NCREC Statement on NAR Settlement


NAR Settlement

On March 15, 2024, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) proposed a settlement to end landmark antitrust lawsuits. In the proposal, NAR agreed to pay damages and to mandate that its members enter into written buyer-broker agreements. Additionally, the settlement would prohibit REALTORS® from making compensation offers on multiple listing services (MLS). The settlement has not been approved by the court; a decision from the court is expected later this year. Even so, the NAR rules are planned to be effective in mid-July.

As a reminder, the North Carolina Real Estate Commission (NCREC) is an independent state governmental agency and should not be confused with NAR or its local boards. The NCREC’s primary function is to license and regulate real estate brokers and its mission is to protect consumers. North Carolina has 100,000 plus real estate brokers with many, but not all, also being members of NAR. NAR is a voluntary trade organization whose members are known as REALTORS®. In North Carolina, NC REALTORS® is a state level REALTOR® association and, as part of its services, creates various standard form documents for use by its members and their clients in transactions.  In cooperation with the NC Bar Association, NC REALTORS® also creates standard form Offers to Purchase and Contract and other transaction documents.

The NCREC is following developments with the settlement proposal as they occur. However, it is important to recognize that any changes in NAR rules apply specifically to NAR members and do not alter the Real Estate License Law and Commission rules. Moreover, the currently proposed NAR changes are in no way contradictory to the existing License Law and rules.

The following is a reminder of NCREC rules relating to broker transparency, agency agreements, and commissions.

Working With Real Estate Agents Disclosure:

Commission Rule 58A. 0104(c) states: In every real estate sales transaction, a broker shall, at first substantial contact with a prospective buyer or seller, provide the buyer or seller with a copy of the publication “Working With Real Estate Agents” …(WWREA). 

In 2021, the NCREC revised the WWREA Disclosure to be one page, double-sided, with one side for sellers and one side for buyers. The new WWREA Disclosure was designed to be quicker and simpler for brokers to use and easier for buyers and sellers to understand. Additionally, the original brochure was updated and expanded to be available for use in conjunction with the required WWREA Disclosure. The WWREA Disclosure and brochure explain the various types of agency relationships in a clear concise manner, educating the consumer and defining expectations.  The WWREA Disclosure is a broker’s opportunity to discuss and clarify what their agency role may be in the transaction and to start the conversation concerning the contemplated agency status, payment, and future options.

Buyer Agency Agreements:

Commission Rule 58A .0104(a) has long required brokers to enter into written agency agreements. Listing agreements must be in writing and signed by the broker and client at the time their agency relationship is formed. Buyer agency agreements must be in writing and signed by the broker and client no later than the time of making an offer. Note that the rule does not prohibit a broker from entering into a written buyer agency agreement earlier than the time of offer submission. Accordingly, the proposed rule change for REALTORS® does not conflict with the Commission’s rule.

Additionally, NCGS § 93A-13 prohibits a broker from filing suit for recovery of brokerage compensation unless the agreement is in writing. Therefore, brokers need to be in compliance with NCREC rules in order to avoid disciplinary action and in order to recover a commission through the civil court if the client fails to pay.

The Commission does not have jurisdiction regarding the setting or advertising of commissions. Commission Rule 58A .0109(f) specifically notes that the NCREC will not act as a board of arbitration and shall not compel parties to settle disputes concerning such matters as the rate of commissions, the division of commissions, pay of brokers, and similar matters. The NCREC reminds all of its licensees that brokerage commissions remain a negotiable term between the broker/firm and client.

Finally, it is important to remember that Commission Rule 58A .0112(b)(1) bars a broker from using a preprinted offer or sales contract form containing any provision concerning the payment of a commission or compensation to a broker or firm. While a client may consider the amount of commission when considering making or accepting an offer, the broker/firm should not be made a third party in a form purchase contract between the buyer and seller. The current standard form residential contract includes a provision allowing the seller to pay an agreed amount toward any of buyer’s expenses.

The NCREC understands that the real estate industry is always evolving, and our role is to ensure whenever possible that these changes benefit consumers and to assist NC brokers in understanding their duties. The NCREC remains dedicated to fostering a market that prioritizes consumer interests, fair competition, and transparency. We also remain available to answer questions about the application of the License Law and Commission rules to help brokers and consumers better navigate their transactions.