As you are likely aware, the National Association of REALTORS®, along with many large Brokerages and MLSs, have been involved in several class-action lawsuits in recent years challenging, among other things, how REALTORS® are compensated. The argument from the class is that home sellers have been harmed by the practice of the Sellers Agent compensating Buyers Agents. They claim that offers of compensation through the MLS has artificially inflated home prices and passes the burden to the consumer in violation of anti-trust laws.
NAR stands firm on the belief that these claims are wrong on their facts and that the MLS is pro-consumer, pro-competition and that the practice of Sellers agents offering compensation to Buyers agents helps to protect all participants in a transaction. A market where the Buyers are solely responsible for compensating their REALTOR® would put an undue burden on the Buyer, leaving a large percentage of first time buyers out of the market or forcing them to participate in the process unrepresented.
This week, RE/MAX and Anywhere Real Estate, the parent company of Coldwell Banker, Century 21, ERA, Better Homes and Gardens, Corcoran and Sotheby’s International, individually announced that they have reached settlements in the Burnett and Moehrl lawsuits. Any party involved in a class action lawsuit may settle at any time and these settlements do not affect NAR’s defense in the anti-trust litigation. NAR will continue to defend the institution of the MLS and Buyer Agency as pro-consumer. The settlements do need to be approved by the court which will likely happen in 2024. One of these class-actions (Burnett/Sitzler) is moving to trial next week with jury selection beginning on October 16.
How do these settlements and the larger lawsuits affect you here in middle Tennessee right now? Most of the items stipulated to in the settlements are already in place in our market, showing the pro-consumer strategy and consideration of our industry, including the Brokerages, the MLS, and your association.
- The offer of compensation from the seller’s agent to the buyer’s agent is visible on the public side of the MLS.
- MLS subscribers are unable to search listings based on the offer of compensation.
- Commissions are, and have always been, negotiable between REALTORS® and clients, and between REALTORS® on either side of the transaction.
- Education and training within the association and your Brokerages emphasize using the correct language when discussing compensation and disallow stating that REALTORS® work for Buyers for free.
How can you help to protect your industry and clients for any outcome of these lawsuits?
1: Continue to have thoughtful and honest conversations with your customers and clients about how you will be compensated for your professional service in the transaction and communicate your value by keeping your clients informed of your work on their transaction. Marketing in real estate goes much farther than just advertising property. Competition.realtor is a great website that gives you tips, tools, and information to help communicate your value to the public and have those conversations with your clients, including the 179 things that REALTORS® do in a transaction.
2: Use Buyer’s Representation Agreements for every transaction. These agreements clearly spell out your legal relationship with your clients and your role and responsibilities in the transaction. Talk to your Broker about their specific requirements for use of a Buyer’s Representation Agreement and when they are required.
3: Education yourself and stay on top of the industry news. To stay up to date on action concerning these lawsuits, subscribe to the General Forum Community on NAR’s The HUB. In the HUB, you will receive updates from NAR leadership and staff on matters important to you and your business, not just the lawsuits, and you can participate in community discussions about all things real estate.
If you have any questions about these lawsuits or anything happening with the National Association of REALTORS®, Tennessee REALTORS® or your Clarksville Association of REALTORS®, please feel free to reach out to your Executive Officer, Deb Haines-Kulick or any member of the Board of Directors:
Lisa Boyd, President
Joann Garcia, President-Elect
Monica Trigueros, Treasurer
Sandra Hester, Immediate Past President
Robert Garcia, Director
Todd Harvey, Director
Marie Lavoise, Director
Trisha Lyle, Director
Stephanie Meek, Director
Robert Roof, Director
Alicia Taylor, Director
Anastasia Williams, Director