Is Dallas getting to be a city of more renters than home-owners? And why is it harder to find homes to rent than to buy? A friend,  a high-profile Dallas photographer, emailed me this very question. When it comes to finding real estate, there are more sites than stars out there where you can search for real estate. Of course, it didn’t use to be this way. Once upon a time before the Internet, the real estate market was a totally different puppy. You relied on Realtors to check out giant MLS books of listings, all updated weekly. There’s the key: the Realtors guarded the information, they controlled it. 

Then the world changed.

Now you have, Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Movoto, Active Rain, HotPads, hundreds of sites out there not to mention brokers and individual agents’ sites so you can shop for a home to buy in multiple places.

But when it comes to leasing, where are the rental sites? For some reason, they just don’t seem as thorough.

My suspicion is that because buying and selling homes is more lucrative for Realtors, many don’t want to mess with rentals. In California, for example, most Realtors will not even touch a rental transaction.

What really gave a kick in the pants to getting real estate listings on line, and what “gently urged” most Realtors to share listing information by a  virtual office Web site, was a 2008 settlement between the Justice Department and the National Association of Realtors. DOJ forced brokerages to share listing data with their rivals, including Internet-based firms that offer rebates or other discounts to buyers willing to do most of the legwork to find a home. DOJ was concerned that agents had a monopoly on sales information. DOJ is also the reason why you are required to register when you are searching on agents’ websites — that was part of the settlement. Of course, that is also capture for the agents.

In most parts of the country, and here in Dallas, brokers share information about properties through the MLS (multiple listing service). It’s a database of property sales histories operated by a group (or groups) on behalf of its members. In Texas, of course, we do not have to disclose sales prices. New York City remains an MLS hold-out: though Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx each have a multiple listing service, many agents in New York City are not members. Rather, they participate in the Real Estate Board of New York, called R.L.S. To rent, you contract with a leasing broker who’s fee is usually one month’s rent, which is pretty standard and also negotiable.

But back to our Dallas family of four seeking a nice house to lease in the Richardson School District: does anyone have a three bedroom, two and a half bath, beautiful home with a leafy back yard and room for kiddos to grow up?