Homebuyers and sellers face an uncertain wait for billion-dollar verdict to hit their wallets
The verdict from the billion-dollar antitrust lawsuit brought by the U.S. Justice Department against three major real estate brokers is likely to impact the wallets of buyers and sellers alike, but just what that impact could look like is still uncertain.
If the verdict goes in the government’s favor, it’s possible that buyers and sellers may eventually gain leverage when negotiating terms of a real estate transaction, as well as from more competitive listing fees and commissions. But for now, buyers and sellers remain in a holding pattern as the government and real estate brokers continue their legal battle.
It’s a situation that could have long-term implications for the real estate industry. In a statement after the trial began in February, the Justice Department said it wants to “roll back the anti-competitive practices of the real estate brokerages, allowing consumers to enjoy the benefits of competition that would naturally arise if they charged market prices for their services.”
The three brokers—Realogy, RE/MAX and Home Services of America, Inc.—are accused of signing agreements to not recruit each other’s agents and of “bundling” services—in some cases requiring sellers to use certain services in order to list their homes on their websites. There’s also concern that the brokers’ actions have limited market competition and thus kept the prices of services artificially high.
If the verdict goes against the brokers, they could be forced to loosen the restrictions on recruiting and bundling services. That could lead to a reduction in the amount of money sellers ultimately have to pay in fees and commissions. It could also lead to an increase in the number of agents on the market, giving buyers more options when it comes to negotiation in a real estate transaction.
The verdict could be handed down as early as this summer, and it will be up to the real estate industry to adjust quickly. Buyers and sellers hoping to benefit from a favorable verdict should keep an eye on the case to see how they might be impacted.