Anthony Lamacchia: The Sitzer-Burnett case is nearing the end, folks. Today and tomorrow, we are going to see final closing arguments from each side, and then the jury will deliberate mid this week. I’m here to talk to you about many things that went on in the courtroom late last week and other things as well. Over the weekend, I listened to a podcast with Stephen Murray. Tracey Velt from HousingWire interviewed him. I thought he had a lot of great comments, a lot of great analysis, many things that matched up with what I’ve been saying for two weeks. I’m going to talk to you about that. In addition to that, we brought in our own economist last week to talk about different things. When I say ‘we’, I’m talking about the National Association of Realtors and the other two defendants, KW and Berkshire, brought in an expert that had totally opposite opinions of Mr. Schulman, the so-called expert economist from Texas A&M that was in there a week ago, a week and a half ago, who personally, I think he’s going to be selling his home and he’s just trying to get commissions down. I’m going to be discussing that. Tracy Kasper, our NAR president, put out a op-ed that I read in HousingWire. I’m going to be going over parts of that with you.
Gary Keller was on the stand late last week. I read lots of his testimony. I think he did a terrific job. Then we’ll talk a little bit about what I see coming depending upon how verdicts go. All right, folks, number one, let’s get into Steve Murray’s podcast that he did with Tracey. First of all, he made a comment, something to the effect of, “Hey, for 50 years, we’ve been training buyers that they don’t have to spend money. Now, if these plaintiffs are successful, they’ll have to.” My wording on that is a little different, but it’s in concept the same thing.
Folks, most buyers’ agents have been getting paid from the proceeds of the sale, as do listing agents, for decades now, right? Buyers receive representation when they seek it. Sellers receive representation when they seek it. They’re getting paid. I know there’s little changes happening in MLS. “Oh, now the compensation won’t come from the listing brokerage. It’ll come from the seller.” Big deal. Some wording and some MLSs are going to change. Either way, I loved what Steve said when he said, “How is it good for a buyer that now they’ll have to pay out of their pocket as opposed to coming from the proceeds of the sale?” Why is that good? Ketchmark and all these lawyers, these plaintiffs, these big tough guys and girls, they’re out there saying, “Buyers should pay for it themselves. Then there’s no conflict of interest.”
Great. Now a massive swath of buyers won’t be able to afford that. The ones who can will have to come out of pocket when they’re already coming out of pocket for several things because it’s somehow bad for it to come from the proceeds of the sale. Ridiculous, Steve. Great job explaining that. Another thing Steve mentioned around the five-minute mark of his podcast is he said, “Why is it bad that a company puts on a training on how to charge more? Find me an industry, find me a company that doesn’t do that.” I said the same thing last week. Even a trade organization, a trade organization putting on trainings or selling books or offering books as NAR does on how to charge more to their members, what the hell is wrong with that?
Last thing that Steve pointed out that I want to make sure to say in echo because I mentioned this as well last week is, other countries are not nearly as organized as us. They don’t have nearly as well of an organized real estate ecosystem or whatever you want to call it. Steve said, “They don’t offer as much value,” right? It’s true. Anytime we have referrals to other countries, it is not the same as referring people here in the United States or really even Canada. We have the most transparent, the best run system that offers the most widespread exposure for home sellers. It offers the opportunity to multiple realtors, multiple brokerages, large or small, and most importantly, buyers. Everyone is getting an equal opportunity within our system.
Ketchmark with all his antics and all his smear campaigns and the smear campaigns of all these plaintiffs are trying to throw shade at that, and it’s a bunch of crap. It’s not true. We have a great system and I and Gary Keller and several other experts are clear in saying that and agreeing as well. Next, we brought in an economist, right? When I say ‘we’, again, I’m talking about the National Association. Brought in Dr. Lawrence Wu. This gentleman, I thought, did a great job and he said that his conclusion on the rules and their effect are completely different from Schulman. Remember, Schulman’s the one from Texas A&M who I’m convinced is selling his home and just trying to bring fees down.
He pointed out, “Home-buying is a complicated process and everyone needs help with that.” It’s true. It’s not like going to the store and buying deodorant. It’s totally different and he pointed that out and I thought he did a terrific job. He said Australia should not be a comparison country. Totally different system over there. He’s right and I called out Ketchmark on that last week because he keeps talking about how we should be on the Australian system because as I said, he doesn’t give a damn about buyers or what’s good for them. He only cares about getting as much money out of these settlements and these cases as possible.
Wu added that he did not see any evidence of steering out of agents. As I said last week, we’re not going to take buyers and tell them what to do based on our commissions. The notion of that is completely ridiculous. I thought this economist did a good job disputing the economist that Ketchmark brought in. Housing Wire. Tracy Kasper, our wonderful president who does a terrific job for NAR, just got installed as president in a bit of a rush fashion a couple of months ago. She’s done a terrific job in all areas, but I thought this write-up that she did was great and she talked about various things. I’m not going to read the whole thing, but a couple of quick comments I want to make.
