Dear PoP – Can I Get Out of my Listing Contract?”

Photo by PoPville flickr user sciascia

“Dear PoP,

Our place has been on the market for over a month now, and we of course had to sign a listing agreement that lasts for 6 months with our realtor. The problem is, he isn’t doing anything that he said that he would in his sales pitch to us. He never responds to emails or phone calls, he refuses to take us to see places that we might like to buy (he says for us to just “do it on our own”), and frankly, he’s kind of a jerk. He has insulted our furniture and belongings, is condescending, and the only thing that he’s done is put the pictures that we took of our house online. He doesn’t even speak with the realtors that come to visit our place- we do that.

We have tried expressing our displeasure with him, but he just ignores us and then will not respond to us for days. When he finally does respond, he berates us. Giving him 6% of the sales price is outrageous for the work that he has done, and so I am wondering- though we signed the listing agreement, is there any way to find a different realtor because he hasn’t done what he has promised (as far as being proactive, sending out mailings, helping us find a new condo, etc)? Does this ever happen? Or, are there any realtors that would have any better suggestions as to how to go about fixing this mess that we’ve found ourselves in?”

He sounds like a total asshole. Any lawyers or realtors know if it is possible to get out of a listing agreement?

32 Comment

  • You want to know if you can get out of your contract?


    Read the contract. If it says you can get out of it with X months notice, then there you go! if it doesn’t specify, then you probably can’t, but if the agent sucks, then threaten to report him to the broker or better yet, to the licensing board. And you could always complain about him (BY NAME) on Yelp or PoP.

  • Bummer. Unfortunately, his being crappy is not likely a breach of his responsibilities under the contract, and even if it were, that might not be enough. I bet there is a mediation clause in there. READ THE CONTRACT.

    Also, everyone, never sign a 6-month listing agreement. Always go for 3-4 months max.

    • me

      OP here. I just noticed that the page that states how long our listing agreement is for is a page that he added on after I signed everything, and it was never shown to me until I received it all in the mail. My signature/initials are nowhere on that page. Hmm.

      • Oh, you’re golden. Run free!

      • Well, if you can prove you never saw it, that helps. On the other hand, the question will be how long did you think it was? If there was no time specified, the law is usually going to imply a reasonable time, which per custom, could be considered to be 6 mos. Either that, or until sold, which is worse. I think you are in a tough legal position here. I’d start by putting in writing your concerns with the realtor and cc the broker.

  • I’d start by telling him that you want to cancel the contract, and see what he says.

    • Yeah, that’s the simple way to do it. “It’s not working out, we’re letting you go” is a pretty good opening. It may just turn out that he can live with that.

      On the other hand, if he gets fussy, then you go to the legalese. Before you do that, read the contract and understand what it says about what does/doesn’t constitute a breach and what you think he has done/not done that fits into one of those categories. OP’s ace in the hole, from what I’ve read, is the suggestion of fraud: misrepresentations before signing the agreement and then tacking on the length of agreement at the end.

      But talk first. The realtor is in what I guess is a reputation-dependent profession. The last thing he may want is to get involved with you filing complaints, legal actions, etc., in addition to telling all your friends and neighbors how bad he is at his job.

      • ah


        Be aware there’s no requirement for a 6 month contract. Too late now, but he may be happy to dump the listing as well. Can’t hurt to start by asking.

  • Call his broker. Call his company. Tell them you’re about to post his name and the company name on PoP and send them a link. Do it now.

    • This is exactly what I would do. This is one of those situations where resorting to legalities doesn’t really help. You can argue back and forth about whether you saw the page with the contract terms before signing, but in the meantime your house is not being sold and no other broker will touch the listing until this gets resolved. At this point, just be a pain in the ass to his boss until the boss lets you out of the agreement.

  • Is the agent actually a broker, or does he work for a brokerage? If he works for someone, call the actual broker and explain the situation. Brokers tend to be very reasonable in this sort of situation, as long as you’re reasonable as well.

    Explain the situation just as you did in this post, don’t yell, and you’re very likely to reach an equitable resolution.

  • Whenever past sellers have wanted to get out of a listing agreement in order to rent it or whatever, they’ve asked me and I’ve agreed. I would hope the listing agent wouldn’t put up too much of a fight.

    • This. It’s not usually worth the time or money for a Realtor to fight to keep a listing–your guy is obviously not interested in marketing your property, and his behavior is unacceptable. Call his broker, complain, break the contract. there are really no repercussions. Ask around with your friends and coworkers for a realtor they’ve worked with and recommend.

  • I agree with LG’s and others’ comments above. You should make sure you’ve communicated your dissatisfaction with him and his services under the contract.

    I think generally, these types of questions are pretty fact specific as to whether you’re likely to get out of the contract scot-free. You might want to consult a lawyer. Has anyone ever tried the DC Bar’s Advice and Referral Clinic?

  • For the sake of others who may be about to sign a listing with this creep, tell us his name! Other realtors should be aware of who is as well. I can only imagine what a nightmare it must be for the other realtors to deal with him on a transaction.

  • I don’t know if brokers know PoP, but they probably know Angie’s list. Maybe you can threaten to post a bad review there too.

