U.S. Realtors settle federal lawsuit, to give consumers more information

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The National Association of Realtors (NAR) settled a federal lawsuit by agreeing to give potential home buyers more accurate information about commissions and fees, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.

The proposed settlement requires the Chicago-based NAR to revise its rules to provide home buyers with greater transparency about commissions of brokers representing them, the Justice Department said.

The changes include requiring NAR to stop misrepresenting that buyer broker services are free, eliminate rules that prohibit filtering multiple listing services based on the level of buyer broker commissions and change rules limiting access to lockboxes to only NAR-affilated real estate brokers.

The Justice Department, in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, said the group’s policies on publication and marketing of real estate, commissions and access to lockboxes “resulted in a lessening of competition among real estate brokers to the detriment of American home buyers.”

A spokesman for NAR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Buying a home is one of life’s biggest and most important financial decisions,” Makan Delrahim, who heads the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said in a statement. “Today’s settlement prevents traditional brokers from impeding competition — including by internet-based methods of home buying and selling — by providing greater transparency to consumers about broker fees.”

NAR is a trade association of more than 1.4 million-member Realtors.

The settlement cannot be filed with the court for approval until it is open for public comment for 60 days.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio