RE/MAX and Anywhere Real Estate can breathe a sigh of relief. The two corporate brokerages have received preliminary approval of their settlement agreements in the Sitzer/Burnett, Moehrl and Nosalek commission lawsuits. Judge Stephen Bough, who oversaw the Sitzer/Burnett trial last month in Missouri’s Western District, granted the settlements preliminary approval Monday morning.
“The Court finds that the proposed Settlements with Anywhere and RE/MAX, as set forth in the Settlement Agreements, are fair, reasonable and adequate,” Bough wrote in his motion granting preliminary approval.
The terms of the settlement agreements require RE/MAX and Anywhere to pay $55 million and $83.5 million, respectively, as well as make policy and practice changes.
Some of these provisions include no longer requiring agents to be members of the National Association of Realtors or following NAR’s Code of Ethics or the MLS Handbook. Practice changes outlined in the settlement agreements include that the firms will require or encourage agents to make it clear to clients that commissions are negotiable, that agents will have the freedom to set or negotiate commissions as they see fit, and that agents will not be required to make offers of compensation or accept offers of compensation from cooperating brokers.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision to grant preliminary approval of the settlement,” Nick Bailey, the president and CEO of RE/MAX, LLC., said in a statement. “This development signifies progress in our ongoing efforts and commitment to a resolution – it’s a positive step forward in bringing these cases closer to the finish line.”
In an email, a RE/MAX spokesperson also noted that the firm anticipates the final approval of the settlement some time next year.
At Anywhere, CEO and president Ryan Schneider was equally as pleased.
“Our efforts to resolve these claims remove future uncertainty and legal expense for Anywhere, our franchisees, and affiliated agents as, together, we focus on serving home buyers and sellers as they move to what’s next,” Schneider said in a statement.
According to the order, the parties must contact the court prior to Dec. 22, 2023, to schedule final approval hearing.
While Bough’s motion answers one of the questions left by the jury verdict in the Sitzer/Burnett trial, much remains unknown. It is also yet to be seen if the Department of Justice will try to get involved in the Sitzer/Burnett suit as it has already done in the Nosalek lawsuit. Many analysts and observers expect the DOJ to get involved at some point.
With a final ruling not expected until mid-to-late spring 2024, the real estate industry remains in limbo as the copycat lawsuits continue to pile up.