Home Buyers and Sellers to be Spared Standard Broker Commissions Under $418 Million Settlement

Published by NBC News | March 15, 2024

Consumer advocates say the National Association of Realtors' legal agreement, if approved, could save buyers and sellers thousands of dollars and lead many buyers to forgo agents entirely.

The National Association of Realtors has agreed to a landmark settlement that would eliminate real estate brokers’ long-standing commissions, commonly of up to 6% of the purchase price.

Instead, home buyers and sellers would be able to negotiate fees with their agents upfront. If the $418 million legal agreement is approved by a federal court, consumer advocates predict the ranks of real estate agents will thin, further driving down commission prices.

“For years, anti-competitive rules in the real estate industry have financially harmed millions,” said Benjamin Brown, managing partner at the Cohen Milstein law firm and one of the settlement’s negotiators. “This settlement bring sweeping reforms that will help countless American families.”

The NAR acknowledged the pending settlement in a statement Friday and denied any wrongdoing.

“NAR has worked hard for years to resolve this litigation in a manner that benefits our members and American consumers,” said Nykia Wright, interim CEO of NAR, whose previous chief stepped down late last year amid fallout from a federal lawsuit.

“It has always been our goal to preserve consumer choice and protect our members to the greatest extent possible. This settlement achieves both of those goals,” Wright said in the statement.

Currently, a home seller is essentially locked into paying a brokerage fee for listing their property on a multiple listing service, or MLS — usually 5% or 6% depending on their geographic area. Upon selling, half of the fee goes to a listing agent representing the seller, while the buyer’s agent gets the other half.

The practice — which has become standard in the real estate industry in recent decades — led to accusations that some buyers’ agents were steering prospects toward more expensive homes. In October, a federal jury found the NAR and some major brokerages liable for colluding to inflate commission fees, ordering the trade group to pay a historic $1.78 billion in damages.

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