Home Sellers Claim Warren Buffett’s Brokerage Defrauded Them

HomeServices of America, the largest residential real estate brokerage in the United States and owned by Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy, is now at the center of a nationwide antitrust lawsuit with potential implications on the structure of real estate commissions nationwide.

On Monday, three home sellers who filed anantitrust lawsuit in October amended their complaint to add Berkshire Hathaway Energy, the unit that controls HomeServices of America, to its string of defendants that include Compass, eXp World Holdings, Douglas Elliman and Redfin. The plaintiffs, who live in Florida, Missouri and Kansas, each sold a home within the last three years and paid 3 percent of the purchase price to their buyer’s broker in commission.

The complaint claims that in the real estate business, the brokerages engaged in price-fixing by following N.A.R. rules and requiring home sellers to pay commission to their buyers’ agents.

With the cachet that comes from being part of Mr. Buffett’s multibillion-dollar empire, Berkshire Hathaway Energy is by far the biggest target of the lawsuit now.

And according to the lawsuit, the company played upon Mr. Buffett’s reputation to lure in customers and bolster business. The suit estimates that home sellers working with representatives of Berkshire Hathaway were defrauded by as much as $4.2 billion in 2023.

“Berkshire Hathaway has long touted the ‘Halo Effect; of using its name and association with Warren Buffett to create customer trust. Berkshire Hathaway took advantage of this public trust by rebranding HomeServices’ franchises using the name ‘Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’,” the complaint reads.

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