Dan Naylor ProfileDan Naylor

Maybe you missed the recent discussions with the Real Estate Commission about privacy of real estate sales data, but there were a lot of brokers worried about the possibility of new restrictions on how sold data can be used.

Law and statute changes remind me of tropical storms. A small shift in the weather over the ocean can sometimes develop into a raging storm that has strong and sometimes catastrophic effects when the storm makes landfall. Once while I was in Chetumal, Mexico. I experienced one of these storms first hand. Just like a tropical storm, a small change in legal language can sometimes cause major changes to the way business and transactions play out over many years following.

To bring you up to speed, recently the National Association of Realtors® requested that all local Multiple Listing Services (MLS) release their sold data so that larger databases could be compiled. Across the United States, each state has different privacy laws regarding the use of property sales data. Utah is considered a non-disclosure state. and there was some worry that this was against the desires of Utah residents. However, when you look at Utah law, rather than there being laws that protect the privacy of sold data, there are simply no laws that specify whether sold data must be disclosed. In contrast, other states in the nation have laws stating that sold data must be made public.

The Utah Association of Realtors® wanted to protect the interests of Utah homeowners. They drafted a small change to the Utah statute and presented it to the Real Estate Commission. The change would require that no sold data could be shared, unless you had written permission from both buyer and seller. The Commission discussed the proposed language, and decided to approve the change. It then went up for public comment.

In Chetumal, the storm approached the beach, and paused 5 miles out to sea. There it began to grow stronger and stronger, developing into hurricane Keith. As the hurricane grew stronger, from a category 1, to a category 2, then 3, and then a category 4 hurricane, we prepared for the worst. We stocked up on supplies, covered windows, and settled down to wait, as we watched the clouds speeding across the sky in anticipation of the storm making landfall.

When the proposed change opened for public comment, there was a flurry of opposition from brokers across the state, prompting the Commission to hold a special meeting for public comment which drew wall to wall attendance. The storm had received attention from all corners of the state. Many brokers commented on how it would be very difficult for them to continue their current business.It was highlighted that it is in the public’s best interested to make sold data available, so that the common consumer can properly value home purchases, and keep the market flowing fairly.

The commission went back to the proposed language, and it was determined that there was already enough protection in place, and the new language was not necessary. UAR also conceded that they now felt that the existing statutes were sufficient, and they withdrew their support for the change. The commission opted to simply wait out the legal period for the proposed changes to expire. These proposed changes expired in August, and the issue has now quieted down.
Much in the same way in Chetumal, for 2 days hurricane Keith built up steam. On day 3 it quickly dissipated and degraded to a tropical storm that went back out to sea.

I don’t know the full effect this proposed change might have had on the Utah market, but I am glad to be aware of possible changes that might come, and how they might affect the consumer. We do have a great resource in the property sold data, and I hope that we can continue to benefit from it.