What would you pay for a website membership that instantly reveals buyer agent compensation offers for any listing on the MLS? 

That likely depends on how easy it is for you to find that information for free. 

In the latest episode of The Real Word podcast, Byron Lazine and Nicole White discussed the rise of commission sharing sites and compared two of the more notable examples: Listingsplit and Nesthook. 

While Listingsplit has some advantages over Nesthook—its domain name and website, for starters—it still faces the same hurdles to becoming a household name. 

The biggest potential hurdle comes from the potential for legal action, either with the DOJ or with the NAR settlement, the terms of which prohibit both MLSs and home search websites using MLS data from publishing offers of buyer agent compensation

Speaking on this, founders of both sites have told Real Estate News that their models are 100% compliant with the new rules going into effect this August. But with the DOJ publicly taking issue with some of the more lenient terms of the proposed settlement, that could change. 

Read on for three reasons Listingsplit and Nesthook face an uphill battle. Then tune in to The Real Word to enjoy the full conversation, with Byron’s and Nicole’s reactions to both sites.

What Listingsplit and Nesthook do for agents & consumers

The founders behind Listingsplit and Nesthook have laudable goals for their respective sites. 

Listingsplit founder Steve Hattan aims to reduce the workload for agents by eliminating or at least paring down the flood of commission-related phone calls he sees coming with the rule changes. 

“My goal was to solve a problem and eliminate all of those phone calls. As a buyer’s agent, I don’t want to make 50 phone calls to go show properties and find out that the seller’s not interested. Do you want 50 agents calling you asking what the commission is? Or just go look up the commission, and everything falls into place.”

Commission offers on Listingsplit come directly from home sellers, which means agents are not the ones offering commission.

Nesthook’s site header sums up its primary aim: to provide “compliant commission disclosure for real estate pros.” 

Lawyer consultations aside, though, the word “compliant” may still be open for debate. 

Unlike Listingsplit, Nesthook is designed only for licensed real estate professionals, which begs the question: What does Nesthook offer that agents can’t find elsewhere? 

Agents using Nesthook can view offers of compensation, but unlike Listingsplit users, they cannot search the listings by compensation amounts. 

Whatever their differences, both companies face multiple challenges, any one of which could pull the rug out from underneath.

Reason #1—Tenuous advantage to using these sites over existing options

The first question both these sites have to answer—clearly and definitively—is “Does this really benefit consumers?” 

In one way, they could. As Nicole pointed out, Listingsplit can help buyers by providing valuable information on their agents’ commission—specifically how much of it the seller is willing to pay. 

If you go onto [Hattan’s] website, it’s talking about the fact that it’s a good place for buyers to go, too, so they know if their agent will be compensated—so that, obviously, then they wouldn’t have to compensate their agent.

Nicole White

According to T3 Sixty CEO Jack Miller, though, these sites are, at best, unnecessary. He told Real Estate News:

Just because you can create a platform for sharing compensation details doesn’t mean you should…People who are trying to work around the intention of the NAR settlement and the DOJ are really running a risk of further antitrust claims. And I would say it’s unnecessary. What a seller and listing agent can do is they can say concessions are available to the buyer.

There’s absolutely nothing creative about this. This is the industry and industry participants attempting to work around the settlement rules—and that is not a new business model that improves services for the consumer. That does not reduce costs, [it] doesn’t make the transaction more efficient, and it doesn’t create greater transparency and harmony.

Jack Miller

CEO of T3 Sixty

Byron agreed with the last point, saying, “I certainly don’t think it makes it more efficient. I’ve got to go from MLS now to Listingsplit.com or Nesthook.com?”

Real estate professionals across the U.S. are likely to ask the same question. And it doesn’t help that both sites charge a fee for users, while both agents and consumers can get the same information without spending a dime. 

And that leads us to reason number two. 

Reason #2—The cost

Consumers don’t have to pay to access listings on Zillow, Realtor.com, etc. They also don’t have to pay to call, text, or email their agent to learn more about who’s compensating whom and in what amount. 

Both Listingsplit and Nesthook will charge a fee for user access to listings, though Listingsplit will allow sellers to create a listing at no cost during the launch. Listingsplit also has a browser extension that shows compensation information when users are viewing properties on other home listing sites. For some, that alone might be enough reason to justify a closer look. 

As for Nestingsplit, the cost of entry could be enough to dissuade agents from even bothering with it—especially when they already have ways to automate responses to commission-related inquiries from agents and consumers. 

Time will tell whether enough people will be willing to pay for the convenience of going directly to one of these sites for information on commission offers—without having to pick up the phone. 

Reason #3—The DOJ

Both Hattan and Kelley have acknowledged that the DOJ could upend their sites by prohibiting agents from sharing offers of compensation anywherea goal the Department has had for some time now. 

On its face, such a ban would not stop sellers from privately sharing their offers of buyer agent compensation with the agents and buyers involved in their transaction. But if the DOJ is determined to prevent anyone on the sell side from making offers of compensation anywhere—privately or publicly—a blanket prohibition may, at best, be postponed. 

For now, the fees charged by Nesthook and Listingsplit may be their best safeguard against prosecution for making information on commission offers freely accessible to all. But given the DOJ’s track record and tenacity, that protection may be short-lived. 

That said, even if the DOJ takes little notice of the sites, Listingsplit and Nesthook could still run into legal trouble with the NAR settlement. 

“The proposed settlement to me sounds like putting exact commission in there might be a little too far.”

Byron Lazine

So, while both founders have consulted lawyers to confirm they’re not breaking any laws, it’s still fair to speculate that someone tied to the NAR settlement could take legal action to prevent either or both sites from functioning as intended.