How do you break up with your listing agent

How do you break up with your listing agent if you decide it’s not working?

Here at Solutions, we’ve talked in earlier blogs about ways for a Seller to prepare their home for sale in the Charlottesville area, what to look for in a Listing Agent and what factors come into play in a Buyer’s mind when they see your home for the first time – curb appeal, location, price and condition.

The most important part of all is the communication between the Seller and Listing Agent at all stages of listing, from the preparation of the home to actively being on the market. The Listing Agent’s job is to smoothly guide the Seller through the process and offer sound advice and suggestions along the way.


Ideally, the Seller will understand the reasoning behind the initial listing price, based on the Listing Agent’s comparative market analysis and experience in selling homes in the neighborhood and surrounding area.

When listing a home, the Seller and the Listing Agent enter into a Listing Agreement, which spells out the fact the Seller is guaranteeing that they’ll work with the Listing Agent exclusively to sell the home, the time frame for the listing, what services the agent will provide and how to terminate a contract if either party isn’t happy.

Once it’s signed, the contract is now binding and the Listing Agent will provide the Seller with a copy. If you don’t receive a copy make sure you ask to have one as it’s a formal contract.

The listing agreement is actually with the Brokerage, even if a particular agent is helping you get your house ready. If you’re not happy with any aspect of the service, and a conversation with the Listing Agent hasn’t gone well to resolve any issues that might arise, it’s entirely within your right to contact the Broker/Office Manager.

Nobody can force you to sell your house, but if you do have a written listing agreement signed by you and a Listing Agent, you can still ask to cancel the listing with written notification if you decide you don’t want to sell after all. You will probably, however, face some challenges if you decide to list with someone else during the time you were supposed to be in contract with that particular agent.

If you hired someone to do a job for you (sell your house in this case) you’re both bound by the terms of the contract you both signed. One party to most any contract can’t void or change the terms of that agreement without the consent of the other party.

In other words you can’t “fire” your Realtor® without their consent. Most real estate agents will generally release a Seller from a listing agreement if they have either changed their minds about selling or become unhappy for some reason.

How can you tell the difference between a good real estate agent and a not-so-good one?

Know the signs of a bad agent

If your home isn’t selling, it’s easy to assume the agent is the problem, but sometimes your actions as the Seller could be holding up the process. If your home is grossly overpriced, it won’t sell. If you insist on holding Open Houses every weekend, or aren’t available for showings, these could also lead to Listing Agent burn out.

Be sure to take a close look at the entire situation before assuming the real estate agent is the problem.

Signs of an ineffective agent:

• Little communication with the Seller a great agent will always provide the Seller with feedback after a showing and also let them know when a showing will take place.

• No decision-making skills – a great agent will work with you one on one and offer great advice.

• Few leadership qualities/unprofessional – a great agent will point out what will help your house sell in the way of staging, decluttering and curb appeal and will always be available to help answer questions.

• Failure to use all resources to sell your homea great agent will make sure your house has high quality photos that will show it in its best light online and on their company website, via email blasts and in flyers at the house.

• Putting too much pressure on you – a great agent will price your house correctly the first time, and not inflate the price and then badger you to reduce the price down to where it should have been or lower.

If your agent shows any of these signs, you’ve probably not hired a good one. If you have a contract with your agent, you can’t simply hand him or her their notice and walk away. Firing your real estate agent is going to be a bit more complex, but it’s possible to walk away if you need to.

Study the real estate contract

Your contract will outline your responsibilities as well as the responsibilities of the agent. Take a look at it, and determine if your agent is in breach of contract.

If the agent refuses to do what’s outlined on the marketing plan, you may have a case. Simple services like taking photographs, showing the home to perspective Buyers and responding to Seller questions are all items the agent should be doing, and these should be in the contract.

Negotiate with the real estate agent

If the agent is guilty of breaching the real estate contract, open the lines of communication. In some instances, this will allow you to work out your differences and keep working together.

Or, if the agent is truly of poor quality, negotiations may open the door to a written agreement canceling the contract. Once you have this agreement, you can walk away without fear of a lawsuit down the road.

Paying early termination fees

If your agreement requires early termination fees, paying them is another way you can walk away from the agent. These fees, which may range from $300 to $500, pay the agent for the time he or she put into trying to sell your property, even if the process wasn’t successful. Before you balk at paying these fees, remember that the agent has put money into ads, time into marketing your property and hopefully the agent hired a professional to take photos which also was a cost to the agent.

If you’re at the end of the contract you can also just let it expire, and then move on to another Listing Agent.

Don’t forget that some contracts have what are called “protection periods” – some of these can be anywhere from 30-90 days after the end of the contract.

What this means is that the Listing Agent will still be owed a commission if a Buyer sees the house during the listing contract period, but puts in a contract after the contract expires.

In some ways this keeps the Seller on the up and up in honoring the listing contract as well so there are no behind the scenes deals with a Buyer that excludes the Listing Agent.

If a Seller does sell the house on their own during the protection period, they could also be legally obligated to pay the agent’s commission from the sale.

You’ve entered into a contract with your Listing Agent, but that doesn’t mean you must remain in a relationship with a bad one. If you’re willing to negotiate, pay for the agent’s time, and do a little digging into the details of the contract, you can walk away and find a better agent – or better Solution – to sell your house.


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Charles McDonald
Charles McDonald
Charlottesville Solutions
2013 Woodbrook Court, Charlottesville VA 22901
REALTOR® - Licensed to sell Real Estate in Virginia
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