A map of the California Bay Area above a judge's gavel.
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News; Shutterstock

More brokerages added to Bay Area commissions lawsuit 

Five additional firms, including Pacific Northwest powerhouse Windermere, join the growing list of defendants named in a Northern California case.

January 16, 2024
2 minutes

Some Bay Area brokerages that dodged a bullet back in December have now been named in a regional buyer-broker class action suit — and dozens more could be added. 

Case details: The Grace case was originally filed in Northern California on Dec. 8. The plaintiff, home seller Christina Grace, bought a house in 2020 and paid more than $50,000 in commissions fees to the listing and buyer agents. The suit seeks class action status to include all sellers who listed properties on BAREIS MLS in the past four years.

In an amended complaint filed on Jan. 12, five more defendants were added.

The new defendants are all brokerage firms: Windermere Real Estate, Vanguard Properties Inc., Rapisarda & Fox Inc., Twin Oaks Real Estate Inc. and Realty One Group. The amended complaint also notes that up to 50 currently unknown defendants may be added to the lawsuit during the discovery process.

The new defendants join an already substantial list of national brokerages and associations: NAR, Anywhere, RE/MAX, Keller Williams, Compass, eXp, Bay Area Real Estate Information Services (BAREIS), Marin Association of Realtors, North Bay Association of Realtors, Northern Solano County Association of Realtors and Solano Association of Realtors were named in the original complaint.

A first for Windermere: Until now, Windermere Real Estate, the largest franchise brand in the Northwest, had avoided becoming entangled in the flurry of copycat lawsuits filed since the Sitzer/Burnett verdict on Oct. 31. 

Based in Seattle, Windermere has more than 6,000 agents and 300 offices in 10 states, and ranked seventh among U.S. franchise brands according to T3 Sixty's 2023 Real Estate Almanac. (Note: Real Estate News and T3 Sixty share a founder, Stefan Swanepoel.)

Most real estate professionals in Washington State use Northwest MLS, a member-owned MLS that is not affiliated with the National Association of Realtors. NWMLS also has its own set of buyer compensation policies. Notably, no major commissions lawsuits have been filed in northwestern states (so far). 

BAREIS, while partially broker-owned, has ties to local Realtor associations.

The filing from Dec. 8 highlights rules set forth by BAREIS, noting that MLS members "were obligated to and did adopt, implement, and enforce anticompetitive restraints," specifically rules requiring home sellers "to make a blanket, unilateral and non-negotiable offer of buyer broker compensation."

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