Judge approves $418M Realtor settlement, upending the way Americans buy and sell homes

BySamantha Delouya, CNN, CNNWire
Thursday, April 25, 2024
Realtor settlement to change way Americans buy, sells homes
Housing experts say the settlement may effectively demolish the current real estate business model.

A federal judge gave a green light to the National Association of Realtors' settlement, paving the way for an overhaul of the way people buy and sell their homes in the United States.

On Tuesday, Judge Stephen Bough granted preliminary approval to the $418 million antitrust settlement in a Missouri court. A final approval hearing is set for November 26.

Housing experts say the settlement may effectively demolish the current real estate business model. Under the current system, home sellers pay the full commission, usually 5% or 6%, which is generally shared between the agent representing the seller and an agent representing the buyer. Critics say this practice inflates housing prices.

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In a statement to CNN, an NAR spokesperson said it was "pleased that the Court has preliminarily approved the settlement because it is in the best interests of all parties and class members."

"It has always been NAR's goal to resolve this litigation in a way that preserves consumer choice and protects our members to the greatest extent possible," the spokesperson said. "This proposed settlement achieves both of those goals and provides a path for us to move forward and continue our work to preserve, protect, and advance the right to real property for all."

Groups of home sellers brought lawsuits against the NAR for its standard commission structure, saying it was a violation of antitrust laws.

Under the terms of the settlement, which was announced in March, sellers' agents will no longer be required to offer commissions to buyers' agents.

While the settlement does not explicitly spell the end of the traditional 6% commission, split between the seller's agent and the buyer's agent, commissions are expected to fall because they will become competitive and negotiable.

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However, some in the real estate field warn that the change could raise costs for homebuyers, who are already shelling out a large chunk of money for what is often the largest purchase of their lives. If sellers are no longer paying buyers' agents, homebuyers may be on the hook to pay their broker directly.

The NAR said changes are slated to take effect in late July, but the mere prospect of the rule change has already caused some Americans to change the way they buy and sell homes. One home seller in Minnesota, Matt Hanley, told CNN last month that when he lists his home this spring, he plans to offer a 0% commission to the buyer's agent, effectively forcing a potential buyer to negotiate their agents' commission on their own.

"Why wait for the settlement? This is common knowledge now," Hanley said. "I'm going to try to be at the start of this bell curve."

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