Bright MLS and the National Association of Realtors
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Bright MLS to allow $0 buyer broker commissions 

The nation’s second-largest MLS says this move highlights the “complete flexibility” of Bright subscribers to have “transparent negotiations with clients.”

Updated July 21, 2023
3 minutes

Key points:

  • The change to Bright's listing entry requirements takes effect Aug. 9.
  • Bright called it a “small change,” as it has already been allowing compensation offers of $0.01.
  • The move comes as the industry faces significant legal challenges to buyer’s agent compensation.

Bright MLS, the nation's second-largest multiple listing service, is making a change to its buyer agent compensation rules that appears to diverge from the National Association of Realtors' preferred approach. 

Bright, which serves a major portion of the Northeast, announced on its website that starting Aug. 9 it will allow users to put in a blanket offer for buyer brokers — including an offer of zero dollars. Previously, the lowest allowed amount was one cent, so it is a very small change in terms of dollars and cents, but a significant one in terms of transparency, Bright contends.

"We are making this small change to underscore the complete flexibility of Bright subscribers to engage in transparent negotiations with their clients," Bright noted in the announcement.

When asked about the potential impact this might have on Bright's relationship with NAR, a Bright MLS spokesperson issued the following statement:

"We don't believe this will impact Bright's relationship with NAR. NAR does not charter or otherwise approve or have a direct relationship with any MLSs, including Bright, and Bright is free to make independent business decisions responsive to the needs of our subscribers and the consumers they serve."

On Friday, July 21, NAR sent out a statement about Bright's decision:

"Bright's view is consistent with the purpose of NAR's policies, which are designed to ensure information is efficiently distributed to facilitate the transaction of real estate to the benefit of buyers and sellers. So long as cooperating brokers are aware of the offerings made by listing brokers, that purpose is achieved. NAR has long said listing brokers and their clients are the ones who determine the amount and makeup of the offer to cooperating brokers. 

"Practically speaking, the difference between one penny and $0 is negligible, and regardless, those offers are always negotiable. These policies ensure brokers are efficiently sharing information they and their clients need through their local, independent broker marketplaces. Without these policies, brokerages would not know important information about listings, and they would have to rely on piecemeal information collected in inefficient ways that could negatively affect their ability to serve their clients and ultimately the U.S. economy."

Compensation for buyer agents has been a hot topic across the industry as two class action lawsuits, known as Moehrl and Burnett, move closer to trial. Defendants in the case, including NAR and several brokerages, have asserted that the current buyer agent compensation system is more beneficial for consumers. 

In response to the Moehrl case being declared a class action, NAR spokesman Mantill Williams said in May that "the practice of the listing broker paying the buyer broker's compensation saves sellers time and money by having so many buyer brokers participating in that local marketplace and thus creates a larger pool of buyers for sellers."

Twenty MLSs, including Bright MLS, are named as co-conspirators in the Moehrl lawsuit. If the plaintiffs prevail, it could fundamentally change how buyer agents are paid and result in billions of dollars in damages to be paid to sellers.

Massachusetts-based MLS PIN recently agreed to pay $3 million and stop requiring sellers to offer buyer broker compensation, a sign that "foundational changes to the structure — a decoupling of buyer broker compensation to some degree — will most likely occur sooner rather than later," T3 Sixty said in its letter.

However, MLS PIN, like Northwest MLS, is unusual in that it is broker-owned and does not have to adhere to NAR rules.

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