Texas Realtor associations, brokerages hit with antitrust suit

Multiple Texas Realtor groups have been hit with a lawsuit that parallels the Sitzer/Burnett case, in which the National Association of Realtors, Keller Williams and HomeServices of America were found guilty of conspiring to drive up costs charged to home sellers.

Texas-based homebuilder QJ Team LLC and holding company Five Points Holdings have sued more than two dozen local realtor associations and teams in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Inman reported. 

The defendants include the Texas Association of Realtors, Austin Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, MetroTex Association of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, as well as brokerages like Keller Williams, Fathom Realty and Side. 

The case comes on the heels of the $1.8 billion Sitzer/Burnett verdict, and likewise challenges the practice of sellers’ agents offering compensation to buyers’ agents in exchange for listing properties on multiple listing services, alleging it violates antitrust laws and is the result of a “concealed conspiracy” involving the National Association of Realtors, Anywhere franchisees and RE/MAX.

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for Texas home sellers who paid a “buyer broker commission” from November 13, 2019 and onward. The lawsuit alleges that NAR and the defendants stifle competition, inflate costs and force sellers to bear expenses that would typically be the responsibility of homebuyers in a competitive market.

“These anticompetitive measures favor the defendants by enabling brokers to impose charges on homesellers beyond competitive thresholds and thwarting competition from innovative or lower-cost alternatives,” the lawsuit states.

In addition, the complaint accuses two teams, the Hexagon Group and the Michael Group, of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, without specifying the alleged violations. 

The suit is the latest commission-focused antitrust case. Others were filed in Illinois, South Carolina and New York in the past two weeks.

A few defendants have responded to the allegations. The Texas Association of Realtors is reviewing the filing and “stands by the value of the professional expertise that its members provide to their clients,” the outlet reported.

Keller Williams expressed disagreement with the allegations and affirmed its commitment to following the law. 

—Quinn Donoghue 

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