On Tuesday, I began my annual May visit to Scotland, although this one will be a more equal balance between golf and taking in all the other wonderful things the Scotlamd has to offer. I write this from my favorite city, Edinburgh, where I arrived just after the sun came up Tuesday morning after a flight from Hartford, CT, to Dublin and, after a short layover, on to Edinburgh. Motel One – Royal (it’s really a “hotel”) has become my go-to lodgings after a pleasant stay of a couple of days last year with my wife. Located in the Old Town section of the city, a block from Waverley Station and a couple of blocks below the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s famed and historic shopping and dining street, you can’t be in a better position for pubs, both fine and casual restaurants, shops, and buildings that are centuries old.
Cockburn from breakfast seatHow I started my day; the breakfast view from the lobby of the Motel One- Royal. At the top of the two block long Cockburn Street lies the Royal Mile.

Last night’s dinner at The Malt Shovel, a well-regarded pub less than a block from the hotel, was exactly what you hope for in a UK pub; great selection of beers, a loud and convivial post-work crowd, and quite competent food, in my case a toothsome cheddar burger layered with cheese, lettuce, tomato and red onion. The cheese was barely melted but I didn’t care. Today, camera in tow and praying for at least a little sunshine,
The Malt ShovelThe Malt Shovel begins serving at noon, and they were setting up late morning as I passed by.

I started my walkabout along the Royal Mile, trying to tick off the many photo ops I had not found on prior trips and to recapture the best scone of my life on my first trip to the city in 2008. (Sadly, I did not find it and when stepped inside the tiny and highly regarded Milkman coffee shop, the young at the counter said "Sorry, no scones.") No matter where you point your camera in Edinburgh – east, west, high and low -- it is hard not to capture a great shot; the framings and perspectives seem to be pre-composed by ancient architects and volcanic movements. A walk on flat ground – asphalt or cobblestones – is more rare than skimming downhill or huffing uphill. The Edinburgh Castle hangs over the city, as does a volcanic mountain to the east (extinct, thankfully), just beyond the historic Hollyrood ("Hooray for Hollyrood!") but dramatic long flights of stone stairs up and down from one section of the city to the next, and almost endless narrow alleyways that twist and turn through centuries old residences and churches, beg for photo shots -- and make me thankful I no longer need to pay for film.
Bagpiper on Royal MileThe busker bagpipers are fanned out along the Royal Mile, just far enough apart from each so as not to overlap in terms of sound and tips.

I’ll be weighing in next week about the golf at Crail Golfing Society and its 36 holes, every one of them with at least a peek at the North Sea. It is the only golf community in the world with designs by Old Tom Morris (circa 1895) and a “new” Gil Hanse, Craighead Links which was one of his early designs (1998) and his first international assignment. After that, I head to the Highlands of Scotland on a buddy trip with my brother-in-law from London. No golf will be involved, but plenty of photos, especially on the Isle of Skye. And perhaps a wee dram or two.  Cheers.
Tourist photoI am not the only one with a camera who loves to take photos of dramatically long flights of stone stairs of Old Town Edinburgh. I had to wait for this lady's mate to take the perfect photo because, as I waited, she retreated down the stairs to check on the image, went back up for another go,and then another before she was satisfied. In any case, they were so riveted on their photo that I decided a model was more interesting than naked stairs. If they noticed, they didn't seem to mind.

In March, the National Association of Realtors settled a class-action lawsuit brought by a group of Missouri homeowners. After a court slapped the NAR with a $1.8 billion judgment – not a typo -- the trade organization settled for $418 million. The agreement is expected to be validated by the courts in July, after which the relationships among the real estate industry and buyers and sellers will change forever; just how much will be determined in the coming months and evolve over years.Next week, my newsletter – Home On The Course – will publish a deep dive on what the settlement means for buyers, sellers, real estate agencies and the agents who represent both buyers and sellers. (Subscribe to Home On The Course for free here.)

In the meantime, if you are considering purchasing a brand new home inside or outside a golf community, the changes developers and builders are considering in the wake of the settlement may help you in your search and negotiations. Of course, most homes bought and sold in the U.S. are not new; I will address the effects on those in the newsletter.

First, here are the sea changes the NAR agreed to that will change how real estate buying and selling will be conducted – although the magnitude of the changes will not be obvious until after a court confirms the settlement in July. The two major changes are that the seller’s commission rate – typically 6% in most locations – can no longer include an even split with the buyer’s agency (although most listing agencies will try to convince sellers that paying the buy side as much as 3% of the total sale price of a property will help spur a quick and full-price sale). Also, the local multiple listing services (MLS) will no longer be permitted to publish the rate a buyer’s agency will be compensated. If a listing agency convinces a seller to pay a total commission greater than, say, 3% of the property’s selling price, the seller’s agency can list at their own website a rate of compensation for the buyer agency. Otherwise, buyer agents will need to negotiate a fee with their own clients – either a flat rate or a percentage – likely less than 3% -- of the purchase price of the home they find.

Buyers, of course, may not be inclined to pay an agent for a new home advertised on the Internet or in local media that provides the builder’s contact information. Builders are preparing for even more inquiries directly from potential buyers.According to an article in Builder Online authored by Steve Laudurantaye of consulting agency Zonda Home, builders should be ready to receive inquiries from potential buyers before the buyers sign any buyer-broker agreements. Laudurantaye’s advice to builders is to make the case to buyers to deal directly with the builder/developer in order to save on buyer-agency fees. The online magazine cites the amount of money just one national home builder company, D.R. Horton, paid to real estate agencies in the last two years – a whopping $1 billion dollars. In 2023, Horton generated net revenue of $4.7 billion from the sales of almost 83,000 homes; a $1 billion payout to real estate agencies represents a good bit of shareowner value; thus the advice to work directly with interested buyers.

Buyer-broker agreements certainly will not go away completely – indeed they very well may grow -- and Laudurantaye also advises builders to prepare for those customers who come with a buyer agent in tow. Buyers will negotiate agreements with their agents, but builders will prepare to negotiate with those agents on what fee they pay for a successful sale. Buyers, of course, will be involved, mindful that any fees paid to an agent could be reflected in the pricing of the builders’ homes for sale. Buyer agents will need to muster all their communication and negotiation skills.

Many developers are likely to establish standing agreements with large volume buyer agencies to pay a set commission rate. Buyers mindful of such an arrangement will have some leverage in negotiating with their real estate agency before they sign any agreement for representation. Remember that commission rates are negotiable on both the seller and buyer side – always have been – and the fact that 6% has been the standard in most markets reflects the National Association of Realtors’ former marketing power. Not anymore; doing what the market would bear brought the NAR to court and the real estate industry to a pivotal moment.

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