The National Association of Realtors will open its vast listing of homes for sale to cheaper, Internet-based brokers in an agreement to settle a federal lawsuit, the government said.
The change could save those who buy or sell a home thousands of dollars since commissions could drop as much as 1 percent of the selling price, said Deborah Garza, the deputy assistant attorney general for antitrust, in a telephone briefing with reporters.
The settlement will lead to "more choice, better service and lower commission rates," Garza added.
Essentially the deal requires the 800 multiple listings services associated with the National Association of Realtors for various local markets to give access to Internet-based competitors, the government said.
The real estate group did not acknowledge wrongdoing in the settlement, which it described as a "win" for both consumers and agents.
"We think it's great," said Lucien Salvant, a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors. "There was no evidence ever brought by the Department of Justice that there was a problem." The government sued the real estate group in 2005, accusing it of adopting policies that allowed member brokers to withhold their home listings from online competitors.
The lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial in federal court in Chicago in July.
The settlement also requires the group to offer training on complying with antitrust law.
The National Association of Realtors has more than 1.2 million residential real estate members throughout the United States.
In almost every area of the country, brokers have organized multiple listings services to share information about homes for sale.