Settling Scores: The Impact on Buyers and Sellers Amid the Real Estate Agent Commission Lawsuit

Discover how the groundbreaking real estate agent commission lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors could reshape the landscape of home buying and selling. Our blog dives into the nitty-gritty of the case, its potential to lower agent commissions, and what this means for homeowners and the market at large.

Are you grappling with how the real estate agent commission lawsuit might affect your home sale or purchase? This landmark case against the National Association of Realtors has spurred a decisive shift, potentially altering how commissions are negotiated and paid. Our comprehensive overview dissects the lawsuit’s details, explores the settlement’s implications for real estate fees, and equips you with what you need to know in the evolving landscape of buying and selling property.

Key Takeaways

The Real Estate Commission Lawsuit Explained

Illustration of a real estate agent and a homeowner shaking hands

At the center of this upheaval is a lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a major real estate trade group. The plaintiffs in the case accused NAR and real estate agents affiliated with forcing homeowners to pay inflated commission splits, leading to artificially inflated agent commissions. The lawsuit claimed that these practices hurt members of the housing market, particularly home sellers.

The case attracted significant attention due to its potential to disrupt the way real estate commissions are traditionally managed. As a result of the lawsuit, NAR agreed to settle, leading to a landmark deal that could reshape the real estate landscape. The settlement agreement, set to come into effect in mid-July, is expected to ignite negotiations for lower agent commissions, potentially saving homeowners thousands of dollars.

The Plaintiffs' Claims

Let’s delve a little deeper into the plaintiffs’ accusations. They claimed that NAR was forcing home sellers to pay an inflated commission that was then split between their agent and the buyer’s agent. This practice, they argued, led to artificially inflated costs for home sellers, hurting them financially.

Furthermore, the plaintiffs argued that NAR’s rules resulted in buyer’s agents avoiding listings where the seller’s broker offered a lower commission. They contended that this practice was unfair and hurt competition in the housing market. The lawsuit led to changes in policies that had been in place since the 1990s, marking a significant shift in the real estate industry.

NAR's Defense

In response to these accusations, NAR presented a robust defense. They argued that commissions are not set in stone and are open to negotiation. According to NAR, the practice of splitting commissions between the seller’s and buyer’s agents serves to shield the buyer from additional expenses, thereby benefiting them.

NAR also maintained that the changes in local market rules and court decisions would foster competition for buyer agent commissions. However, they acknowledged that homebuyers would now need to account for how they would cover their agent’s fees due to these changes.

The Verdict

The climax of this legal battle came with the verdict. The National Association of Realtors (NAR), along with two brokerage firms, was found liable in the lawsuit. The verdict concluded that there was a conspiracy to keep real estate commissions artificially high, resulting in a whopping $1.8 billion in damages.

But the financial impact didn’t stop there. The court may award treble damages, potentially increasing the total amount to exceed $5 billion. Several major brokerages, including Keller Williams Realty, agreed to separate settlements amounting to over $208 million. NAR also agreed to settle and pay $418 million to compensate U.S. home sellers, marking a significant victory for the plaintiffs.

The Financial Impact on Homeowners and Agents

Illustration of a scale with money bags on one side and a house on the other side

So, what does this mean for homeowners and agents? The NAR settlement could lead to a reduction in agent commissions due to the abolition of long-standing rules that contributed to setting these commissions. This change would have a far-reaching financial impact, covering NAR members, their affiliated MLS, and brokerages with less than $2 billion in residential transaction volume in 2022.

For homeowners, this could mean potential savings arising from slashed agent commissions when selling their homes. On the other hand, real estate agents are likely to experience a shift in earnings as the settlement may lead to a more competitive environment with lower commission rates.

Savings for Homeowners

Let’s break down the potential savings for homeowners. A homeowner selling a property valued at $1 million could experience savings of up to $18,000 on agent fees with a 30% commission reduction. That’s a significant chunk of change that could be put towards a new home or other investments.

Even for a typical $400,000 property, where the historical commission rate is around 5% amounting to $20,000, the settlement could result in substantial financial relief for homeowners. Homeowners also now have the potential to negotiate commission rates below the typical 5%, promising additional reductions, possibly to 4% or even 3%.

Earnings Impact on Real Estate Agents

For real estate agents, however, the picture might look a bit different. The new landscape is likely to be more competitive, potentially leading to lower commission rates. This could mean a decrease in their $100 billion annual commission pool by roughly one-third.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The pressure on fees could encourage agents to provide even better service and value to their clients. And while the reforms set forth by the lawsuit could result in a drop in real estate commissions to below 4 percent, and potentially as low as 3 percent, the industry is resilient and agents are sure to adapt to the new norms.

Effects on the Housing Market

Illustration of a graph showing a downward trend in home prices

Beyond the individual homeowners and agents, the lawsuit’s effects will ripple throughout the entire housing market. The reduction or negotiability of commissions could lead to a drop in home prices, potentially making homeownership more affordable for many. However, this might not necessarily cause the market to roar back to life, as other factors such as mortgage rates and housing supply also play significant roles.

Moreover, changes in local market rules and court decisions mean that buy-side brokers may no longer receive commissions from the listing side. This could potentially require compensation to be provided directly by the seller or owner at closing, adding another layer of complexity to the home selling process.

