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Verdict on broker fees rocks real estate industry

The National Association of Realtors, HomeServices of America and Keller Williams plan to appeal a jury’s verdict finding them guilty of colluding to inflate or maintain high commission rates and fees.

The class action antitrust complaint was first filed in 2019 and included RE/MAX and Anywhere as defendants. In this lawsuit, the companies reached settlements prior to the ruling. Home sales that occurred between April 2015 and June 2022 were the subject of the case.

The defendants have been ordered to pay damages of $1.78 billion. The total could rise to $5.36 billion and opens the door to additional potential copycat lawsuits being filed in other states.

Lead counsel Michael Ketchmark argued before the jury that the trade association and corporate brokerages deliberately breached their own standards to keep high commission rates even though the defendants were subject to antitrust laws and regulations.

Before the final judgment is issued, Judge Stephen Bough must make his final ruling.

The cooperative compensation regulation, which forbade listing agents and house sellers from setting buyer agent commission rates in advance, might be abolished by Bough. Additionally, buyer agents’ commission rates would not be disclosed in the MLS, and listing agents would not be allowed to split commissions with buyer agents.

Mantill Williams, a NAR representative, responded to the ruling by saying the trade association will file an appeal and request a reduction in damages with the court.

“We will continue to focus on our mission to advocate for homeownership and always put consumer interests first,” Williams said in a statement. “It will likely be several years before this case is finally resolved.”

According to TD Cowen housing policy researcher Jaret Seiberg, the appeals procedure can take up to three years. He predicted that the losing side will try to get the matter before the Supreme Court.

Michael Ketchmark, the plaintiffs’ primary attorney, told CNN that “we view it as a tremendous day of accountability for these companies.”

Americans paid over $85 billion in residential real estate commissions in 2020, according to the Department of Justice, which previously investigated the NAR for violations of antitrust laws.

–Wire services

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