VA should expedite regulatory changes for agent commissions: CHLA

On the heels of the $418 million settlement recently announced by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), mortgage trade group Community Home Lenders of America (CHLA) has called on the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to expedite regulatory change that would allow veterans and active-duty service members to fund buyer’s broker commissions when purchasing a home with a VA mortgage.

In a letter submitted Monday to John Bell, executive director of VA’s Loan Guaranty Service, the CHLA took issue with how the existing regulatory requirements regarding VA mortgages could put veterans and active-duty personnel at an “unfair disadvantage” when buying a home.

NAR’s settlement, which could go into effect as early as July, will eliminate the long-standing “Participation Rule” that requires listing agents to make an offer of cooperative compensation to buyers’ agents. Under the current system, the buyer agent’s commission is baked into the price paid for a home. If the settlement is finalized in its current form, buyers may have to pay upfront flat fees to agents.

The current VA rule states that a borrower using a VA loan cannot pay fees or commissions to a real estate agent unless determined “by the Under Secretary for Benefits as appropriate for inclusion . . . as proper local variances, under current VA regulations.“

“We ask that VA adopt an appropriate administrative remedy to ensure that those who have courageously served this country are not financially discriminated against in their homeownership journey,” the letter reads.

The VA has been monitoring various cases involving real estate broker commissions, including the NAR case, an official told HousingWire.

“VA is working closely with the Department of Justice to determine any potential implications for Veteran borrowers and is committed to ensuring that Veterans are neither disadvantaged in the homebuying process nor overcharged,” the official said in an e-mailed response.

The official added that the VA recognizes that potential changes may be forthcoming in the industry as a result of the proposed NAR settlement.

“VA is actively engaged with the Department of Justice to review the potential implications and evaluate how VA can best ensure that VA’s home loan program remains an attractive option for Veterans in the homebuying process.”

In December, the CHLA sent a letter to regulators and administrators at the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the VA warning that homebuyers who must pay broker commissions out of pocket could face further affordability challenges.

“First-time homebuyers, families with lower incomes, veterans, and minority homebuyers could be adversely affected in their ability to purchase a home because of obstacles and complications related to the need to fund the buyer’s broker commission,” the CHLA said.

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