Reduced Commission Costs for Sellers

Sellers are among the biggest potential beneficiaries of the lawsuit settlement. The reduction of real estate commission rates, which have been steadily declining over the past decades, could motivate more homeowners to put their properties on the market. A scenario where sellers are only responsible for a reduced commission cost of approximately 3 percent could lower the expense for sellers without affecting home prices. This could be a result of efforts to settle lawsuits claiming homeowners were unfairly charged high commission rates.

These reduced transaction costs could incentivize more homeowners to sell, potentially leading to an increase in housing supply. However, it’s important to remember that many other factors influence the decision to sell, so it remains to be seen what the overall impact on the market will be.

Changes in Buyer Agent Commissions

The new rules also bring about changes in buyer agent commissions. Starting from July 2024, homebuyers will be required to pay their own buyer’s agent. This could incentivize buyers and buyer’s agents to negotiate commissions directly, veering away from the traditional model where sellers indirectly covered this cost.

This shift could also lead to the emergence of a more competitive market, with buyer agents marketing their services more aggressively. However, it could also potentially increase the financial burden on homebuyers, particularly first-time buyers. Regulatory changes might allow commission costs inclusion in buyers’ mortgages, potentially easing this burden.

Alternatives to Traditional Real Estate Commissions

Illustration of different commission models like percentage, flat fee, and discount

The lawsuit settlement has also opened up the door for alternatives to traditional real estate commissions. With the requirement for upfront compensation for buyer’s agents from home sellers being removed, sellers now have the opportunity to explore alternative commission models, such as flat fees or engaging discounters.

These alternatives offer potential cost-effective choices for sellers, providing them with more control over the selling process and helping to preserve consumer choice. However, they also come with their own set of challenges and considerations, which sellers should carefully evaluate before making a decision.

Flat Fee Services

One of these alternatives is flat fee services. In this model, real estate agents charge a predetermined rate for listing services, offering an alternative to the traditional commission-based model. By using a multiple listing service and affiliated multiple listing services, this could provide significant savings for sellers, particularly for high-value properties.

However, flat fee services also come with potential downsides. Some of these downsides include:

Discounters and Their Success Rates

Another alternative comes in the form of discount real estate brokers. These brokers offer significantly lower commission rates, sometimes as low as 1 percent, compared to the average commission rates of traditional brokers such as Coldwell Banker. Companies like Clever and Redfin have been leading the charge in this space, providing alternative low-commission services.

Despite their lower fees, these discount brokers claim to offer the same level of service as traditional agents. However, it’s worth noting that most home sellers still display a preference for using full-price brokerage services, even with the availability of these low-cost alternatives.

The Future of Real Estate Commissions

Illustration of two real estate agents engaging in a price negotiation

As we look towards the future, it’s clear that the NAR lawsuit settlement has triggered a significant shift in the real estate commission landscape. Experts predict a future reduction in real estate commissions to below 4 percent, and in some cases to 3 percent, due to growing competition and market transparency.

This could lead to:

This could result in a shift in the real estate commission structure.

Price War Between Buyer's Agents

One potential outcome of these changes is a price war between buyer’s agents. With the new compensation model, buyer’s agents may need to compete more aggressively for clients. This could contribute to the downward trend in commission rates, potentially benefiting homebuyers.

However, it’s worth noting that these changes also add a layer of complexity to the home buying and selling process. Buyers, sellers, and agents will need to navigate these new dynamics and negotiate fees and services in a landscape that is evolving in real time.

New Payment Structures

The lawsuit settlement also brings about potential changes in payment structures. From July 2024, brokers can no longer require upfront compensation for buyer’s agents from home sellers. This empowers sellers and buyers to negotiate this independently, potentially leading to more equitable outcomes.

However, this change also means that buyers might face an average cost of approximately $10,000 in closing costs, derived from a 2.5 percent commission on a typical $400,000 housing sale. To ease this financial burden, regulators are considering rule changes that would allow such commissions to be rolled into mortgage financing by government-sponsored entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Potential Pitfalls

While the changes brought about by the lawsuit offer potential benefits, they also come with potential pitfalls. The added complexity to agent compensation and the incentive for buyers to work without an agent might lead to unprecedented legal situations. It’s important for all parties involved to tread carefully and seek professional advice when navigating these new dynamics.

That being said, these changes also present an exciting opportunity for transformation in the real estate industry. By working together with transparency, buyers, sellers, and agents can ensure a fair and beneficial outcome for all parties involved, in line with the principles of the consumer federation.


In conclusion, the NAR lawsuit has undoubtedly left a significant mark on the real estate industry. From changes in commission structures to the emergence of new payment models, the landscape of real estate commissions is set for a major overhaul. Homeowners stand to benefit from potentially lower commissions, while agents might face a more competitive environment.

However, with change comes opportunity. By embracing these new dynamics, all stakeholders in the real estate industry can work together to create a fairer and more transparent market. The dust has yet to settle, but one thing is clear: the future of real estate commissions will be shaped by this landmark lawsuit.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I help serve home sellers?

I offer evaluation, preparation, and marketing services for sellers, providing a comprehensive approach to selling a property.

What are the steps in the selling process?

The steps in the selling process include listing and launching, open doors for showings, and reviewing offers and outcomes. These are essential stages for a successful sale.

What services do I offer for buyers?

I also offer a personalized meeting to discuss your home-buying preferences, assistance with pre-qualification, and real-time search for active listings.

What are the steps in the buying process?

The steps in the buying process include showings, making an offer, and entering into a mutual agreement with the seller. This ensures a clear understanding of the process.

Do I provide post-sale support?

Yes, of course! I provide post-sale support and encourages clients to reach out with any questions or concerns.