Buyer (agent) beware before opting for a workaround: The Download

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What do you make of commission-sharing workarounds, and how are you planning to change up your communication strategy?

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Each week on The Download, Inman’s Christy Murdock takes a deeper look at the top-read stories of the week to give you what you’ll need to meet Monday head-on. This week: What do you make of commission-sharing workarounds, and how are you planning to change up your communication strategy?


Much of the sturm und drang that followed the Mar. 15 announcement of a settlement between the National Association of Realtors and plaintiffs in a host of commission-related lawsuits centered, in large part, on the question of how buyer’s agent commissions could or should be paid.

Should buyers pay out of pocket on top of their down payment and closing costs? Should the seller-paid status quo prevail, just funneled through a new method of communicating? What would the repercussions be to either of these options or to an as-yet-unspecified, super-secret third alternative?

Almost immediately, agents and brokers began talking about sharing commission info through their website, through phone calls, through email blasts and through listing seller concessions instead of commissions. At the same time, others began looking for ways to offer and monetize workarounds to help thread the needle between the new requirements and the ongoing need for compensation information.

Since NAR’s landmark settlement bars sellers’ agents from offering commissions to buyers’ agents in the MLS, the question has become: How will buyer’s agents get paid now? A batch of new companies are stepping in to try and answer that question and fill the void, offering what the MLS no longer can: Online locations for agents and consumers to share their offers of compensation.

The sites represent a particular philosophical understanding of real estate’s future. Their existence posits that buyers’ brokers will still be paid by sellers and that compensation offers will still appear online. Neither of those assumptions are foregone conclusions, but the people behind these offerings are forging ahead with the hope that consumers and industry members will see something they like — and that government regulators won’t get in the way.

Of course, it may be years until all of the legal maneuvering has run its course, offering us any type of certainty about what will and won’t be allowed. With these workarounds and any other innovations that come about in the short term, the best advice is buyer beware. (In addition, I’ll add the caveat that Inman doesn’t endorse these products.)

So if a workaround feels too risky for you, what can you do to plan ahead, prepare and put yourself on the right side of every conversation once the implementation deadline of Aug. 17 rolls around? As always, our Inman contributors — industry heavyweights all — have the answers you need now.

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