A recently filed class-action antitrust suit against the National Association of Realtors and other major real estate players may change the face of buying and selling real estate. In Moerhl vs. National Association Realtors (NAR), a class action of home sellers is claiming that NAR’s compensation policies requiring all member brokers demand blanket, non-negotiable buyer-side commission fees when listing a home on a Multiple Listing Service is a violation of antitrust law.
Adam Swanson, a partner at McCarter & English, explained that Moerhl and Co. are claiming the current NAR-MLS-agent payment arrangement “prevents buyer’s agents from negotiating their own commission, which would likely be less” if buyer’s negotiated with their agents. “In this way, plaintiff [a seller] claims that he was harmed by having to pay a buyer’s agent and, therefore a higher listing commission than if he only had to pay his agent.”
There’s also the nature of the suit to consider. According to Swanson, the plaintiffs are after more than just money on this one. “This case is not likely about an angry Plaintiff who is unhappy that he paid a higher commission on a property sale,” he said. “There is a bigger goal behind this lawsuit and that is to open the competitive field and allow new players to get into the market.”