NAR Reaches Agreement with DOJ on MLS and Commissions Rules

November 19, 2020

On Thursday, NAR reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to develop rules that more explicitly state what is already the spirit and intent of NAR’s Code of Ethics and MLS policies regarding providing information about commissions and MLS participation. Our rules and policies have long been recognized for creating a competitive and efficient market that benefits home buyers and sellers. This agreement resolves the DOJ’s questions about the multiple listing service (MLS) and commissions and enables NAR to remain focused on supporting our members as they preserve, protect, and advance the American dream of homeownership. NAR 2021 President Charlie Oppler released a brief video message, below, regarding the agreement.

Expected Outcomes

Although the exact language is still being finalized for NAR’s rule changes, most of the changes seek to more explicitly state what is already the spirit and intent of NAR’s Code of Ethics and MLS policies regarding providing information about commissions and MLS participation.

In accordance with the MLS system’s long-standing focus on creating an efficient, transparent marketplace for home buyers and sellers, the amount of compensation offered to buyers’ agents for each MLS listing will be made publicly available. Publicly accessible MLS data feeds will include offers of compensation, and buyers’ agents will have an affirmative obligation to provide such information to their clients for homes of interest.

Relatedly, the rule changes re-affirm that MLSs and brokerages, as always, must provide consumers all properties that fit their criteria regardless of compensation offered or the name of the listing brokerage.

While NAR has long encouraged buyers’ agents to explain how they expect to be paid, typically through offers of cooperative compensation from sellers’ agents, there will be a rule that more definitively states that buyers’ agents cannot represent their services as free to clients.

Finally, with the seller’s prior approval, a licensed real estate agent will have access to the lockboxes of properties listed on an MLS even if the agent does not subscribe to the MLS.

The Process for Adopting Changes

NAR will work with the DOJ to agree on exact rule changes within 45 days; then the Board of Directors will then have to approve the new rules. The court overseeing the settlement must formally approve it, at which point we anticipate that the new rules will take effect. NAR will keep members apprised of official rule changes as more details are available.

In entering this agreement with the DOJ, NAR disagrees with the DOJ’s characterization of our rules and policies, and NAR admits no liability, wrongdoing, or truth of any allegations by the DOJ. The agreement does not subject NAR to any fines or payments.

We’re proud to be associated with the MLS system that puts consumers first and benefits home buyers, sellers, and small-business brokerages—and is constantly building upon these principles. This agreement furthers NAR’s and the MLS system’s goal of creating an efficient marketplace that fosters cooperation between brokers for the benefit of consumers.

Visit nar.realtor for more information and a set of frequently asked questions. Direct additional questions about the agreement to me at MLS@nar.realtor.