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A New Lawsuit Might Change the Real Estate Industry Forever

Last month, a Missouri jury found that real estate brokers colluded to artificially inflate and fix their own commissions, and as a result, ordered the National Association of Realtors to pay $1.8 billion in damages. While the ruling will be appealed, with highly uncertain damages and remedies, the case is shining a light on how participants in the real estate industry get paid, and raising the question of whether homebuyers are paying too much to their brokers. So how do brokers get paid? What are their incentives? And why haven’t fees for brokers gone down, even as online platforms that compete with them have proliferated. On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Andra Ghent, a finance professor at the University of Utah and a specialist in real estate who explains how the structure works currently, and how the lawsuit could ultimately change the entire business model of buying and selling homes. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

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