NAR, Keller Williams, HomeServices of America found liable of conspiring to inflate commissions

by Emily Mack

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), Keller Williams and HomeServices of America were found liable of conspiring to inflate commissions and ordered to pay damages totaling $1.78 billion, a jury in Missouri ruled Tuesday.

In the class-action lawsuit, Sitzer/Burnett, Missouri homesellers alleged that NAR and the brokerages colluded to inflate fees paid by the homeseller, which currently hover around 6% of the home price and are split between the buyer and seller agents. Although the case only pertained to homesellers in the state of Missouri, it’s opened a larger conversation about buyer agent commissions and a similar lawsuit, Moehrl v. NAR, is ongoing.

The trial went on for more than two weeks with NAR CEO Bob Goldberg, HomeServices of America President and CEO Gino Blefari and Keller Williams Founder and CEO Gary Keller all taking the stand. In the end, it took the jury less than three hours to rule against the co-defendants.

Appeals are expected, which could delay changes to real estate transactions and fees by years.

“We disagree with the verdict but respect the jurors who decided the case based on the issues in front of them … This is not the end,” Darryl Frost, a spokesperson for Keller Williams said in a statement. “Looking forward, we will consider all options as we assess the verdict and trial record, including avenues of appeal.”

NAR President Tracy Kasper expressed a similar sentiment. “This matter is not close to being final. We will appeal the liability finding because we stand by the fact that NAR rules serve the best interests of consumers, support market-driven pricing and advance business competition,” Kasper shared in an update. “We remain optimistic we will ultimately prevail. In the interim, we will ask the court to reduce the damages awarded by the jury.

Previously, Anywhere Real Estate and RE/MAX were defendants in the lawsuit but settled in early October for $138.5 million, agreeing to make changes to buyer agent commission arrangements. The terms of that settlement are pending approval by a judge.

Around the same time as that settlement, Anywhere opened the option for agents from its many brands, including CENTURY 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA, Sotheby’s International Realty, Corcoran and Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, to leave NAR. RE/MAX will also no longer require agents to be part of the association. In some markets, though, leaving NAR would also mean losing access to the local MLS.

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