Justice Department Says It Will Reopen Inquiry Into Realtor Trade Group

The Justice Department will reopen an antitrust investigation into the National Association of Realtors, an influential trade group that has held sway over the residential real estate industry for decades. The investigation will focus on whether the group’s rules inflate the cost of selling a home.

The renewed federal inquiry comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Friday overturned a lower-court ruling from 2023 that had quashed the Justice Department’s request for information from N.A.R. about broker commissions and how real estate listings are marketed.

Friday’s ruling was another setback for N.A.R., still reeling from a March 15 agreement to settle several lawsuits that alleged the group had violated antitrust laws and had conspired to fix the rates that real estate agents charge their clients. Pending federal court approval, N.A.R. will pay $418 million in damages and will significantly change its rules on agent commissions and the databases, overseen by N.A.R. subsidiaries, where homes are listed for sale.

Home sellers in Missouri, whose lawsuit against N.A.R. and several brokerages was followed by multiple copycat claims, successfully argued that the group’s rule that a seller’s agent must make an offer of commission to a buyer’s agent had forced them to pay inflated fees.

The Justice Department now has another chance to peel back the curtain on those fees and other N.A.R. rules that have long confused and frustrated consumers.

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