The National Association of Realtors logo next to the scales of justice.
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Settle the commissions lawsuits? NAR says no  

After a major real estate company reached a settlement in the Moehrl and Sitzer/Burnett cases, NAR said its commitment to defend itself remains unchanged.

September 5, 2023
3 minutes

Key points:

  • In court documents, Anywhere Real Estate announced an initial settlement with the plaintiffs in both class action lawsuits.
  • NAR remains steadfast in its belief that the current buyer agent commission system is pro-competitive and pro-consumer.
  • The Sitzer/Burnett case is on track for an Oct. 16 trial date.

The National Association of Realtors is sticking with its plans to defend itself in upcoming court cases related to buyer agent commissions even after real estate giant Anywhere agreed to a settlement.

Two major class action lawsuits, Moehrl and Sitzer/Burnett, pit home sellers against NAR and several of the nation's largest brokerage companies. 

NAR issued a statement on Sept. 5 saying its "commitment to defend ourselves in court remains unchanged and we are confident we will prevail in proving the lawfulness of the rules under attack."

The statement comes after court documents filed earlier in the day indicated that Anywhere Real Estate and the plaintiffs in both the Moehrl and Sitzer/Burnett cases had reached a preliminary agreement to settle all claims. The settlement agreement will need to be approved by the two U.S. District courts hearing the cases.

While noting that settlement is always an option for any party in litigation, NAR has not chosen that path. The association has remained steadfast in its belief that the current buyer agent commission system is pro-competitive and pro-consumer.

"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," said Mantill Williams, vice president of communications for NAR. "For buyers, these marketplaces save them the burden of extra costs at closing, enable them to receive professional representation and make homeownership possible for more people."

That sets up a showdown with the plaintiffs in the two cases — home sellers who believe they've been systematically overcharged in the current system. RE/MAX and Keller Williams, two of the other defendants in the class action cases, are not commenting on ongoing litigation. Real Estate News has also reached out to HomeServices of America, another defendant in both cases.

The Sitzer/Burnett case, which involves Missouri home sellers, is scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 16. The lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Michael Ketchmark, called on NAR to change its practice of "allowing the real estate industry to use its rules as a vehicle for raising and stabilizing commissions in the sale of homes.

"If NAR and the other corporate defendants do not agree to change their ways and start complying with our nation's antitrust laws we will hold them accountable at trial," Ketchmark said.

The Moehrl case, which will be heard in Illinois, involves thousands of home sellers who paid a commission from 2015-2020 as well as "current and future" sellers if the plaintiffs win. A trial date has not been finalized for that case.

Because of the size of the two cases and the likelihood of appeals, it may take years before a final outcome is reached. In the meantime, NAR is preparing to make its case.

"We look forward to arguing our case in court," Williams said.

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