"We collect information for the purpose of connecting you with a real estate agent as part of your home shopping experience. We may connect you directly with a real estate agent or a Broker that maintains a network of agents who will connect you with a real estate agent in their network. We may share the information you provide with, and/or make that information available to, real estate agents, Brokers and/or their successors-in-interest in order to facilitate the process of providing the service you request from us""
"We pre-qualify buyers, filter out the tire-kickers, and connect you with motivated buyers that have a qualification letter from our network of lenders"
For real estate professionals, Blend Realty promises a “no upfront costs” led generation by scrubbing consumers’ information when they shop for their mortgage with various lenders. "These are broker to broker referrals and our buyers have been approved by our network of lenders. The buyers are ready to go house hunting," says the company in their promotional material in their attempt to lure in brokers. Once a potential homebuyer is identified, a Blend Realty initiates a transfer to the Partner Agent. Blend Realty representatives give Partner Agents all the background information on the homebuyer to make the transition as warm as possible.
In other words, Blend Realty is a consumer allocation scheme that scrubs consumer’s information and passes it along to a broker who is willing to pay for it with a cut of their commission: “Never pay for a buyer upfront, only at closing.” If a broker is unwilling to give a portion of their commission to Blend Realty, or to engage in plain price fixing with another broker, the company has no interest in recommending them. Blend Realty further takes no responsibility for any of the actions of the brokers that they allocate to consumers.
"Blend Realty is a separate entity from Blend Labs, Inc. (“Blend Labs”) where you may have previously applied for a residential loan or mortgage. The Service facilitates the process of collecting and providing your information to real estate brokers (“Broker” or “Brokers”), for the purposes of connecting you with a real estate agent. The Service also facilitates the process of collecting and providing your information to moving services including, but not limited to, moving companies, address updating services, and home phone, cable, and internet providers (“Moving Services”)."
"Blend Realty has no control over, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy, privacy policies, or practices of, or opinions expressed in, any third-party or Broker websites or by any third-party or Broker that you interact with through the Service. In addition, Blend Realty will not and cannot monitor, verify, censor, or edit the content of any third-party or Broker website or service. By using the Service, you release and hold us harmless from any and all liability arising from your use of any third-party website or service."
In effect, Blend Realty is a self-serving scheme designed to funnel consumers toward brokers who pay them a kickback at the close of consumers’ transactions. Consumers using Blend Realty have zero control over what agents the company shares their information with. Instead of being “scrubbed” and “sold as leads” consumers looking for a competitive and fair representation can consider negotiating directly with real estate agents, or with help from unbiased consumer-focused online services that do not collect referral fees.
Agents must never agree on commission rates or buyer rebate amounts with any outside party. Agents must take care to avoid even the implication that they have discussed or reached an agreement about their service offerings, buyer rebates, and/or listing rates due to any outside influence, especially with another broker.
Broker compensation fees must never be fixed via agreements between two or more brokers anywhere in the United States. All commissions and rebates must be set by each real estate agent individually and may only be negotiable between the consumer and the real estate agent.
Genuine quality and honest real estate professionals establish pricing for their services independently, and without any kickbacks. The truth is, every single agent is different, and every single agent has an individual commission structure. If an agent is unwilling to negotiate competitive buyer rebate terms in compliance with the law, there is no reason for homebuyers to assume that they will be willing to negotiate competitively when it comes to their home purchase.
More importantly, in the United States price-fixing is an illegal uncompetitive practice, a felony, outlawed by the virtue of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Blend Realty is a broker-to-broker collusion scheme. All Partner Agents agree to pay Blend Realty a pre-arranged referral fee, on all closed transactions, through their employing broker. A referral agreement between Blend Realty and a Partner Agent for a random transaction that may or may not happen sometime in the future is executed in advance.
Blend Realty engages in consumer and market allocation agreements with Partner Agents brokerages, because it is a broker itself. Instead of representing consumers to help buy and sell homes, this “paper” brokerage actively disengages from its licensed activities so that every Partner Agent knows that Blend Brokerage, Inc. will not compete with them. Blend Realty does not act in a real estate brokerage capacity, instead, their real estate license is used to collect a blanket referral fee from the largest number of brokers possible.
Sherman Antitrust Act effectively requires all active real estate brokers to proactively compete for consumers. An agreement or an understanding between brokers not to compete for a mutual benefit is a "per se" violation of antitrust regulations in the United States.
The amount of a referral fee between brokers must be negotiated with respect to an individual transaction. It is a per se violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act for real estate brokers to agree on a “standard” referral fee that will be paid for producing a client. Real estate professionals are not allowed to enter into blanket referral agreements between one another because such agreements always restrict free trade.
Brokers are not allowed to organize their operations into any collusion schemes and networks, and instead, all brokers must compete for consumers on a fair playing field. Legitimate agents who choose NOT to engage in the Blend Realty “no upfront costs” scheme are harmed as well because consumers are steered away from them in a highly competitive real estate market.
Kickbacks and Unearned Fees
RESPA, among other things, is designed to prohibit abusive practices such as kickbacks and referral fees between mortgage companies and real estate brokers.
The statutory exemption for a payment to a cooperative brokerage and referral arrangements between real estate agents and real estate brokers requires all agents to compete against one another. To comply in good faith with RESPA (12 U.S.C. 2607) Section 8 exception for cooperative brokerage and referral arrangements, legitimate real estate agents must render referral agreements in a particular instance for a particular transaction.
Actions of Blend Realty “paper” brokerage directly increase the costs of owning homes in the United States due to added blanket referral fees, consumer allocation practices, price fixing, and reverse completion between brokers. Partner Agents in the scheme have no incentive to compete for consumers individually with lower fees, instead, they have an incentive to compete for Blend Realty’ attention. In this scheme, both colluding parties benefit from offering consumers higher commissions. Blend Realty promotes Partner Agents as somehow “superior” to those outside of the network, thus limiting free-market competitive forces and steering consumers in self-interest toward a network of very few agents who chose to agree to participate in the scheme.
Similar attempts to by-pass RESPA prohibition against kickbacks by means of delivering a “service” of a “paper” brokerage to a home lender are not new, specifically
all utilize blanket referral agreements to by-pass RESPA.
Blend claims that if offers “a digital lending platform that supports and simplifies applications for mortgages, consumer loans, and deposit accounts” and that “its Digital Lending Platform is utilized by Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and over 285 other leading financial institutions to acquire more customers, increase productivity, and deepen customer relationships.”
In the real world, Blend and Blend Realty are a single company, both designed and built with massive VC capital to rake hidden fees, by-pass RESPA, collude with independent brokers for a cut of their commissions, and openly price-fix services of others.
The entire RESPA prohibition against kickbacks was enacted specifically to stop mortgage companies from entering into “symbiotic relationships” with real estate brokers. Blend Realty may seem like a clever by-pass of RESPA’s prohibition against kickbacks, but this loophole is built entirely on the use of blanket referral agreements between brokers designed to restrain free trade.
As an active licensed brokerage, Blend Realty owes absolutely no duty of care to consumers, takes no responsibility for the transaction, and does not help consumers to buy homes - all despite receiving a direct financial benefit from the home purchase completed by the homebuyer.