Thinking about selling your house?


ONE-YEAR listing contract!
This topic has come to my attention many times, but lately it’s been a more common complaint than ever before. I’ve had quite a few sellers call in the past few months and want me to list their house. Of course I’m happy to help but recently, more than once, I’ve had to first educate them, and then explain why it’s not possible right now.  My purpose in writing this today is to shine a light on the problem in hopes of helping at least a few homeowners have a better selling experience. and possibly eliminate some frustration all around.

Here’s an overview with fictitious names: Real estate agent Betty Green is an acquaintance of yours and offers to help sell your house. You’ve seen her yard signs a few times and she seems like a nice person, so you say “Great! Let’s get started.”

Hopefully she then shows you the homes you’ll be competing with, and those similar to yours that have already sold. Based on that information (or whatever your gut tells you) YOU decide on an asking price. Yes, the decision belongs to the seller, not the agent. We can advise and inform, but it’s your house and ultimately your decision.

This next step is the bigger fly in the ointment:

Another item that is also your decision is the length of the listing period. Unfortunately, many agents are not honest with prospective sellers and either a) fail to tell them that it’s negotiable, or b) they don’t bring it up for discussion at all and just fill in the blank with a one-year period.  Yes, sellers can choose the length of time they want to be legally obligated to this agent and company, and more than a few agents don’t explain that. It should NOT happen that way, but does. 

Are you aware that you can list your home for as little as one day? Of course that really isn’t practical, but it’s allowed and legal. A better option would be thirty days. You can always renew it if you’re still happy with how things are going, and it benefits you greatly! If you’re not happy after a month – for whatever reason –  you can change to a different agent and/or company. Simple.

If you sign a one-year contract, it surely benefits that agent and the real estate company, but HURTS you. What happens if, after a few weeks, you aren’t happy with the agent’s lack of marketing? Maybe the photos aren’t very good, there hasn’t been an open house, not enough appointments, or she never returns your phone calls and email etc. Whatever the issue is, if you signed a one-year contract YOU’RE STUCK.

You’re unhappy and reach out to another agent like me. We’ll call her Mary White, and you recently heard good things about her from a colleague. You share the tale of woe with Mary and she asks you when your current contract will end. She does that because if you’re already listed with someone else, her hands are tied and her options for helping you are limited. You dig out your contract, or call your agent to request a copy if wasn’t provided to you. (Which is illegal.) You find out there are 10-1/2 months left! That just ruined your day. You can ask the agent to be let out of the contract (which many agents will do) or try calling the company’s office manager or broker to plead your case. Don’t expect to get very far, though. They’ll likely tell you that “you signed and initialed the contract, so you must have known what’s in it.” To their point, you really SHOULD have read it and not relied on the agent telling you what it contains. However, in my 14 years of practice I don’t believe I’ve had more than ONE client read the entire thing.

Anyway, if you’re currently in this spot, your only recourse is to complain to the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission by completing the Complaint form. They must look into every complaint that is sent. You stand a chance at getting out of the contract if you can show that the agent didn’t follow the rules, but it won’t happen quickly.

My advice:  

Avoid the unpleasantness altogether! Sign a SHORT contract and then renew it when you’re satisfied you’ve chosen the right person. If the agent doesn’t like that arrangement, maybe you should ask yourself why that would be and talk with a few other agents. I’d be willing to bet dollars to donuts you’ll be much happier in the end if you give this a try.

I’m always happy to answer your real estate questions. Reach out anytime.