Q1 AgentPulse survey: Agents aren’t yet fielding commission lawsuit questions

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Real estate agents are optimistic about the housing market and working to implement buyer agency agreement as we head into 2024, according to the RealTrends Q1 2024 AgentPulse survey.

The survey, which was conducted between the end of November and the end of December 2023, garnered 136 respondents, with 28 from the Northeast, 26 from the Southeast, 33 from the Midwest, 33 from the Southwest and 16 from the Northwest. Of the 136 respondents, 96 were part of a national brand, and 40 of them were part of an independent firm.

Over half (55.15%) of the respondents reported feeling optimistic about the housing market in the next three months, while 31.62% are neutral and 13.24% are pessimistic.

Perhaps fueling some of this optimism is expectations that sales will be up more than 5% (53.68% of respondents) and that interest rates will drop (58.09% of respondents).

Additionally, 36.03% of respondents expect sales to be flat and 35.93% expect interest rates to remain flat, while just 13.24% and 5.88% of respondents anticipated sales dropping by more than 5% and interest rates to go up during the first three months of the year, respectively.

With the majority of agents anticipating better sales during Q1, most agents (52.21%) are expecting sales prices to remain flat, while 34.56% believe they will rise more than 5% and 13.24% anticipate them dropping by more than 5%.

When looking at the challenges the first quarter of the year will pose agents, the most popular response was “low inventory,” followed by “getting listings” and “interest rates and inflation.” On the other end of the spectrum, respondents viewed their “mindset” as their smallest challenge for the first three months of 2024, with “connecting with sphere” and “professionalism of other agents,” rounding out the bottom three.

Respondents were also aware that they may have to contend with questions or make changes to how they practice real estate during the first three months of the year as a result of the Sitzer/Burnett commission lawsuit verdict and the mounting pile of copycat suits.

The vast majority of respondents reported that they have yet to receive any questions about the commission lawsuits and those who have, have only been asked by a handful of clients.

For those who have had to field questions from clients, they reported answering the questions in simple language, explaining the facts of the lawsuit, including that a final ruling has yet to be made, and how they as agents are compensated.  

“We describe the lawsuit to them as the facts pertain, however, we also acknowledge that we don’t necessarily agree with the decision and we provide them with the reasons we charge what we decide to charge. We also acknowledge that many of these lawsuits are due to some Realtors not being transparent enough… we provide transparency every step of the way,” one respondent wrote.

Some agents reported not having made any changes to their business due to the lawsuits, while others have. Of the agents who have made changes, the most commonly reported change was having more detailed and open discussions about how compensation works and who would be responsible for paying the buyer’s agent if the listing broker is not offering cooperative compensation.

“Better buyer and seller presentations to break down payment to a more granular level,” was one agent’s response.

While another said they have “developed an information sheet with all the different things we do before an offer and after the offer with approximate hours needed to complete the task.”

The other most common response was starting to use buyer agency agreements or starting to use them all the time, instead of just with select clients.  

“I was already using buyer broker contracts, but now use them 100% of the time. The commission lawsuits have actually made them easier to bring up and discuss,” one respondent wrote.

Although most of these changes are small, one agent did write that they had left the National Association of Realtors as a result of the commission lawsuits. Despite this, others expressed their support of NAR in their responses.

“Realtors & NAR have always had the client’s best interest. Always will too,” one wrote.

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