Judge rejects appeal in landmark brokerage lawsuit

Antitrust case against NAR, top resi firms likely heads to trial

A photo illustration of NAR president Kenny Parcell (Getty, NAR)

A photo illustration of NAR president Kenny Parcell (Getty, NAR)

The National Association of Realtors and some of the nation’s biggest brokerages are running out of options before a significant class action lawsuit winds its way to trial.

A federal appeals court this week denied a request from NAR, Anywhere Real Estate, Keller Williams, RE/MAX and Home Services of America to overturn the class certification of the Moehrl case, Inman reported. The case is likely headed to trial, but no date has been set as the defendants seek to resolve some individual claims in arbitration.

A spokesperson for NAR expressed disappointment in the ruling, before telling the outlet the decision was unrelated to the merits of the case and is confident NAR will ultimately prevail. The brokerages didn’t comment to Inman about the ruling.

The Moehrl lawsuit has the potential to upend the brokerage model. Originally filed in 2019, the lawsuit alleges that some NAR rules violate antitrust law by inflating seller costs, such as the rule that requires listing brokers to offer buyer brokers a commission to list a property on a Realtor-affiliated MLS.

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Moehrl’s case seeks to have homebuyers pay their brokers directly, instead of listing brokers paying buyer brokers from what the seller gives to the listing broker.

If the Moehrl case succeeds, millions of eligible homesellers across the country will be able to ask for reimbursement, estimated to be a total of $13.7 billion damages. That figure rises to $41.1 billion if treble damages are awarded, which an attorney for the defendants said is more than their combined market capitalization.

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A similar, smaller trial has also been making its way through the legal system. Sitzer — since renamed to Burnett — is set to head to trial in October. While just dealing with Missouri MLSs, the case could carry more than $1 billion in damages and up to $4 billion if treble damages are awarded.

Holden Walter-Warner