Is there a termination fee for a real estate agent?

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You have done your research, found a real estate agent that you think is right for your job, and signed an agreement allowing a professional to list your property for sale. But if time passes – and if your home is not for sale – you might be wondering: can you terminate the real estate contract – and if so, at what cost?

In a perfect world where we all read everything in small print before we sign a legally binding document, you already know the answers to these questions because they are included in the listing agreement that you signed.

But this is the real world – a world in which many of us sign documents in a hurry, without expecting any problems. If this is your situation, here’s what you need to know about terminating your listing agreement.


What’s in your listing agreement?

Of course, no one can force you to sell your home, but real estate listing agreements are legally binding.

Listing agreements differ between real estate companies, real estate councils, and cities and states. In general, however, they all usually include the time frame that they cover for a particular property. If there is no cancellation fee in the agreement, you can opt out at any time and you will be fine. However, many state that the seller will charge a commission if the agreement is terminated before it expires.

The fee often covers the agent’s time and expenses. This may include costs incurred by an agent to list your property on a multiple listing system in your area, as well as forms, photos, videos, brochures, and other means to promote your home. In some cases, the commission will be a percentage of the listing price.

If fees are specified, you can always wait until a contract is signed to avoid any chance of having to pay them. However, in many cases, you can negotiate something with your real estate agent, even if you give up sooner.

“If you give up early, chances are the agent can just let you off the hook for the remainder of the contract — at least most of us do — especially when the landlord asks for that termination,” says Maria Jeante is a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker C&C Properties in Redding, California. “It all depends on your approach when you let them know you want to cancel.”

Reasons for canceling the listing agreement and alternatives

The reasons people want to cancel a listing agreement vary. If it’s because you decide you don’t want to sell your property, this is one thing. But if you want to cancel an ad because you’re unhappy with the way your agent is promoting it, or disappointed that they aren’t getting as many views or offers as you hoped, that’s different. The latter can often be worked with your agent by clearly discussing what you are unhappy with and the changes you would like to see.

Jeante says the best policy is to always be frank with your agent.

“Keep it clean. Either talk to your current heart-to-heart agent about the cancellation, or talk to him about getting more out of his / her services for you,” she says.

If this is ineffective, you may also consider contacting the agent’s brokerage firm (if your agent is not a broker / owner) to discuss the issues and possibly assign you another agent.

If nothing seems to work out, then it may be in your best interest to cancel, even if you have to pay a commission.

Just make sure you get a waiver in writing, because if you list your home to a new agent within the time frame of your listing agreement and you don’t have a written waiver from your current agent, your current agent may ask for a commission when the house is for sale. Again, take a look at your listing convention to see what it says.

Not all relationships with real estate agents work out, people change their minds, circumstances change. This is why it is so important to do your research carefully when it comes to choosing a real estate agent and take a close look at what is contained in the listing agreement. before you sign this.

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