Is Anywhere’s settlement the first domino to fall? The Download

Publish Date: September 08, 2023

Written by Christy Murdock

- Originally published at Inman News - Christy Murdock

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Each week on The Download, Inman’s Christy Murdock takes a deeper look at the top-read stories of the week to give you what you’ll need to meet Monday head-on. This week: Now that Anywhere has settled its portion of the bombshell commission lawsuit, who’s next?

If you regularly read The Download, you know that there are plenty of challenges facing real estate professionals these days. In fact, the past several years have brought unprecedented upheaval, first with the fears and challenges represented by the housing market collapse, then from the existential threats represented by technology and iBuyers, then by the wild pandemic real estate market and its aftermath.

Now it’s interest rates, NAR and the bombshell Sitzer and Moehrl commission lawsuits. When will real estate agents (and the people who love them) ever get a break?

Anywhere agents may just be breathing a little easier today than their peers at other brokerages. That’s because this week, Anywhere was the first to settle their part of the commission lawsuits in a deal that may set the table for other settlements to come.

There’s an old saying: “The one who pays the piper calls the tune.” It will be interesting to see if Anywhere’s thirst to be first helps them strike a better deal than the other defendants in the days ahead.

On Tuesday, plaintiffs for one of the suits, Sitzer/Burnett, which is scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 16, filed a notice in the U.S. District Court in Western Missouri letting the court know that Anywhere, formerly known as Realogy Holdings Corp., had agreed to settle all of the claims against the company as part of a proposed nationwide class settlement. The deal was jointly negotiated with the plaintiffs in the larger bombshell suit known as Moehrl.

In an emailed statement, Steve Berman, counsel for the Moehrl plaintiffs and managing partner and co-founder of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, told Inman that the “$83.5 million settlement” is a “significant milestone” in the case.

“The monetary settlement was the most that could be obtained in light of Anywhere’s available financial resources,” Berman said.

“Critically, the settlement includes significant changes to Anywhere’s practices relating to the conduct that we have challenged. Our antitrust team looks forward to continuing to pursue additional relief against remaining defendants for those who have been systematically overcharged for simply selling their homes in an already unstable housing market.”

The commission lawsuits have been top of mind for real estate agents for years now and involve commissions paid between 2015 and 2020. For many agents and brokers, they appear to represent an insurmountable threat to their business model, especially if no alternative for buyer-agent compensation is readily identified.

At the same time, from the consumer perspective, the lawsuits are the result of worsening affordability and a sense that the current housing market — and the real estate process on both the buy and sell side — have become untenably expensive. In short, there is fear, frustration and angst enough to go around.

Here you’ll find a survey of agent and broker reactions to the bombshell lawsuits and their potential impact, as well as insights from boots-on-the-ground real estate professionals who are looking at the way the industry is perceived and the affordability pressures that are driving consumer sentiment.

Read Inman’s exclusive Blueprint for winning in real estate in 2023

INMAN INTEL EXTRA: Brokers fear losing commissions, agents if lawsuits succeed: Survey

Trainer, author and Inman contributor Bernice Ross interviewed James Dwiggins, CEO and co-founder of real estate franchisor NextHome, whose company did over $12 billion in sales in 2022. To be prepared for the worst-case scenario, Dwiggins put together a comprehensive risk assessment examining potential outcomes from the current litigation as well as what their impact might be. Don’t miss their conversation.

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