Thanks Lance, I'll do that and did look into RESPA more critically just now.
I have removed my answers from the post so as to not confuse the consumer.
Section 8 specifically prohibits referral fees, although affiliated businesses may receive referral fees.
The key word is 'affiliated'.
For example, this would apply to a mortgage company that owns, or is part owner too, a real estate company. In theory, the mortgage company would qualify a borrower, then refer them to a realtor within the affiliated real estate company thereby creating the legitimate basis for a referral fee. This is how I understand RESPA to apply to the question of the benefit to lenders who refer buyers to realtors.
If there is no 'affiliation' between the lending and real estate companies, there is a RESPA violation should a referral fee (either monetary or of valuable consideration) be paid.
The same basis for referral fee is true for the same real estate company to refer a buyer needing a mortgage to the mortgage company dually owned (even partially).
Otherwise, for non-affiliated relationships, the referral reward is non-monetary and an intrinsic value in having a professional network. It gets the job done.
I am curious how LendingTree can assess a referral fee from a participating realtor. Must be simple paperwork that creates the relationship.
Thanks again Lance for your clarification, all straight now.