Matthew Prensky
Matthew Prensky · March 28, 2024

ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) sent a letter to the Mississippi Real Estate Commission (MREC) urging MREC to reconsider an unwritten mandate that requires real estate salespeople to live within an hour of their supervising broker. This requirement violates the Mississippi Constitution and is causing widespread confusion among Mississippi’s real estate professionals. 

MREC is a state commission charged with regulating Mississippi’s real estate industry, including licensing all real estate brokers and salespeople. As part of the application process to become a salesperson, MREC staff have long required applicants to live within an hour’s drive, or about 50 miles, of their supervising real estate brokers. This licensure requirement isn’t a formal, published rule. Rather it’s a staff interpretation of another commission rule; one that simply requires a “responsible broker … to exercise supervision.” 

“We live in a digital age where geographical boundaries are becoming increasingly irrelevant, especially in professional settings,” said Aritt Davis, Principal Broker of REAL Broker LLC in Pascagoula. “This rule not only limits the freedom of real estate professionals but also hinders the growth and dynamism of our firm and the overall industry. In an era where flexibility and connectivity are key, such a geographical restriction is not just outdated, it’s a significant financial and arbitrary impediment.” 

MREC claims its proximity requirement is needed to make sure licensees are properly supervised, but according to public records, the commission applies its rule unevenly. MREC has rejected applicants who are willing to travel to be supervised or have a supervisor who’s willing to use Zoom to oversee their licensee but has sometimes approved others who clearly don’t meet the requirement. This erratic implementation of a made-up rule is causing industry-wide confusion, so much so that the Mississippi Association of Realtors has expressed some of the same concerns to MREC as IJ. Nor are IJ’s concerns just practical. MREC’s rule also violates Mississippians’ civil liberties. 

“For over a century, the Mississippi Supreme Court has held that Mississippians have an ‘inalienable’ right to pursue the profession of their choice,” said IJ Attorney Michael Soyfer. “Yet, the Commission’s one-hour-drive rule places an unnecessary stumbling block in the path of would-be real estate salespeople trying to do just that. Real estate brokers nowadays have many ways to keep tabs on the salespeople they supervise. The Commission should recognize that new reality and abandon its outdated requirement.” 

IJ has a long history of fighting unnecessary occupational licensing restrictions that prevent Americans from earning an honest living, including a victory in Pennsylvania, where IJ successfully argued that the state’s real estate licensure requirements were unconstitutional when applied to short-term rental property managers.