Veterans Affairs Signals Temporary Suspension of Buyer Agent Payment Ban

Official says the department will temporarily allow VA buyers to directly compensate their agent.

The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to temporarily lift its ban on buyers directly paying for professional real estate representation until the agency deems it necessary to engage in a formal rulemaking process, a VA official said Tuesday at a Mortgage Bankers Association conference in New York.

Although not an official announcement, the comments from VA Deputy Director of Policy Michelle Corridon were met with relief from the real estate industry, as the VA’s home loan guaranty is the only loan program with this explicit prohibition. Veteran buyers have limited options in situations where the listing broker makes no offer of compensation to the buyer  broker, potentially leaving veterans without professional representation or forcing them to switch to less favorable loan products.

“NAR launched an all-hands advocacy effort on this issue, meeting with VA officials, engaging with lawmakers and rallying our industry partners to ensure this prohibition was lifted,” says Shannon McGahn, chief advocacy officer at the National Association of REALTORS®. “This is also a testament to the thousands of REALTORS® who came to Washington just a few weeks ago with a unified message. Without this change, thousands of veteran buyers could be denied access to professional representation in their pursuit of the American Dream of homeownership. Taking this extra step ensures veterans have the same opportunity as others to compete in a tight housing market. We applaud the VA for recognizing this danger and acting swiftly to protect veterans.”

The VA’s current policy states that veteran buyers who are using their VA loan benefit “may not, under any circumstances, be charged a brokerage fee or commission in connection with the services” of a real estate professional. That policy may create complications for these buyers in light of the practice changes required under NAR’s proposed settlement agreement. The practice changes prohibit listing brokers from making offers of compensation on the MLS. They also require MLS participants working with a buyer to enter into a written buyer agreement with their clients that outlines the amount of compensation the buyer representative will receive and how this amount will be determined.

NAR submitted a letter to the VA in late March, urging a policy change to ensure veterans maintain their access to the VA home loan program, which has been a significant tool in helping service members achieve homeownership.

“In situations where no offer of compensation is offered from a seller, VA buyers are immediately at a disadvantage, potentially forcing them to forego professional representation, lose a property in an already limited inventory, choose a different loan product or exit the market entirely,” the letter read. “The VA home loan guaranty program is a vital homeownership tool that provides veterans with a centralized, affordable, and accessible method of purchasing homes as a benefit they earned for their service to our nation. NAR wants to ensure that VA buyers remain active participants in the real estate market to achieve the American Dream of homeownership.”