Real Estate Compensation Lawsuits Far From Over

The National Association of REALTORS® says it will continue arguing its case against two class-action lawsuits challenging real estate compensation structures, even after one of NAR’s co-defendants reportedly agreed to a proposed settlement.

Anywhere Real Estate, formerly known as Realogy Holdings Corp., agreed to settle all claims against the company in the two cases, known as Sitzer/Burnett and Moehrl, according to news reports. Details of the settlement, which will need court approval, have not been released. No other parties named in the lawsuits, including NAR and several major real estate companies and MLSs, have agreed to settle.

The announcement of Anywhere’s settlement comes about a month before the Sitzer/Burnett lawsuit is set to go to trial.

“Settlement is always an option for any party in litigation. NAR’s commitment to defend ourselves in court remains unchanged, and we are confident we will prevail in proving the lawfulness of the rules under attack,” Mantill Williams, NAR’s vice president of public relations and communication strategy, said in a statement. “Pro-competitive, pro-consumer local MLS broker marketplaces ensure equity, efficiency, transparency and market-driven pricing options for home buyers and sellers. The practice of the listing broker paying the buyer broker’s compensation saves sellers time and money by having so many buyer brokers participating in that local marketplace and, thus, creating a larger pool of buyers for sellers. For buyers, these marketplaces save them the burden of extra costs at closing, enable them to receive professional representation and make homeownership possible for more people.”

The lawsuits claim that NAR rules violate antitrust laws and inflate the fees paid to buyer’s agents by requiring a listing agent to compensate a buyer’s agent for listing a property on the MLS. NAR argues that the lawsuits misrepresent association rules as anticompetitive. The rules direct listing brokers to determine, in consultation with their clients, the amount of compensation offered to a buyer’s agent in connection with their MLS listings. Further, NAR says buyer’s agents are free to negotiate compensation with the listing broker that is different from what appears in the MLS. Neither NAR nor the MLS has any say in setting broker commissions.

“The U.S. model of independent, local broker marketplaces is widely considered the best value and most efficient model in the world, with no hidden or extra costs and with more complete, verified information compared to other countries,” Williams said. “We look forward to arguing our case in court.”