The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the NAR are engaged in an ongoing lawsuit filed by the DOJ in November 2020. The DOJ alleges, among other allegations, that some NAR rules are illegal restraints on REALTOR competition. In particular, for this conversation, the DOJ alleges that NAR’s policies prohibit transparency to the consumer regarding buyer broker commissions.
The lawsuit has already gone through multiple phases, including a settlement and then withdrawal of the settlement, so it may take a while to conclude. However, transparency to the consumer regarding payment of commissions is likely going to become the nationwide rule. In an effort to conform to the eventual practice of full transparency, GAR has rewritten the commission section of the Buyer Brokerage Agreement in a way that complies with full transparency.
Buyer Agent Services are Not Free
The heart of the DOJ allegation is that the practice of agents saying or inferring that the buyer broker’s fee is free to the buyer because it is paid by the seller. The broker’s fee is in the purchase price so the buyer is paying. The new language clearly states the commission amount is owed by the buyer to the buyer’s broker and then clarifies that the full amount owed is “minus any commission paid to Broker by either the seller’s broker or the seller.” The new language also includes an acknowledgment that the commission, if any, being offered by the seller’s broker is usually set forth in the multiple listing service in which the property is listed.
When buyers want to see properties that offer less commission than agreed in the Buyer Brokerage Agreement, they need to understand that the difference in commission will be owed by them if that property is purchased. Both FMLS and GaMLS require the Buyer broker’s commission to be disclosed in the listing, so they are already operating with transparency and the commission to be paid is known. Sometimes the seller or seller’s agent does not list in the multiple listing services, such as some builders. Investigation will be needed, so that your buyer – and you - know the facts.
Emphasize the Value You Bring
This change reflects what may be the start of an eventual shift in how real estate brokers working with buyers are paid. Buyer’s brokers will need to be able to more clearly articulate the value of the services they perform to their buyer clients.
Great agents that are prepared to demonstrate their services as both valuable and necessary, will continue to thrive!
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