage, RIAR says.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is the former director of multimedia communications at NAR.

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