Landmark Court Loss Could Revolutionize Residential Real Estate Industry
A recent jury verdict against the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and major residential brokerages has the potential to disrupt the residential real estate industry. The central issue revolves around the real estate compensation model. Plaintiffs argue that commission rates are excessively high, buyer brokers are overpaid, and NAR rules, along with the practices of corporate defendants, contribute to fixed pricing. On the other hand, NAR maintains that these rules foster competition and create efficient, transparent, and fair local broker marketplaces.
NAR, which saw its CEO depart shortly after the court loss, is appealing the $1.8 billion jury verdict. As the legal battle unfolds, it may take several years before the case, which covers the Missouri markets of Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, and Columbia, is ultimately resolved. However, coupled with similar ongoing lawsuits, the potential for policy changes that could significantly impact realtors' earnings is palpable. The repercussions of this verdict are already reverberating through the market, with shares of Re/Max Holdings dropping over 8% on Tuesday due to concerns about potential litigation, despite having settled with plaintiffs prior to the NAR case verdict.
A Challenging Time for Real Estate Agents
The jury verdict arrives at a time when many real estate agents are already facing challenges. The rapid rise in interest rates, driven by the Federal Reserve's efforts to combat inflation, has pushed the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate above 8%. This exacerbates the existing affordability crisis in the U.S. housing market. Prospective sellers are hesitant to make a move when faced with the prospect of mortgage rates that are potentially double or more than their current rates. Simultaneously, millions of potential homebuyers are unable to afford the monthly payments, resulting in their exclusion from the market. Recent data shows that existing home sales have dropped to their lowest level since 2010. Based on NAR data, an October report from University of Colorado Boulder scholar-in-residence Mike DelPrete projects that existing home sales will reach 4.15 million transactions this year, down from over 6 million in 2021 and 5 million in 2022.
Bill Gross, a self-employed real estate broker associate in California with eXp Realty, describes the lawsuit as "another punch in the gut for real estate franchises" amidst the existing challenges faced by agents. While the legal proceedings have not yet had a significant impact on individual brokers and agents, the outcome of the multiple ongoing legal battles could potentially change this scenario. An analysis by Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst Ryan Tomasello, published before the jury verdict, estimated a 30% reduction in the $100 billion paid annually in real estate commissions, potentially causing up to 1.6 million agents to lose their source of income.
Increasing Pressure on Transaction Fees
Transaction fees have been under pressure for several years, with technological advancements leading to greater transparency in the real estate market. The recent court battles further intensify this industry pressure. Additionally, as home prices continue to rise, the fees become more evident in relation to the overall deal size. Gilbert J. Schipani, founder of Tempus Fugit Law, which represents buyers, sellers, realtors, lenders, and businesses in real estate transactions, explains that lawsuits focused on fees reinforce the general trend of attempting to lower fees in the real estate market. This trend has been ongoing for the past decade.
As the court cases progress, there is likely to be increased disclosure around fees in the future to promote transparency. Glenn Kelman, CEO of tech-led real estate brokerage firm Redfin, highlights that the National Association of Realtors updated its guidelines before the verdict to allow agents to list homes for sale without offering a commission to the buyer's agent. This change indicates a shift in the industry, with traditional brokers now training their agents to discuss fees openly. Tech-focused realty brokerage firms like Redfin and Compass have also become targets of new legal challenges.
Plaintiffs argue that buyers, rather than sellers, should bear the cost of the buyer's agent. However, this could potentially impact the utilization of buyer's agents. If buyers were to seek properties independently to save money and negotiate with listing agents, expecting a discounted fee since the seller already compensates them, it could change the dynamics of the market. While not all real estate professionals may be willing to work both sides of a deal due to inherent bias, the market conditions may result in this happening more frequently. Additionally, there is a possibility that new court-imposed rules could prohibit real estate professionals from representing both sides of a deal.
Local Market Changes and the Future of Real Estate
Local market rules may undergo changes based on the ongoing court cases and broader market shifts. For instance, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), an organization independent of NAR, recently announced upcoming changes to its rules to promote transparency and consumer confidence in the residential marketplace. Starting January 1, offers of compensation to buy-side brokers must originate from the seller/owner, with listing brokers no longer permitted to make compensation offers on the seller's behalf. Instead, the buyer's broker will be directly compensated by the seller or owner of the exclusive property, as customary in the New York City area.
According to REBNY, this change represents the future of residential real estate transactions, and they anticipate other listing services to follow suit. These evolving market dynamics indicate a shift in the way real estate transactions are conducted.
Commissions and Negotiation
Currently, real estate professionals are not required to change their business practices while the legal challenges are ongoing. However, NAR strongly recommends the use of buyer representation agreements for clarity and understanding. NAR also urges its members to inform clients that commissions are negotiable and are set between brokers and their clients.
Another separate lawsuit involving multiple markets against NAR and brokerages could go to trial next year, and a recently filed nationwide lawsuit adds to the legal challenges. Regardless of the outcome in the Missouri court or any other courtroom, one thing is certain: there is no going back to the way things were, as noted by Glenn Kelman in his post-verdict analysis.
Real estate professionals should stay informed and pay attention to the evolving landscape. Vickey Barron, a licensed associate real estate broker with Compass in New York City, advises reading the fine print and staying informed for the sake of both the business and clients' best interests.
In conclusion, the recent jury verdict against NAR and major residential brokerages has the potential to reshape the residential real estate industry. The impact on real estate agents, homebuyers, and sellers is significant, with potential changes in commission structures and market practices. As the legal battles progress and market conditions evolve, real estate professionals need to adapt and stay informed to navigate the changing landscape successfully.
A Potential Game-Changer for New Business Formation
The recent court verdict against the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and major residential brokerages could potentially revolutionize the residential real estate industry. This landmark decision has the potential to disrupt traditional commission structures and business practices, making it a hot topic for those considering new business formation in the industry.
Implications for New Entrants
For new entrants in the real estate market, this could mean navigating a landscape where buyer brokers may no longer be overpaid, and commission rates may not be as high as they once were. The plaintiffs' argument that NAR rules and corporate defendants' practices contribute to fixed pricing could lead to significant policy changes that impact realtors' earnings.
Adapting to a Changing Landscape
The potential for change is already causing ripples in the market, with shares of Re/Max Holdings dropping over 8% due to concerns about litigation. The verdict arrives at a challenging time for real estate agents, with rising interest rates exacerbating an existing affordability crisis in the U.S. housing market. This scenario could potentially alter the dynamics of the market, with buyers seeking properties independently to save money and negotiate with listing agents directly.
The Future of Real Estate Transactions
Local market rules may also undergo changes based on the ongoing court cases and broader market shifts. For instance, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) recently announced changes to its rules to promote transparency and consumer confidence in the residential marketplace. These evolving market dynamics indicate a shift in the way real estate transactions are conducted, which new businesses will need to adapt to.
Staying Informed and Adapting
As the legal battles progress and market conditions evolve, real estate professionals and new businesses need to stay informed and adapt to navigate the changing landscape successfully. Regardless of the outcome in the Missouri court or any other courtroom, one thing is certain: there is no going back to the way things were. This hot take suggests that the recent jury verdict could be a potential game-changer for new business formation in the residential real estate industry.