Industry reacts to the Anywhere settlement

Anywhere Real Estate’s settlement agreement in two class action antitrust lawsuits dealing with buyer broker compensation raises important questions about the future of buyer’s agency and how other defendants are viewing the fast approaching trials.

Top of mind, of course, is what exactly the settlement agreements include, besides an agreement by Anywhere to pay a total of $83.5 million in damages for both the Moehrl and Sitzer/Burnett suits.

Steve Berman, the managing partner and co-founder of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, which represents the plaintiffs in the Moehrl suit, said the “settlement includes significant changes to Anywhere’s practices relating to the conduct that we have challenged.” However, the exact terms of the settlement won’t be known until the plaintiffs file a motion to approve the settlement agreement. Anywhere declined to comment on the exact terms of the agreement.

Meanwhile, Steve Murray, the co-founder of RealTrends Consulting, said he believes the changes Anywhere proposed to make could mark the end of buyer broker compensation as we know it.

“As far as cooperation and compensation, that is now pretty much over,” Murray said. “The biggest combined brokerage company in the country in terms of all their brands, just said, ‘We’re out. We are not going to defend this case anymore,’ so that will definitely lead to changes.”

Murray sees three possible outcomes for the lawsuits.

“Worst case scenario, the broker representing the buyer will have to negotiate their own fee with their client and the seller can no longer be compelled to make a blanket offer of compensation in order to list on the MLS,” Murray said. “The second thing that could happen is that more and more buyers will go directly to the listing agent, in which case they are clearly unrepresented. The third thing that would happen is a whole new kind of buyer brokers arise that charge an hourly flat fee to represent…

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