Published in RealTrends
The recent federal court decision that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot back out of an agreement it made with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is significant on many levels. It clearly states when you enter into a binding, legal agreement with the government, it must abide by the terms the same as any other party would. The decision gives NAR a path forward to work in good faith with the DOJ to codify changes that enhance transparency for consumers.
In fact, prior to any further guidance from the DOJ, NAR already had adopted clarifications to its guidance for local MLS broker marketplaces to strengthen transparency for consumers. The changes reinforced the need for disclosure of compensation offered to buyer agents, that listings are not to be excluded from search results based on the amount of compensation offered to buyer agents and that buyer brokers do not represent their services as free.
Ultimately, what NAR and the federal government both desire is a better experience for consumers. There may sometimes be disagreement in the details, but our underlying purpose and direction along with our intentions remain the same.
Every day, NAR and REALTORS® advocate for policies that create greater and more equitable access and affordability in housing. We advance fair housing initiatives, and diversity, equity and inclusion. And agents who are REALTORS® offer expert, professional guidance to help consumers navigate the most complex and important transactions of their lives.
NAR supports practices and policies that make homeownership more accessible and affordable. The U.S. model of broker compensation, for example, plays a critical role in helping make homeownership possible for more Americans. Listing brokers making offers of compensation to buyer brokers for finding a ready, willing and able buyer allows homebuyers to have a better chance at professional representation and affording a home. This practice encourages more brokers to compete and participate in their local markets, making the transaction smoother, more equitable and more efficient. All while sellers get access to the largest possible pool of buyers.
In fact, NAR believes so firmly in the benefits offered to consumers by local broker marketplaces that it adopted a guideline known as the Clear Cooperation Policy. Rather than allowing some listings to be marketed as “pocket listings” – secretive listings that are only shown to a select few buyers – the CCP requires all publicly marketed properties to be listed on a local broker marketplace within one business day. This further maximizes the number of buyers and sellers who have equitable access to transparent and efficient markets.
Advancing Housing Equity
NAR and REALTORS® believe everyone has the right to acquire housing free from discrimination. NAR works with industry, civic, business and policy partners to advance homeownership for those who have been historically excluded. For instance, NAR has worked with policymakers to allocate $25 billion to affordable housing production for low-income Americans and $1.75 billion in grants for state and local governments to create affordable housing solutions.
NAR also partners with organizations such as the Mortgage Bankers Association, NAACP, National Urban League and National Housing Conference as part of the 3 by 30 Coalition, which is committed to increasing Black homeownership by 3 million net new homeowners by 2030. We created the Fair Housing Action Plan, which emphasizes accountability, culture change and training to ensure that NAR’s 1.5 million REALTORS® are doing everything possible to protect housing rights in America.
Every single day, agents who are REALTORS® across America are serving millions of consumers to help them achieve the dream of homeownership. NAR members help consumers navigate the financial, legal and community aspects of buying or selling a home in what are often the most complex transactions of their lives. Given the rise in home prices and interest rates, inflation and ongoing inventory shortage, today’s market is especially challenging for first time buyers and sellers.
We are also engaged neighbors, committed to improving the lives of those around them through service and philanthropic work. In fact, 66% of REALTORS® volunteer on a monthly basis, more than twice any other volunteer groups. Some even go further, doing things such as creating food banks to developing kids’ mentorship programs to helping build affordable homes for farm workers. There are so many humanitarian efforts by REALTORS® across the country.
All of this happens in the name of consumers. That’s why this DOJ decision clearly represents such an important milestone and a key, legal precedent. Rightly so, a court said the DOJ had to honor its agreement with NAR. But it was also the right thing to do for consumers. And that remains our primary focus every day.