CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Four-and-a-half years after Missouri home sellers slapped the National Association of Realtors and several national broker franchises with a lawsuit, a jury found that the group violated antitrust law, awarding $1.8 billion in damages

The suit claimed defendants conspired to require home sellers to pay the buyer’s agent in a real estate transaction, artificially inflating commissions. Four real estate brokers were involved. 

“The Sherman Antitrust Act says that people in that area can’t come together and determine price to ensure that the consumer pays a certain price,” said Queen City News Chief Legal Analyst Khalif Rhodes. 

The verdict doesn’t mandate a change in rules, but some say the longstanding practice of setting commissions for agents, and who pays for them, could be in jeopardy. Senior loan officer Stacy Kimrey doesn’t think the ruling will impact the Charlotte real estate market, but it could put more pressure on buyers. 

“A buyer is already having to save up for down payment, closing costs, escrows,” Kimrey said, “so if the position is now that the buyer has to cover that cost, then that’s just going to take the dream of homeownership a little bit longer because it’s going to require them to save more.” 

The Realtors group plans to appeal the ruling, saying they stand by their practices and “support market-driven pricing and advance business competition.” 

Rhodes says a payout could be years away and estimates the two sides will settle. If that doesn’t occur, the $1.8 billion ruling could be closer to $5 billion. 

“That’s just the beginning of the number,” Rhodes said. “They sued for treble damages because when you’re suing for unfair and deceptive trade practices or any type of claim like that under the Sherman Antitrust Act, you get the opportunity to get triple the damages.”