Jury hits National Association of Realtors, real estate companies with $1.8 bln in damages

Townhomes line a street in Fairfax, on the morning the National Association of Realtors issues its Pending Home Sales for February report, in Virginia March 27, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing /File Photo

Oct 31 (Reuters) – A U.S. jury on Tuesday said the National Association of Realtors and several real estate companies, including units of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, must pay $1.78 billion in damages for conspiring to artificially inflate commissions that home sellers pay to buyers’ brokers.

The verdict followed a two-week trial in the Kansas City, Missouri, federal court, where the case had drawn widespread attention for challenging widely used real estate industry practices. The jury award will be automatically tripled under U.S. antitrust law to more than $5.3 billion, said Michael Ketchmark, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs.The defendants included Berkshire-owned HomeServices of America and two subsidiaries, as well as Keller Williams. headtopics.com

Plaintiffs in the class action included sellers of more than 260,000 homes in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois between 2015 and 2022.Keller Williams spokesperson Darryl Frost said the company would consider options for an appeal. “This is not the end,” Frost said.

A spokesperson for the National Association of Realtors, Mantill Williams, also said it would appeal and ask the court to reduce the damages amount. The plaintiffs claimed the association and corporate defendants drove up the commission, upwards of 6%, that home sellers pay to brokers representing buyers.The realtor association argued there was no evidence that agents were required to “make offers of compensation at all, let alone at amounts that stabilize, fix, or raise commissions.”The realtor association faces other legal woes. The U.S. Justice Department is fighting in a U.S. headtopics.com

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