Proposed Anywhere settlement: no NAR buyer commission rule, no NAR membership needed

By Real Estate News

The terms of Anywhere Real Estate‘s $83.5 million settlement with plaintiffs in two bombshell buyer commission lawsuits have been made public, and they stipulate that the brokerage conglomerate make significant changes to its practices.

A hearing for preliminary approval of the settlement is expected to occur next month, with final court approval expected in mid-2024.

“I am pleased that Anywhere has reached a nationwide settlement with the plaintiffs in the Burnett and Moehrl cases,” said Ryan Schneider, Anywhere chief executive officer and president. “We believe this is the right course of action to remove future uncertainty and ongoing legal expense, serving the best interests of the company, our affiliated agents and franchisees, and shareholders, and enabling Anywhere to focus on moving real estate to what’s next.”

According to the brokerage conglomerate, the proposed settlement includes injunctive relief requiring practice changes in Anywhere Advisors, the company’s owned brokerage operations (which includes Coldwell Banker Realty, Corcoran, and Sotheby’s International Realty), for a period of five years following final court approval. Anywhere has also agreed to recommend and encourage these same practice changes to its independently owned and operated franchise network.

These practice changes include:

  • Anywhere will prohibit company owned brokerages and their affiliated agents from claiming buyer agent services are free.
  • Anywhere will require company owned brokerages and their affiliated agents to include the listing broker’s offer of compensation for prospective buyers’ agents as soon as possible in each active listing, consistent with MLS rules and/or capabilities of third-party website operators.
  • Anywhere will prohibit company owned brokerages and their affiliated agents from using any technology (or manual methods) to sort listings by offers of compensation, unless requested by the client.

Further, Anywhere has agreed to “advise and remind company owned brokerages, franchisees, and affiliated agents that the company has no rule requiring offers of compensation.”

Anywhere will also not require company owned brokerages, franchisees, or affiliated agents to belong to the NAR or follow the NAR Code of Ethics or MLS Handbook. Anywhere will require company owned brokerages and their agents to clearly disclose to clients that commissions are not set by law and are fully negotiable. Anywhere will eliminate any minimum client commission requirements that company owned brokerages may have.

“It is in the economic best interests of both buyers and sellers to work with experienced trusted advisors,” Sue Yannaccone, chief executive officer and president of Anywhere Brands and Anywhere Advisors, said in a statement. “We strongly believe in sellers making offers of compensation to buyers’ agents to bring more eligible buyers to a listing, which increases the likelihood of a successful transaction. Certain MLSs that have already removed the mandatory requirement or eliminated a minimum amount have helped facilitate seller choice in those markets as well as provide for continued access to both buyer and seller agent services.” 

One of the cases, known as Sitzer/Burnett after the names of the plaintiffs, is headed to trial in three weeks. That case named the NAR, Keller Williams, Anywhere, RE/MAX, HomeServices and HomeServices affiliates as defendants, and was originally filed in 2019. It won class-action status last year and could result in over $1 billion in damages.

The larger of the two cases, known as Moehrl, received class certification in March and a trial is expected next year. Damages could total more than $40 billion, though settlements with Anywhere and RE/MAX suggest possible industry losses will be considerably smaller.