The National Association of Realtors has once again had its competitive practices called into question — this time by the federal government.
The Department of Justice announced Thursday that it filed a lawsuit against the trade association, alongside a proposed settlement, that takes aim at NAR’s “anticompetitive rules, policies, and practices,” according to a DOJ release.
The proposed settlement from the Antitrust Division mandates that NAR change rules that currently allow brokers to withhold information from prospective homebuyers regarding fees and commissions. The proposed changes must also carry over to multiple listing services associated with NAR.
“If approved, the settlement will enhance competition in the real estate market, resulting in more choice and better service for consumers,” the DOJ release said.
In a statement to Inman, NAR said it disagreed with the DOJ’s characterization and admitted no wrongdoing, but had reached an agreement and “fully resolved” the issues raised. A spokesperson added that the organization remained “focused on supporting our members as they preserve, protect and advance the American dream of homeownership.”
The goal of the settlement is to allow for more transparency — and thus competition — in the real estate market, which could result in more choices and better service for homebuyers. The agreement still awaits approval from the court.
“Home buyers and sellers should be aware of all the broker fees they are paying. Today’s settlement prevents traditional brokers from impeding competition — including by internet-based methods of home buying and selling — by providing greater transparency to consumers about broker fees,” Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, said in a statement. “This will increase price competition among brokers and lead to better quality of services for American home buyers and sellers.”
With 1.4 million members, NAR has a wide scope of influence. It establishes and enforces policies for agents who belong to the organization, along with affiliated multiple listing services.