Bell-Meyer brings with her over 10 years’ experience working with chambers of commerce and economic development initiatives.
Opinion: Buying a House? Don't Go It Alone. A Real Estate Agent Can Make All the Difference
The compensation structure plaintiffs’ lawyers would like to dismantle—one in which listing brokers offer compensation to buyer brokers for finding a buyer—promotes consumer choice, encourages market competition and boosts access to homeownership.
By Tracy Kasper
Editor’s Note: The following story was originally published in USA Today.
In October, eight jurors in a Missouri court were led to believe that the way real estate agents have long been compensated amounts to a conspiracy to violate antitrust laws. The jury's verdict rests on the shakiest of legal grounds but has led to misrepresentations about the real estate industry and what its future holds.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys, who stand to profit richly should the verdict stand, have filed new lawsuits claiming that our profession involves a concerted effort to overcharge Americans looking to buy and sell their homes. This could not be further from the truth.
The compensation structure plaintiffs’ lawyers would like to dismantle—one in which listing brokers offer compensation to buyer brokers for finding a buyer—promotes consumer choice, encourages market competition and boosts access to homeownership. On a multiple listing service (MLS) platform, sellers can have their home seen by more buyers, ensure they receive the best offer and sell it for the best price.
Buyers, whether experienced purchasers or first-time owners, benefit from professional representation as well. For lower- and middle-income buyers in particular, saving for a down payment can be difficult, and the daunting prospect of buying a house will, for many, be the most significant and complex purchase of their lives.
For these buyers, adding broker compensation on top of closing costs would push the dream of homeownership even further out of reach. This especially would be true for veteran homebuyers because VA loans prohibit them from paying buyer broker fees.
Real Estate Commissions Are Negotiable
It's important to understand that the National Association of Realtors' rules do not require any particular amount or type of compensation. Compensation is negotiable between agents and their clients—it can be a percentage, a fixed or hourly rate or any other arrangement.
NAR also does not set commission amounts, contrary to the false claims of those mischaracterizing our industry. It is up to the listing broker and their client how much compensation to offer a buyer broker, and they are free to offer any amount.
There’s another, deeper truth that plaintiffs’ attorneys and their proxies choose to ignore: Far from harming consumers, Realtors are foundational to our communities and deliver value across America. I know this not only as the proud president of NAR, but also from personal experience.
At a young age, I saw firsthand the difference that real estate agents can make in helping families reach financial stability. I was raised by a single mother who moved me and my three siblings 18 times before I was 10 years old. We were living in a small rental when my mom told us she had saved money and had been working with a real estate agent to find a house she could afford.
I remember the sense of security I felt the first time I walked into that home, and I know that our agent—who owned her own small business in Caldwell, ID, and who celebrated with my family when we crossed that threshold for the first time—made it possible. My story is far from the only one.
Realtors are hardworking business owners who on average make less than $60,000 a year and work every day to serve our clients. While plaintiffs’ attorneys argue our profession is obsolete, most Americans turn to real estate agents when buying or selling a home because we provide critical services, information and counsel.
Do You Need a Realtor to Buy a House?
How Real Estate Agents Help
Consumers Navigate the System.
We help buyers and sellers navigate a maze of forms and complex paperwork; coordinate with lenders, inspectors, other agents, escrow companies, title companies, appraisers and other professionals; and ensure that our clients’ interests are represented in pricing, negotiation and closing. We also help clients interpret the information they find online or elsewhere.
NAR always welcomes thoughtful debate about the future of real estate, but we will not remain silent in the face of an onslaught of disinformation designed to undermine the women and men in this profession.
Realtors across this country will continue to serve our clients every day and help make homeownership a reality for the next generation of Americans seeking the opportunity it provides.
Tracy Kasper is the 2024 president of the National Association of Realtors. She is also the Broker-Owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Silverhawk Realty in the Boise Valley and a majority owner in two other Idaho real estate companies.