Opendoor is a multi-state VC-backed real estate investor that operates across highly specific locations. Where available, Opendoor offers cash to sellers for homogeneous homes built after 1960 with a value between $125,000 and $500,000. Opendoor is the parent company of several real estate brokerages, including Opendoor Brokerage Inc., Opendoor Brokerage LLC, and Opendoor Texas Brokerage LLC (the “Opendoor Brokerages”).
Opendoor Brokerage is a referral fee network designed to collect fees by matching consumers with local real estate agents willing to pay it. Opendoor Brokerage operates as a licensed real estate brokerage in California under BRE License 02061130, and Texas under TREC License 9008105, but neither broker produce any services that are typically offered by real estate agents and does not represent consumers when buying or selling real estate in any State.
When consumers submit information to Opendoor Brokerage, this information is simply sold in exchange for an undisclosed fee with real estate agents in a process known as a “blind match.”
Opendoor Brokerage revenue comes from undisclosed referral fees. Referral fees set by such networks range anywhere between 30%-40% of the entire agent’s commission. According to the company, "Opendoor Agent Partners only pay a referral fee to our brokerage if they close on a transaction with a referred seller or buyer. The fee is a percentage of the agent's commission, and averages 1% of property sale price unless otherwise noted in agent partner agreement."
Using its website, Opendoor Brokerage engages in a process known as price fixing because it sets rebates for independent real estate professionals using the network.
Opendoor Brokerage refers consumers to third-party agents that can represent them in home purchase or sale (“Opendoor Partner Agent”) and requires buyer’s agents to offer certain discounts or promotions contingent upon working with the referred consumers.
Opendoor Brokerage receives a referral fee, around 1% of the home price, likely 30%-40% of Partner Agent's entire commission when referring consumers to list or buy a home with an Opendoor Partner Agent. Opendoor Brokerage requires Opendoor Partner Agents to offer 1% of the purchase price to buyers at closing in the form of a commission rebate. The amount is subject to a minimum buyer’s agent commission to Opendoor Partner Agents of $3,000, which means it is calculated as the lesser of either 1% of the price of the property consumer buys, or Opendoor Partner Agent’s commission minus $3,000. According to Opendoor Brokerage, this amount may be prohibited or reduced on the basis of the purchase type (e.g., short sale), lender requirements, loan type (e.g. FHA, VA), or the law.
For purposes of the present discussion, brokerage fees are always negotiable and no broker should set rates and rebates for other brokers. Each firm should establish its own policy as to its fee structure and charges, amount of commissions, and rebates.
“Agent Partners only pay a referral fee to our brokerage if they close on a transaction with a referred seller or buyer. The fee is a percentage of the agent’s commission, and averages 1% of property sale price unless otherwise noted in agent partner agreement. Opendoor Agent Partners are eligible to receive both buyer and seller referrals. Actual volume by referral type may vary over time. The Opendoor Agent Partner program is a broker-to-broker client referral partnership and is supplemental to your existing brokerage affiliation.”Source: Opendoor Brokerage website.
Opendoor, when it acts as a real estate investor, further offers 1% of the purchase price back at closing to work with an Opendoor Home Advisor to buy an Opendoor home. According to the company, Opendoor must not be obligated to pay any buyer’s agent commissions for this promotion to apply. Having to require such terms limits consumer’s ability to use an independent buyer’s agent in a transaction. In effect, Opendoor offers a buyer an incentive to forgo independent representation in exchange for a 1% discount. Consumers should never be financially incentivized by a real estate investor to limit their representation when buying real estate from them.
In contradiction to this incentive, Opendoor Terms of Service directly state that: “in making you an Opendoor Offer, Opendoor is not acting as your real estate agent or broker. Opendoor is merely acting as, or on behalf of, a purchaser of real estate. As a seller, you have the right, and it is your responsibility, to independently evaluate and decide whether to accept the Opendoor Offer.”
Company further states: “Buyer represents that she has had ample opportunity to obtain legal and other professional counsel of its choosing and that it is relying solely on its own independent judgment and that of its own professional consultants, if any, in entering into the purchase contract and purchasing the property.”
From one side, Opendoor offers consumers an incentive in an exchange for “not being obligated to pay any buyer’s agent commissions,” but from another, requires buyers to “represent that they have had an ample opportunity to obtain legal and other professional counsel.” These two propositions contradict each other.
By setting buyer's rebates for other brokers across many regions in the United States, Opendoor Brokerage operates with a sole purpose to collect referral fees, where such service effectively results in lower quality of service, pay-to-play bias, and a “blind match” with agents willing to participate.
With Opendoor Brokerage consumers have zero control over what agents the company shares their information with. Opendoor Brokerage simply subjects a real estate transaction with an additional referral fee that is equal to 1% of the home price. This fee is paid directly by the Opendoor Agent Partner to Opendoor Brokerage for failing to deliver a seamless consumer selling experience. Remember, Opendoor claims to offer consumers to buy homes directly as a revolutionary approach to home selling, instead, it systematically sells inquiries that it is unable to meet to random Opendoor Agent Partners for a fee.
Consumers can expect to significantly overpay for the transaction in the form of a higher commission with Opendoor Agent Partners. Even after consumers take into account a price-fixed amount in commission rebate, Opendoor Agent Partner is still required to pay a sizable referral fee, which means that same agent is able to offer a much better rate when approached directly.
For sellers, Opendoor Brokerage does not currently price fix listing rates, so consumers are likely to be referred to an agent who charges the highest commission possible - a "standard" 6% listing rate. There is little incentive for Opendoor Brokerage to connect consumers with the best and most competitive listing agents. Instead, Opendoor Brokerage aims to receive the highest referral fee possible by steering consumers toward a very limited set of agents who have a signed Referral Fee Agreement with Opendoor Brokerage.
Instead of being “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.
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