Real Estate Agents Face Potential Industry Shake-up
A federal jury’s recent decision has brought the real estate industry’s commission practices into question. The National Association of Realtors (NAR), the largest trade association representing the industry, and several major residential brokerages were found guilty of conspiring to artificially maintain high commissions on home sales. The jury’s verdict ordered them to pay approximately $1.8 billion in damages.
This ruling has significant implications for home sellers, potentially allowing them to retain more of the proceeds from their sales. Some may even consider bypassing real estate agents altogether. Sissy Lappin, owner of a real estate brokerage in Houston, Texas, believes this verdict could encourage more people to buy and sell homes independently.
In addition to this case, a more extensive antitrust suit, with potential damages exceeding $40 billion, is pending against NAR and other major brokerages. These legal challenges have the potential to reshape how agents are compensated. The traditional practice of sellers paying both agents’ commissions after closing may change, with buyers directly paying their agents. Advocates argue that these changes could foster increased competition among agents, substantially reduce commissions, and save consumers billions annually.
Currently, home sellers often list their properties at higher prices to accommodate broker fees. A decrease in standard commission rates might prompt sellers to price their homes more affordably. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Midwest home sellers, argued that their agents artificially kept prices high for consumers despite available cost-reducing technology. According to Michael Ketchmark, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, “NAR and corporate real-estate companies have had a stranglehold on real-estate commissions for too long.”
The NAR has indicated its intention to appeal the jury’s verdict, and the legal proceedings are expected to continue. This case represents a broader trend in the real estate industry, raising questions about commission practices and potentially ushering in substantial changes.