NAR Settlement: What Does It Mean for Agents on the Ground?

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently announced an agreement to resolve litigation over broker commission claims asserted on behalf of home sellers. The agreement would settle claims against NAR, over one million NAR members, all state/territorial and municipal Realtor associations, all association-owned MLSs, and all brokerages having a NAR member as principal in 2022 with a residential transaction volume of $2 billion or less. 

The settlement, which is subject to court approval, clarifies that NAR continues to deny any wrongdoing in connection with the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) cooperative compensation model rule (MLS Model Rule), which was implemented in the 1990s in response to consumer protection advocates’ calls for buyer representation. Under the terms of the agreement, NAR is expected to pay $418 million over a four-year period in damages and will change numerous rules that housing experts believe will lower house costs. 

This settlement is the culmination of a series of lawsuits against the NAR which will ultimately do away with standard commissions. Immediately after the news broke, Nykia Wright, Interim CEO of the NAR released a statement saying:  

“NAR has worked hard for years to resolve this litigation in a manner that benefits our members and American consumers. 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.” 

Reactions From FORCE Agents

The Federation of REO Certified Experts (FORCE) is the Five Star Institute’s REO member organization comprised of pre-screened, certified, and experienced REO agents. Focused on the improvement of REO agent performance through lender- and servicer-driven education, the FORCE acts as a conduit of communication between the REO agent/broker community and the servicing shops they serve. 

In the aftermath of the NAR announcement, MortgagePoint spoke with several FORCE-member real estate agents to get their thoughts on the settlement and how it may impact their business and the larger industry. 

Jesus (Jesse) D. Gonzalez Jr., a Realtor and the Broker/Owner of Liberty House Realty, LLC, issued a statement to MortgagePoint immediately after the news broke. 

“I see NAR’s proposed settlement as a significant moment for the industry. [Liberty House Realty, LLC] sees this as a pivotal step towards more transparent and equitable practices that align closely with our mission of offering a financially sensible solution to homeowners.” 

Gonzalez Jr. said he believes that the industry is on the cusp of transformative change through clearly defined representation agreements leading to a more transparent marketplace. While eager to see what changes the future holds for Realtors, he remains curious to see how these changes will trickle down to customers and impact their choices. 

“At Liberty House Realty, we have always maintained that the homeowner should retain control over their selling process, including how much they choose to compensate their representatives. This proposed settlement may encourage other industry players to consider how they can serve consumers’ best interests while preserving our essential services.” 

“While NAR continues to deny any wrongdoing, the proposed settlement and the changes it introduces may open up opportunities for innovation and adaptation,” Gonzalez Jr. concluded. 

Realtor Jeffery Shumaker, a member of the FORCE Education Committee and Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Agility, said he does not believe that huge changes are in store for Realtors, despite the end of the 6% commission schedule and the $418 million settlement. 

“For me, it won’t change much. I’ll use the contract terms to negotiate the buyer’s agent commission from either side of the transaction,” Shumaker said. “My agents and I have always had buyer’s agreements with our buyer clients. The inventory amount will be a determining factor in how much commission is paid by the seller. 

“This will add an added layer of difficulty since we are now having to negotiate with the buyer directly. However, this should reduce commission issues with the seller completely,” said Realtor Caslyn Huck, a member of the FORCE Education Committee and Broker/Owner of Never Settle Realty & Investment. “This adds questions from the lending standpoint also, such as, will the lender allow this fee to be financed, and if the fee is allowed to be financed, will this affect RESPA?” 

According to Huck, there are some instances where the buyer’s agents will credit some of their commission to assist with closing costs, and this settlement may hinder that choice in the future. This will most likely create a tiered system on the buyer side where some buyers may just want contract drawing and submission services, some may want additional features, including walkthrough and consultation services, and lastly, some may want full service, including property showings, and open houses. 

Nor is this a foreign concept; listings like this already exist. 

“A type of listing like this is already available with Help-U-Sell and other reduced-commission brokerages. One of the main components of full-service Realtors is property showings and this won’t be done at a reduced rate, most likely.” 

“The positive takeaway is that this is an opportunity for agents who are knowledgeable and professional to shine,” Huck concluded. “Unfortunately, in the last few years, the perception of agents (TikTok, Instagram, the Realtor Influencer) is that they do little and get paid too much, but a knowledgeable agent will show their worth. This will prove you get what you pay for.” 

How Soon Will This Affect Realtors?

According to Gonzalez Jr., the proposed settlement by NAR will introduce systemic changes starting in July 2024. He also said that he anticipates the effects to be “progressive” rather than immediate. 

“Given that we offer our clients control over their real estate transactions, including deciding how to compensate buyer’s agents, we don’t expect a drastic shift in our day-to-day operations,” Gonzalez Jr. continued. “However, we foresee an industry-wide impact that could alter how buyers and sellers perceive value in real estate services.” 

Huck said this news was on her radar, but it turned out differently than expected. 

“For years, banks have been looking for a way into the real estate side of the market as an additional revenue stream. I thought that would have eventually played out but from other angles. Even with education and experience, no one can predict the path the market will take.” 

Jim Hastings, Chair of the FORCE Advisory Council and Broker/Owner of Hastings Brokerage, LTD., said, “Right now, it is too early to tell. We can speculate, but I think only time will tell.” 

What Does This Mean for the Bottom Line?

Regarding the potential impact of the NAR settlement on agents’ bottom lines, Gonzalez Jr., said, “The changes stemming from this settlement could reinforce the demand for transparent pricing structures like ours. If the industry shifts towards more transparent practices, it could underscore the benefits of our model and potentially attract consumers who are now more aware of their options and the value they can receive.” 

“We do not see this as a threat but rather as a confirmation of the consumer-first approach we’ve championed,” he concluded. “The NAR settlement may present an opportunity for growth, as it might encourage homeowners to seek out alternative models that can offer savings and simplicity.” 

Huck was not sure how this would affect her going forward but said, “As a real estate broker, this is going to change the way I negotiate my contracts specifically since the compensation is no longer being advertised on the multiple listing services (MLS). If I’m the listing broker and I find a qualified buyer who has no agent representation, I could be putting myself at risk by having to negotiate with the buyer’s and the seller’s best interests in mind. This has always been an issue with closing both sides and will be more evident in the transactions ahead.” 

Hastings made similar comments on how this might affect his brokerage going forward, “We may have to talk to each other a bit more like in the old days,” he speculated, “but Realtors are wired to communicate with others and will adapt well to this change.” 

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Kyle G. Horst

Kyle G. Horst

Kyle G. Horst is a reporter for MortgagePoint. A graduate of the University of Texas at Tyler, he has worked for a number of daily, weekly, and monthly publications in South Dakota and Texas. With more than 10 years of experience in community journalism, he has won a number of state, national, and international awards for his writing and photography including best newspaper design by the Associated Press Managing Editors Group and the international iPhone photographer of the year by the iPhone Photography Awards. He most recently worked as editor of Community Impact Newspaper covering a number of Dallas-Ft. Worth communities on a hyperlocal level. Contact Kyle G. at kyle.horst@thefivestar.com.
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