NAR’s antitrust legal battle lands in the Bay Area

Lawsuit by California resident targets brokerages, local affiliates

NAR Antitrust Suit Land in the Bay Area
NAR's Tracy Kasper, RE/MAX's Nick Bailey, Anywhere's Ryan Schneider, and eXP's Glenn Sanford

UPDATED DEC. 11 at 3:15 p.m.:

The wave of antitrust suits against the National Association of Realtors has landed in the Bay Area. 

A lawsuit filed by a California resident named the trade group as a defendant, along with RE/MAX, Anywhere Real Estate, Compass, eXP and Keller Williams, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Real Deal. The filing also names local NAR affiliates that cover Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano and Mendocino counties as defendants.     

The case is the latest on the growing list of class-action suits against NAR, national brokerages and local residential players over broker commissions. Filed just days after similar cases landed in Florida and Pennsylvania, the California suit lodges now-familiar allegations of “anti-competitive conduct” against the industry group. 

The lead plaintiff in the case, Christina Grace, claims to have paid $50,328 in commissions when she sold her Marin County home in 2020. 

Grace’s complaint is centered on NAR’s Clear Cooperation Policy, which requires homeowners to pay buyer agent’s compensation in exchange for listing their home on a multiple listing service (MLS). 

Homeowners who listed their properties on the Bay Area Real Estate Information Services (BAREIS) MLS were required to make a “blanket, unilateral and effectively non-negotiable offer of buyer broker compensation,” the lawsuit claims.  

The rule “forces home sellers to pay a cost that, in a competitive market, would be paid by the buyer,” the complaint read. 

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“This anticompetitive rule thereby restrains price competition among buyer brokers because the home buyer, who retains the buyer broker, is unable to negotiate or pay the commission for his or her broker.”

In an email, NAR said it would respond to the complaint in court.

“The cooperative compensation practice makes efficient, transparent and accessible marketplaces possible. Sellers can sell their home for more and have their home seen by more buyers while buyers have more choices of homes and can afford representation,” Mantill Williams, NAR’s vice president of communications, said in the email.

A Kansas City jury in October found NAR, HomeServices of America and Keller Williams liable colluding to keep commissions high. The defendants were ordered to pay nearly $1.8 billion in damages, with the possibility the judge could issue treble damages to more than $5 billion. 

In addition to the copycat lawsuits that followed the verdict, the Department of Justice appears to be zeroing in on its scrutiny of the group. 

Another landmark lawsuit over broker commissions, known as Moehrl, is headed to trial in Chicago early next year and could pose damages up to $40 billion

Addition: Previous story did not include statement from NAR.

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