Discount brokerage REX Homes, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and Zillow Group are finally going to have their day in court. In a virtual hearing held on Tuesday, Judge Thomas Zilly, a judge for the U.S. District Court in Seattle, set a jury trial date of September 18, 2023.
In addition to setting the trial date, Zilly also granted REX’s motion to compel NAR to run certain electronic searches in response to REX’s request for document production, denied Zillow’s motion to compel additional federal rules of civil procedure testimony, and granted in part and denied in part NAR’s motion to compel REX to produce “improperly withheld documents and information.”
REX filed the antitrust lawsuit in March 2021 against Zillow, Trulia and NAR, alleging that changes made to Zillow’s website “unfairly hides certain listings, shrinking their exposure and diminishing competition among real estate brokers.”
In January 2021, Zillow began moving homes out of its initial search results for sellers who chose not to use agents adhering to the NAR and local multiple listing service (MLS) practices.
In a press release at the time, REX said it was looking to break “the stranglehold that REX believes the NAR and its members have held over consumers for generations, resulting in fees that are two to three times higher than in most developed countries. REX filed the lawsuit after the company’s clients complained about the second-class treatment that non-cartel homes were receiving.”
In January 2022, NAR filed a countersuit claiming that REX uses false advertising and misleading claims to deceive consumers in violation of the Lanham Act, but the countersuit was dismissed in late April 2022.
Since then, REX, Zillow and NAR have gone back and forth with filing various motions to compel during the discovery phase of the trial, but it appears that will all come to a head this fall.
“We continue to maintain that the claims made in REX’s lawsuit are without merit,” a spokesperson for Zillow wrote in an email. “REX chose to use Zillow’s services to advertise their for-sale properties on Zillow – for free. Zillow has consistently advocated for outdated rules to be changed to allow the broader display of all listings on all platforms, including For Sale By Owner and listings from companies like REX – we look forward to discussing these facts before the court.”
Mantill Williams, NAR’s VP of communications, shared a similar sentiment in his emailed statement: “NAR continues to believe this lawsuit is without merit and remains confident we will ultimately prevail. NAR guidelines and local broker marketplaces create highly competitive markets, empower small businesses and ensure equitable home ownership opportunities, superior customer service and greater cost options for all buyers and sellers.”
While NAR still faces other antitrust lawsuits, a U.S. District Court judge in the District of Columbia recently ruled in the trade group’s favor, ending the Department of Justice’s probe into its “participation rule” and “clear cooperation policy.”
A request for comment sent to REX had not been returned at the time of publication.
This story was updated to include commentary from NAR.