National Association of Realtors Loses Its Grip on Real Estate Industry – The New York Times

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The National Association of Realtors is facing antitrust lawsuits and sexual harassment allegations, and real estate agents are now looking for alternatives.

The staff members of the National Association of Realtors, the largest professional organization in the United States, were in a panic. Two days before the group’s national convention, they had set up 400 exhibition booths and were expecting nearly 12,000 people to arrive for three days of speakers, training sessions and networking.

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But now they were scrambling to find extra security and private bodyguards for members of their team because the former president, who had resigned under the weight of sexual harassment allegations, wrote an open letter that they interpreted as a plan to crash the convention.

The theme of the yearly gathering for 2023 was “Own the Moment.”

Attendees pose for a group selfie at the inaugural gala of NAR NXT, the annual convention for the National Association of Realtors, in November.National Association of Realtors

That day in November, it was obvious to the staff that N.A.R. — an organization that for more than a century has stood as a monolith of influence within the real estate industry — was losing its grip. This year delivered a one-two punch of dual scandals, and many within the organization admit N.A.R. is now in real danger of going under. Several high-profile real estate agents are talking about starting their own groups.

In addition to sexual harassment allegations, N.A.R. is taking on legal challenges to its policy that requires a listing agent to pay a fee to a buyers’ agent in a home sale transaction — a fee that is nearly always passed on to the home seller. Just weeks before the convention, a federal jury agreed with a trio of Missouri home sellers that N.A.R. had operated a price-fixing conspiracy around agent commissions, and ordered damages of at least $1.8 billion.

Additional lawsuits, more than can be counted on both hands, are piling up. The specter of bankruptcy looms large. The Department of Justice is continuing an investigation into the group for antitrust violations, and some of the nation’s largest brokerages, including Re/Max and Coldwell Banker, have said they will no longer require their agents to carry N.A.R. membership. Redfin will require agents in certain markets to cease paying dues.

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