On November 19, 2020, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against NAR alleging that some of their rules and regulations create illegal restraints on the way that real estate professionals compete. At the same time, the DOJ filed a proposed settlement to the lawsuit, which they had negotiated with NAR. In the proposed settlement, which still has many steps to go through before it becomes final, NAR agrees to change the policies at issue, which could result in some significant changes in the way REALTORS® do business.
Under the terms of the settlement, NAR will make several changes relating to their MLS rules. The amount of compensation offered to buyers’ agents for each MLS listing will be made publicly available, so there won’t be any surprise as the amount of the commission earned by those agents. Buyers’ agents will also be required to disclose this information to their clients. They can no longer state or imply that their services are “free” when they are actually receiving cooperating commission.
NAR-affiliated MLSs must also eliminate any filters that could eliminate properties from a buyer’s search based on the amount of compensation offered to the buyer’s agent. The MLS must provide all properties that fit the buyer’s criteria regardless of compensation offered or the name of the listing brokerage.
Finally, all licensed real estate agents (with seller approval) will have access to lockboxes of properties listed on an MLS. The MLS can no longer restrict access to only those agents who subscribe to the MLS.
These changes are not yet official. NAR and the DOJ are working on the exact wording of the rules changes. Then, NAR’s Board of Directors must approve the new rules. After that, the Court overseeing the settlement must give it final approval, at which point the new rules will take effect. Keep an eye on your email for announcements from NAR or Virginia REALTORS® when these changes take place.