Updated: DOJ Files Antitrust Lawsuit Against the National Association of Realtors

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UPDATE: The National Association of Realtors’ 2021 president Charlie Oppler issued a statement on behalf of the organization in regards to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The trade group will comply with the settlement agreement within 45 days, which includes the following parameters:

In accordance with the MLS system’s long-standing focus on creating an efficient, transparent marketplace for home buyers and sellers, the amount of compensation offered to buyers’ agents for each MLS listing will be made publicly available. Publicly accessible MLS data feeds will include offers of compensation, and buyers’ agents will have an affirmative obligation to provide such information to their clients for homes of interest.

Relatedly, the rule changes re-affirm that MLSs and brokerages, as always, must provide consumers all properties that fit their criteria regardless of compensation offered or the name of the listing brokerage.

While NAR has long encouraged buyers’ agents to explain how they expect to be paid, typically through offers of cooperative compensation from sellers’ agents, there will be a rule that more definitively states that buyers’ agents cannot represent that their services are free to clients.

Finally, with the seller’s prior approval, a licensed real estate agent will have access to the lockboxes of properties listed on an MLS even if the agent does not subscribe to the MLS.

For the full statement, including some answers to frequently asked questions, NAR has created a page for reference.

ORIGINAL STORY: There has been chatter that this has been coming for a while, and the timing is very interesting. Inman News reports that the U.S. Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors. The allegation is that the 1.4 million members of the nation’s largest U.S. trade group put illegal restraints on Realtor competition.

How it works: the DOJ files a suggested settlement when it files the suit with the requirements that would make the suit go away. In other words, you do this and we are good. The lawsuit seems to focus on the lack of transparency with broker fees and consumer knowledge about them. The “fix” would involve changing several NAR rules, which the DOJ says are anti-competition. According to the complaint and Inman’s report, these include:

  • prohibiting MLSs that are affiliated with NAR from disclosing to prospective buyers the commission that the buyer broker will earn if a buyer purchases a home listed on a multiple listing service;
  • allowing buyer brokers to misrepresent to buyers that a buyer broker’s services are free;
  • enabling buyer brokers to filter MLS listings based on the level of buyer broker commissions offered and to exclude homes with lower commissions from consideration by potential homebuyers; and
  • limiting access to the lockboxes that provide licensed brokers with access to homes for sale to brokers who work for a NAR-affiliated MLS.

Bill Head, Communications Director for the MetroTex Association of Realtors released this statement to CandysDirt.com:

The MetroTex Association of REALTORS® is not a party to the civil lawsuit the Department of Justice filed today against the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).  Once NAR has responded to the lawsuit, MetroTex will be happy to share their response, as appropriate.


Executive Editor Joanna England contributed to this report.

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Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for Forbes.com, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature CandysDirt.com, and SecondShelters.com, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

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  1. BP says

    How this business model survived is beyond me. Currently seller pays listing agent AND buyers agent. So seller pays buyers agent to negotiate against them and educate the buyers. Super deal for the buyers, horrible deal for the sellers. How about seller pays listing agent and buyers pay buyers agent? What business model would survive this setup other than one that has a stranglehold on the marketplace?

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