A few readers have sent in articles regarding the class-action lawsuit filed about commissions – an excerpt:
A class-action lawsuit is seeking to upend the way homes are listed for sale and the commissions paid to agents. The goal, say the plaintiffs, is to make home selling more affordable by challenging how agents share commissions on local Multiple Listings Services known as the MLS.
The focus, the suit claims, is on NAR’s “Buyer Broker Commission Rule,” which, according to the complaint, requires “all brokers to make a blanket, non-negotiable offer of buyer broker compensation” in order to participate in the MLS, which is what brokers traditionally use to list for-sale properties. Brokers who don’t participate in the MLS can’t effectively market their properties, according to the lawsuit.
NAR, however, has no such “Buyer Broker Commission Rule” as described in the lawsuit, according to Mantill Williams, vice president of communications at NAR.
“The only requirement imposed by NAR rule is that the listing broker advise all other MLS participants what the amount of compensation to the buyer’s broker will be,” Williams says. “That amount is determined by the seller and the seller’s broker – not by NAR or the MLS. It can be expressed as a percentage of the sale price or as a fixed dollar amount – as low as $1. Under NAR policy, a buyer’s broker is free to negotiate the amount of the commission with the seller’s broker.”
Sellers can negotiate the amount of commission they pay to their own agents. Although sellers traditionally pay the commission, that commission is typically split with the buyer’s agent. The seller might end up passing on the commission costs to the buyer in the form of a higher listing price.
There are two problems that contribute to the situation; 1) The commissions aren’t disclosed to buyers, and 2) In spite of the statement in bold above, the commission rate offered to the buyer-broker is non-negotiable, according to the Code of Ethics:
Standard of Practice 16-16
REALTORS®, acting as subagents or buyer/tenant representatives or brokers, shall not use the terms of an offer to purchase/lease to attempt to modify the listing broker’s offer of compensation to subagents or buyer/tenant representatives or brokers nor make the submission of an executed offer to purchase/lease contingent on the listing broker’s agreement to modify the offer of compensation. (Amended 1/04)
The lawsuit wants to cause the buyer-agent’s commission rate – and who pays it – to be more negotiable (it’s not negotiated by the buyer now). What this lawsuit will include, but not solve, is buyer-agents steering their clients to listings that pay 2.5% or more in commission.
The attorneys will sensationalize the facts during their jury trial, and NAR will probably end up agreeing that buyers have more access to commission rates.
We will ignore this basic premise though: sellers should be free to offer a bounty to buyer-agents to sell their house, and the listing agent should convey that message, and encourage sellers to offer a rate that causes buyers to be steered to their house.
It sounds edgy, but it’s how it works in real life.
I said previously that this will likely cause more buyers to go directly to the listing agent, which will destroy the broker cooperation model we enjoy now.
But we could solve all of these issues with one answer.
If we did auctions instead, we wouldn’t have these problems.
The commissions would be obvious in advance (it’s been the 10% premium, paid by buyers), and all buyers would have an equal chance to buy the home. The sellers would be the big winners – no commissions, and eye-to-eye competition to drive the price higher, with no shenanigans!