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Consumer advocates — and even some realtors — hail NAR settlement: ‘We’ve opened up the entire industry to competition’

The process of buying a home has seemingly never been simpler: Find a property on a listings website like Zillow, Redfin or Trulia; reach out to the listing agent; tour the property; and make an offer.

But for years behind the scenes, experts say, consumers have not been fully aware of the ultimate cost — and potential conflicts of interest — when searching for a home.

Now, a landmark settlement with the National Association of Realtors is poised to upend this model. According to consumer advocates, and even some realtors, it’s a win for homebuyers and sellers.

“Price transparency is a good thing, increased competition is a good thing, and this will increase both,” said Mariya Letdin, an associate professor at Florida State University’s College of Business. “I really welcome this change.”

When someone goes looking for a home today, they are in most cases intercepted by a broker who has access to certain listings and who will work with the buyer at no cost upfront to help them get into a home.

But therein lies a common misconception, experts interviewed by NBC News said. Although a homeowner who puts their property up for sale must hire professionals to market their home, they usually fold that cost into the final price paid by the buyer.

“The buyer brings the entire purchase price to the table,” Letdin said. “And the seller gets to keep a little bit more of that after this ruling.”

As part of the new settlement, the buyer should now be fully apprised upfront about any potential fees or commissions they’ll ultimately have to pay.

That’s because the agreement requires that a buyer sign a formal contract with a broker laying out what services they’ll be receiving, and for how much.

Alternatively, a homebuyer could decide not to hire a broker and instead put their search costs toward a real estate lawyer, appraiser or someone else with knowledge of the housing market, experts say.

And a seller could even offer to cover the cost of the buyer’s team as an incentive to attract more buyers.

Of course, for a property that’s garnering a lot of attention, such buyer incentives are unlikely to be on the table.

And in the months following Covid-19 pandemic reopenings, the hottest U.S. real estate markets were tipped squarely in favor of sellers.
The process of buying a home has seemingly never been simpler: Find a property on a listings website like Zillow, Redfin or Trulia; reach out to the listing agent; tour the property; and make an offer.

But for years behind the scenes, experts say, consumers have not been fully aware of the ultimate cost — and potential conflicts of interest — when searching for a home.

Now, a landmark settlement with the National Association of Realtors is poised to upend this model. According to consumer advocates, and even some realtors, it’s a win for homebuyers and sellers.

“Price transparency is a good thing, increased competition is a good thing, and this will increase both,” said Mariya Letdin, an associate professor at Florida State University’s College of Business. “I really welcome this change.”

When someone goes looking for a home today, they are in most cases intercepted by a broker who has access to certain listings and who will work with the buyer at no cost upfront to help them get into a home.

But therein lies a common misconception, experts interviewed by NBC News said. Although a homeowner who puts their property up for sale must hire professionals to market their home, they usually fold that cost into the final price paid by the buyer.

“The buyer brings the entire purchase price to the table,” Letdin said. “And the seller gets to keep a little bit more of that after this ruling.”

As part of the new settlement, the buyer should now be fully apprised upfront about any potential fees or commissions they’ll ultimately have to pay.

That’s because the agreement requires that a buyer sign a formal contract with a broker laying out what services they’ll be receiving, and for how much.

Alternatively, a homebuyer could decide not to hire a broker and instead put their search costs toward a real estate lawyer, appraiser or someone else with knowledge of the housing market, experts say.

And a seller could even offer to cover the cost of the buyer’s team as an incentive to attract more buyers.

Of course, for a property that’s garnering a lot of attention, such buyer incentives are unlikely to be on the table.

And in the months following Covid-19 pandemic reopenings, the hottest U.S. real estate markets were tipped squarely in favor of sellers.

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