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“List on Realtor-com” flat fee under fire by NAR

Flat fee websites using the phrase “List on Realtor.com” were the subject of a preliminary injunction granted by a federal judge for deceptive advertising and trademark infringement, which the Defendant allegedly says he will fight by naming “1000+” other Brokers that use the phrase in their advertising.

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Allegations of deceptive advertising practices

AGBeat – The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has been granted a preliminary injunction in federal court against Listed On, Inc. and Get Listed On, Inc. as well as their operator, Florida real estate broker, John Fothergill, halting use of several URLs for what court documents name as improper use of the term “Realtor,” and for the Defandants’ use of advertisements for For Sale By Owner (FSBO) services that mislead users to believe advertisements originate with NAR or Realtor.com when they do not.

According to the order for preliminary injunction, U.S. District Court Judge, Sharon Johnson Coleman ordered the following:
1. Defendants are prohibited from making any description or representation stating or implying that Defendants’ goods or services, domain names, or websites are in any way affiliated, associated, authorized, sponsored, endorsed, or otherwise connected with NAR;
2. Defendants are prohibited from any other conduct that is likely to cause confusion or to cause mistake or to deceive as to the source, affiliation, connection, or association of Defendants’ domain names, websites, products or services with NAR; and
3. Defendants are prohibited from making any description or representation that FSBO properties may be displayed on Realtor.com.
4. Defendants are prohibited from using the following domain names: listedonrealtor.com, listedonrealtor.net, getlistedonrealtor.com, sellitnowonrealtor.com, and realtorfy.com.

Visiting any of the websites listed above leads to blank screens or 404 Error messages as of the time of publication.

Confusion said to be caused by advertisements

The NAR prohibits homeowners from directly advertising FSBO listings on Realtor.com and claims that the reputation of NAR and its members are damaged by the confusion caused by the Defendants’ advertisements as shown below:

NAR claims that the “Defendants’ advertisements cause confusion, deception or mistake about the source and origin of the advertisements and make numerous false or misleading statements and representations.”

Court documents state that members of NAR have lodged complaints such as “At first sight, it appeared Realtor.com was the originator and trying to cut out the REALTOR® by ‘saving’ thousands in commission. On further investigation, this was misleading in that it uses Realtor.com and it’s trademark and then in small print under it, adds, and other real estate websites… In reviewing your guidelines, if nothing else, it appears to be a
trademark infringement, please [sic] deceptive advertising.”

Prior communications

NAR Associate General Counsel, Ralph Homen told AGBeat that they did communicate with Fothergill prior to filing for an injunction which they said that due to non-compliance with their concerns, there was no alternative.

While thousands of people and companies receive cease and desist letters from the National Association of Realtors every year for misuse of the “Realtor” trademark in their URL, this injunction appears to be focused on the trademark violation and misleading advertising, rather than an attack on the FSBO model.

The forthcoming counterclaim

Fothergill has not yet responded to a request for comment, nor has a formal response been filed with the Courts. In an email obtained by AGBeat, circulated from what appears to be Fothergill’s email account, he wrote to other Brokers, “Prepare yourself, they are seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for the use of this term, and they are going after not only brokerage corporations, but also the BROKERS personally. “If I go”, I’m going to be including your firm in my counterclaim against NAR as a named co-Defendant, along with about 1,000+ other flat fee brokers/web sites. You can all hire your attorney’s [sic] and fly to Chicago.. Just like I’m being forced to do.”

“Please contact me if you would like to fight this issue, and feel free to pass this Court Order on to your constituents,” Fothergill added. “Again, NAR is going after Brokers personally, and your personal assets are at stake.”

Full preliminary injunction order available here.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Austin

Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?

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Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.

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aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.

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zillow move

Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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