In the litigation landscape that the National Association of REALTORS® is facing today, much of what NAR is fighting is misinformation, mischaracterization and lack of understanding or education. There are class-action attorneys and other challengers who have a blatant disregard or lack of appreciation for the value REALTORS® bring consumers and how local MLS broker marketplaces serve the best interests of American home buyers and sellers.
Litigation is a long, complex process that will not be resolved for years, and NAR takes each case and legal development seriously. NAR leadership is taking proactive measures to ensure consumers continue to benefit from the access and opportunities they have today and that real estate professionals continue to be equipped and positioned to serve the best interests of those consumers. On the front, NAR has legal teams actively engaged to defend pro-consumer and pro-competitive practices in local broker marketplaces.
We want you to understand major developments, what we’re doing to address them and how you can help.
Several Cases Remain Unresolved
Let’s start with the Department of Justice.
In a clear victory for NAR in January, a district court ruled that the DOJ must adhere to its previous agreement with NAR to more explicitly state the spirit and intent of NAR’s Code of Ethics and MLS guidelines in certain key areas. In fact, NAR has already adopted clarifications to its guidance for local MLS broker marketplaces to strengthen transparency for consumers.
Though the DOJ recently appealed the decision, NAR remains confident that it will ultimately prevail, saying the association has upheld its end of the agreement and simply expects the DOJ to do the same.
Next, let’s discuss seller class-action lawsuits.
Four years ago, class-action attorneys brought lawsuits against NAR and four corporate defendants in Missouri and Illinois, alleging home sellers have been damaged because their listing broker compensates the buyer’s representative. The lawsuits also suggest that real estate professionals are being paid too much as a result.
While the Illinois case is in earlier stages, the Missouri case is set to go to trial this fall. NAR’s attorneys will make it imminently clear that the association has the law and facts on its side.
Lastly, let’s look at challenges to the Clear Cooperation Policy.
Two lawsuits stem from private listing networks wanting REALTORS® to bypass local broker marketplaces and market properties to consumers only within these private networks. The plaintiffs’ original complaints were dismissed; a federal judge agreed with NAR that the Clear Cooperation Policy provides consumers with "access to more information regarding market conditions, enabling them to make better informed choices about the bundle of real estate brokerage services that will best serve their needs.”
However, due to appeals, the cases are still ongoing. Regardless, NAR is prepared to present its position at trial, if needed, and prove that the rule promotes competition and ensures transparent, equitable access to real estate listings for the benefit of consumers.
Help NAR Educate the Public
NAR continues to anticipate and prepare for these various legal milestones via ongoing positive, proactive storytelling moments in the media and other places to spread the word about the pro-consumer and pro-competitive nature of local broker marketplaces and REALTORS®’ reputation as trusted, valued experts. NAR also continues to equip state and local associations with toolkits and other content to help them motivate members and educate consumers.
This is where you come in: NAR needs your help to educate consumers about how local MLS broker marketplaces work and promote equity, transparency and market-driven pricing options for consumers as well as the incredible value you provide. That’s why NAR has developed the website competition.realtor. This site is a place to send people who have questions, and it’s a resource for you to pull things you need to be ambassadors with clients and others in your community. The site hosts fact sheets, FAQs, articles, infographics and other information you can use that:
- Illustrate how REALTORS® are consumer champions.
- Describe how local MLS broker marketplaces create highly competitive markets that promote equity, greater access, more choices and greater pricing options when it comes to real estate services.
- Provide soundbite updates on NAR policy changes and legal matters.
In addition, NAR has created a simple consumer website at realestatecommissionfacts.com to aid consumers’ understanding of broker services and how real estate professionals are compensated.
At the end of the day, we all know that REALTORS® are consumers’ advocates. We all know that REALTORS® lead as entrepreneurs, small business owners, experts and philanthropists to protect consumers, build generational wealth and contribute to local and national economies. And we also know local MLS broker marketplaces create the largest, most efficient and convenient markets that ensure equity, transparency and market-driven pricing for home buyers and sellers.
It is imperative that right now, REALTORS® do all they can to communicate that reality every day in all the conversations they have and channels at their disposal. While NAR’s legal team is helping the association win in a court of law, the association asks members to play their part to help win in the court of public opinion.