Powerful Realtor Group Agrees to Slash Commissions to Settle Lawsuits – The New York Times

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The National Association of Realtors will pay $418 million in damages and will amend several rules that housing experts say will drive down housing costs.

American homeowners could see a significant drop in the cost of selling their homes after a real estate trade group agreed to a landmark deal that will eliminate a bedrock of the industry, the standard 6 percent sales commission.


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The National Association of Realtors, a powerful organization that has set the guidelines for home sales for decades, has agreed to settle a series of lawsuits by paying $418 million in damages and by eliminating its rules on commissions. Legal counsel for N.A.R. approved the agreement early Friday morning, and The New York Times obtained a copy of the signed document.

The deal, which lawyers anticipate will be filed within weeks and still needs a federal court’s approval, would end a multitude of legal claims from home sellers who argued that the rules forced them to pay excessive fees. Representatives for N.A.R. were not immediately available for comment.

Housing experts said the deal, and the expected savings for homeowners, could trigger one of the most significant jolts in the U.S. housing market in 100 years. “This will blow up the market and would force a new business model,” said Norm Miller, a professor emeritus of real estate at the University of San Diego.

Americans pay roughly $100 billion in real estate commissions annually, and real estate agents in the United States have some of the highest standard commissions in the world. In many other countries, commission rates hover between 1 and 3 percent. In the United States, most agents specify a commission of 5 or 6 percent, paid by the seller. If the buyer has an agent, the seller’s agent agrees to share a portion of the commission with that agent when listing the home on the market.

An American homeowner currently looking to sell a $1 million home should expect to spend up to $60,000 on real estate commissions alone, with $30,000 going to his agent and $30,000 going to the agent who brings a buyer. Even for a home that costs $400,000 — close to the current median for homes across the United States — sellers are still paying around $24,000 in commissions, a cost that is baked into the final sales price of the home.

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