“These virtual marketplaces provide efficiency, transparency, accurate information to facilitate home transactions. That requires real estate professionals to cooperate with each other by sharing pertinent information with competitors.”
Folks, we have a cooperating business. We work with one another for the best of the consumer even when we are at odds. What is wrong with that? Further compensation is set between brokers and their clients and is always negotiable. I like the comment, I like what she’s pointing out, but I’ll be even tougher on it. It’s negotiable if that salesperson wants it to be. There is nothing wrong with a realtor telling a client, “My commission is X and it is not negotiable.” Nothing wrong with that. That’s what happens in a free, open capitalist society. “Buyers get equitable, transparent, reliable and efficient access to homes for sale and access to professional representation.” She’s right, that’s what the MLSs do. We should be applauding our MLSs, not throwing them down.
She also pointed out how realtors on average nationally make $50,000 a year. The notion that we’re all getting rich by ripping people off is ridiculous. No one’s getting rich making $50,000 a year. The reality is that NAR, because of its rules, small businesses and brokerages of any size, service and pricing model can compete and thrive. “The law that facts and the economists will prove–” yes, her point is, and this is what I said and they quoted me on NAR, what is it? www.Competition.realtor. I said the same thing years back. The way that our system is set up is in such a way that small brokerages, realtors that don’t sell a lot, they can compete with anyone else. Buyers can compete with anyone else. They get the same shake. They get the same opportunity.
Next, Mr. Gary Keller. Thought he did a great job on the stand. I heard from people in the courtroom that he did terrific. They pointed, “Oh, he was soft-spoken.” They had to remind him, yes, great, he’s soft-spoken, but he’s brilliant, okay? He pointed out several things. He denied the existence of standard commission and said, “Our agents are responsible for setting their own compensation and receive what people are willing to pay.” Again, nothing wrong with that. I’ll go even further to say if KW wanted to set their own commission or a standard rate among their company, that would be okay. Ketchmark made trouble of how Keller Williams talked about all their philanthropic efforts.
Part of the reason they’re doing that, and I applaud them for those efforts, part of the reason they’re doing that is Ketchmark is smearing us all over the news. I’ve never seen media bite onto someone like they do with this guy. I said last week, and I’ll say it again, any media out there that sees this, and I know there’s some of you, I’ve been in touch with folks at many different media institutions, put me on, put me on, okay? I’d be happy to get on and talk about this. I’d be happy to get on and debate Ketchmark, but I bet he wouldn’t do it. I bet he wouldn’t do it in the midst of a trial, but he seems to get to go on and just grandstand, right? Gary talked about their philanthropic efforts.
They donated millions over the years, and now Ketchmark ends up making a comment that, let me see here, he made a comment that, where is it? He made a comment, I believe a comment to Inman that, “Oh, Gary spent all this time on the stand talking about their philanthropic efforts.” Maybe Ketchmark, Michael, if you weren’t trashing us, Gary wouldn’t feel the need to do that as much. One of the things that Gary pointed out, again, because he talked about how average commissions, and he pointed out that when the commission got to a certain amount, I’m not getting into numbers, the only time he saw that higher amount was during the Great Recession, and that was because sellers were trying to, they were eager to incentivize buyer agents.
Hello, what’s wrong with that? People have a right to offer compensation to someone that brings them a buyer. Then, he cited,
“Oh, an email that Gary forwarded out to people that agents’ commissions are under siege.” Big deal, right? Big deal. Gary forwarded out an email. I forward out emails when I see things that are interesting. When I see, talk about what’s going on in our industry or what charges, what people are getting charged or what the revenue sources are. Michael Ketchmark and these plaintiffs who have been directed and steered by Ketchmark, which is pretty funny. He’s trying to say we’re steering, he’s totally doing it. These plaintiffs signed these agreements, they agreed to sell their homes and now all of a sudden they’re so educated on this. Yes, it’s because of Ketchmark. The way that our business operates, there’s nothing wrong with it, but what he’s trying to do is go after a large industry. Today, tomorrow, closing arguments will be heard. The next time I see you to talk about this case, I will likely be talking about the verdict. I strongly suspect that the verdict will come back in our favor. I think that Ketchmark’s not going to get the result that he’s hoping for. I have a feeling that some of those companies that settled will regret settling. If it does happen to go against us because he fooled these jurors, I’m sure that it will be appealed. Business as we know it isn’t going to change on a dime, but obviously because of all the media attention, there is more opportunity and higher chances that sellers are going to start questioning realtors more.
We will have to deal with that. That happens. That happened in the travel agency. If you’re a realtor who knows your business, knows your value, knows how to explain it, knows how to get a buyer-agency agreement signed or an exclusive agreement of some sort signed with a buyer so that they’re working with you and it explains what it costs. If you’re good at all those things, you have nothing to worry about. If you’re at a company that knows how to teach you how to do all those things, you have nothing to worry about or very little to worry about. If you’re just flapping in the wind and running around and hustling as much as possible, but not really understanding your value, you might have a little bit of a harder time in the months to come as the media eats these things up. I will be back with more to explain on this later this week when the verdicts come out. That’s all, my friends. Good luck.