The company is the latest of several to step away from the National Association of Realtors, which has suffered both a scandal and legal defeats in recent months.
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As pressure on the National Association of Realtors mounts, a major Coldwell Banker franchise in the Seattle area has become the latest company to step away from the trade organization.
Coldwell Banker Danforth said in a statement Friday that “it will not renew its National Association of Realtors (NAR) affiliation beginning in 2024.” The franchise has more than 300 agents in five offices across the Puget Sound region in Washington state. The statement added that the company is “the first privately owned Coldwell Banker franchise in the United States to separate with NAR.”
The statement goes on to acknowledge that NAR “has offered value to the real estate industry” but ultimately frames the move as one that prioritizes agent choice.
“This decision underscores our brokerage’s unwavering commitment to agent autonomy and our belief in allowing agents to make choices that best suit their needs and principles,” Dave Danforth, designated broker-owner of Coldwell Banker Danforth, said in the statement.
Though the statement does not provide further context, the franchise is just the latest of a number of high-profile departures from NAR. In early October, for instance, Redfin surprised the industry by announcing that it would cut ties with NAR. In a message to employees, CEO Glenn Kelman cited the trade group’s recent harassment scandal alongside a host of other grievances, including NAR’s commission structure, as reasons for leaving.
Just days later, Anywhere revealed that company-owned brokerages and agents could cut ties with NAR if they so desired. Anywhere is the parent company of major brands including Coldwell Banker, though Coldwell Banker Danforth is a franchise that’s not owned by Anywhere itself.
That same day, RE/MAX also said its brokerages will be able to decide for themselves whether they maintain NAR membership.
The announcements from Anywhere and RE/MAX came as both companies revealed settlements in a series of high-profile commission lawsuits. The lawsuits claim that major real estate industry entities have conspired to keep costs high and that such a conspiracy amounts to an antitrust violation.
The antitrust commission suits represent a second major front, after the harassment scandals, on which NAR is currently fighting. One of those suits, Sitzer | Burnett, went to trial in October and ended when a jury sided with the homeseller-plaintiffs and against the defendants — which include both NAR and a number of large franchisors. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $5.36 billion, though NAR and other defendants have vowed to appeal.
No other major commission lawsuits have gone to trial yet, but many new ones have been filed in the wake of the Sitzer | Burnett verdict. Litigation in the many cases is likely to continue for years to come.
The announcement from Coldwell Banker Danforth doesn’t mention this context. However, both the scandal and the ongoing lawsuits nevertheless represent a notable backdrop against which the franchise has opted to step away from the real estate industry’s largest trade organization.