BAM Key Details:

  • With a commission lawsuit trial scheduled for October, BrightMLS is breaking a NAR policy by allowing agents to list properties with $0 (or 0%) in the cooperative compensation field for the listing. 
  • The goal is to allow for greater flexibility for BrightMLS users and to improve clarity and transparency in agent-client communications. 
  • Other MLSs—including MLS PIN and Northwest MLS have also changed their policies to make the offering of buyer compensation optional. 

With two class action lawsuits in the works—and one of them scheduled for a three-week trial in October—Bright MLS is making some waves with its recent challenge to a controversial MLS policy enacted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). 

Last week, BrightMLS posted an “Update to Listing Entry Cooperative Compensation Fields.” It states that starting August 9th, BrightMLS will allow brokers to list a property entering any amount for the cooperative compensation fields—including zero. Previous policy required compensation of at least one cent. 

Essentially, BrightMLS wants to reinforce the flexibility of BrightMLS subscribers and improve the transparency and clarity of client-agent communications. 

Bright has always offered flexibility and has never specified a cooperative compensation amount. With this update, a listing agent will continue to be able to enter the cooperative compensation amount agreed upon with their seller client, from zero and up, and continue to negotiate compensation at their client’s direction.

BrightMLS Announcement

Real estate professionals are in the business of creating relationships with their clients, and trust is an essential part of that. You might get through a transaction with the bare minimum level of trust between you and your client, but you’re not likely to get repeat business with that. 

Greater transparency and clarity in the process help your client see that you’ve got their back and are protecting their interests at every step. 

More about the class action lawsuits

Two highly-publicized class action lawsuits are bearing down on the real estate industry, with one scheduled for a three-week trial in October. And with Spirit Halloween stores popping up in strip malls across the country, we can’t help being reminded of how soon that is. 

The controversy at the heart of all this revolves around the agent commission structure and MLS policies enacted by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). 

Real estate professionals across the U.S. are mixed on this one. On the one hand, some see these lawsuits as an insult to buyer agency and a threat to their livelihood, if not to the entire industry. On the other, some are seeing this as a wake-up call and an opportunity to improve transparency in agent-client communication

Regardless of the outcome, these lawsuits are and will spur the change … around transparency, acceptance and even appreciation of brokers, broker agent’s role in the transaction.

Katie Johnson

NAR's Chief legal and membership experience officer

Assuming nothing changes between now and then, the three-week trial for the Sitzer/Burnett class action lawsuit is expected to begin in October. As yet, the Moehrl lawsuit does not have a set trial date. 

The outcome of the October trial could upend NAR’s Participation Rule, which currently requires listing brokers to offer buyer agents a commission in order to list a property in any NAR-affiliated multiple listing service (MLS). 

That’s the sore spot for plaintiffs in both lawsuits, mainly due to the belief that the requirement illegally inflates prices, though it’s unclear as to how that happens if the seller agrees to a specific commission rate at the outset. 

As long as the listing agent isn’t trying to inflate the asking price to line their own pockets—which would eventually come back to bite them—there’s no reason to assume that the agent is unfairly cutting into the final sale price by sticking to the original agreement. 

Good agents prioritize transparency, even when it’s not required. That said, incentivizing transparency may ultimately work to everyone’s benefit. 

Room for improvement in communication and transparency

Two positives that could come of these impending lawsuits both have to do with improving communication between agents and their clients: 

  1. To help clients see and appreciate the value proposition of agents on both sides of the transaction, and
  2. To improve agents’ understanding of the consumer experience.

A better understanding of what a client experiences before they meet you is critical to building the trust that is foundational to a strong and mutually beneficial reagent-client relationship. 

That understanding requires more than empathy and authenticity, though both can be helpful when connecting with a potential client. Ultimately, the transaction is about them. 

Knowledge of your client and their experience with the process—as well as of everything you need to know to provide the service they need—is what will make you an agent they want to work with and recommend to others. 

So, whatever the outcome of October’s trial—and of the trial for the Moehrl lawsuit—being transparent with (potential) clients about costs, commissions, and every detail that could impact them can only help you build and strengthen trust and a mutual conviction that you’re working toward the same goal.