Last week, NAR reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to make certain changes to the Code of Ethics and MLS policies regarding providing information about commissions and MLS participation. Although the exact language of the proposed settlement is still being finalized, most of the changes seek to more explicitly state what is already the spirit and intent of NAR’s Code of Ethics and MLS policies regarding providing information about commissions and MLS participation.
Summary of Outcomes
In accordance with the MLS system’s long-standing focus on creating an efficient, transparent marketplace for home buyers and sellers, the amount of compensation offered to buyers’ agents for each MLS listing will be made publicly available. Publicly accessible MLS data feeds will include offers of compensation, and buyers’ agents will have an affirmative obligation to provide such information to their clients for homes of interest.
Relatedly, the rule changes re-affirm that MLSs and brokerages, as always, must provide consumers all properties that fit their criteria regardless of compensation offered or the name of the listing brokerage.
While NAR has long encouraged buyers’ agents to explain how they expect to be paid, typically through offers of cooperative compensation from sellers’ agents, there will be a rule that more definitively states that buyers’ agents cannot represent that their services are free to clients.
Finally, with the seller’s prior approval, a licensed real estate agent will have access to the lockboxes of properties listed on an MLS even if the agent does not subscribe to the MLS.
What Happens Next
NAR will work with the DOJ to agree on exact rule changes within 45 days, then the Board of Directors will have to approve the new rules. The Court overseeing the settlement must formally approve the agreement, at which point we anticipate that the new rules will take effect. NAR will keep members apprised of official rule changes as more details become available.
In entering this agreement with the DOJ, NAR admits no liability, wrongdoing or truth of any allegations by the DOJ. The agreement does not subject NAR to any fines or any payments.