  • I would be careful about posting his name and a bad review. He sounds like the kind of jerk who would slap you with a defamation lawsuit. The contract defines your rights. Read it. Pretty much every contract has what’s called an incorporation clause. It states something along the lines of “this document represents the entire agreement between the parties and no other document is part of the agreement unless the parties say so . . .” If that sheet that you got after the fact is not signed by the parties and not referenced in the contract you signed, it’s not part of your agreement. If that is the case, I would just tell him that you have read the contract and interpret it as allowing you to terminate the agreement, and if he has a contrary interpretation bring it on.

  • I have an exceptionally good guess as to who this realtor is. We had an extremely unpleasant experience two years ago with a certain realtor and, reading OP’s tale of woe, this sounds like the same character.

    I wish it were possible to set up a Yelp-like service for realtors (not just firms or companies) without the potential for a defamation suit.

    • It’s called Angie’s List.

      If someone is that afraid of telling the truth and potentially (extremely unlikely) triggering a defamation lawsuit, then one might not be cut out for the trials of homeownership. If you can’t handle posting on either Yelp or Angie’s List, you’ll never be able to stand up for yourself when it counts.

  • bfinpetworth

    In the meantime, DOCUMENT each and every one of his/her shortcomings. Each time you call and he didn’t return a call, each time he said to do it yourself, whatever – document it and if you are really serious, have each instance notorized to prove its timeliness. Send him a letter documenting your specific concerns. Copy the owner of the brokerage.

    I would also go to the brokerage directly and request remediation – possibly a different agent or an agreement that you can walk away. Get any agreement in the form of a signed writing by an officer of the brokerage. Don’t trust their word…

    A good agent/brokerage would allow you out of the contract if you, in good faith, are not happy with the services. But its a dog eat dog world out there and you may need all the documentation to support your assertions of breach of contract.

  • Seems like there are two separate issues:

    1 – He is doing a bad job trying to sell your house. As suggested above, ask him to cancel the listing agreement. If he refuses, then call up his office and ask to speak to the Broker. In addition to canceling the listing agreement, his Broker (essentially his boss) could assign another agent from the same company to your house – not sure if you want that or not.

    2 – Regarding looking at other houses, check your Listing Agreement. Because if it is strictly a “Listing Agreement” for your house and does not include language about representing you in your house search, then you can use any (or no) salesperson to help you in your search. If, however, you have signed up with him to represent you in buying a house, then you need to get that cleared up as well.

    • Buyer Agency Agreements are even less strong than Listing Agreements, and usually contain a class that they can be unilaterally canceled by one party. Buyer Agency Agreements only exist to make buyers feel obligated to a realtor, and to make sure that good, hard-working realtors get paid by the seller side when/if they secure a contract and settlement for their buyer.

  • Brokers get 6% for the work they do, and usually work hard for their commissions. In your case, if he isnt showing any interest to sell the property, he probably doesnt care much for your listing, and probably wouldnt mind just voiding the listing contract.

    I would just ask him politely, if he refuses, then get legal help since you claim he added a page to the contract that doesnt even have your initials.

  • We are going to run this guy out of business.

  • instead of telling us the realtors name, why not share the link to the MRIS database for your house listing?

    curious– is your house overpriced? is it messy?

    i don’t condone the realtors lack of interest or remarks, but he may think you’re wasting his time trying to list something he doesn’t think will sell.

    correct me if i’m wrong, but realtors are also worried they may be sued by their clients for turning someone away. i don’t think realtors can necessarily pick and choose who they represent. if they’ve sold similiar houses like yours in the past, they’re required to work with you (assuming you want to work with them). Sounds like this realtor is setting the ground for you to walk away from him.

  • My friend had a similiar situation with the realtor she dealt with; just terrible all around.

    She finally broke down and called the brokerage to discuss the realtor’s terrible lack of service. The brokerage informed her that the contract she signed was with the brokerage, not the individual realtor, and that she always had the option of choosing another realtor within the company.

    However, after my friend explained the horrible service she’d been recieving, they released her from the contract without penalty.

    Like others have said, I’d recommend starting with the brokerage firm first.

  • I didn’t have a problem cancelling with my listing agent – I told him I was unhappy and he said our personalities just weren’t working out. Anyways, sometimes all it takes is to ask, he might be happy to get you off his back.

  • Is his name “Tom”?

    A little off topic, does anyone have experience with Redfin?

    • Yes. I looked at a dozen houses with them last year and put in two offers. Great folks, very nice, very accomodating and easy to use.

      That being said, the field agents (the ones showing the houses) are about 75% as good as a very good agent and not completely informed about properties and things on the markets.

      The main broker (the person working with you on offers) is smart and on the ball BUT you are still just a digital being. They sometimes feel out of touch and/or like they don’t keep you looped in as much as some might like.

      Ultimately I went with another agent (Ed Carp – AMAZING!) and he kicked Redfin’s butt. After six months of looking with others, within two weeks Ed had found me two places I wanted to bid on (he catches on quick to what your tastes are) and then within a month I had the offer in, property secured and then a month later I was a first time homeowner.

      Throughout the entire process my agent (Ed) was very helpful, very good at troubleshooting and never slacked off one bit.

  • I’m a Realtor and not an attorney so I must preface my comments below by first saying in a situation like this I suggest you seek the advice of an attorney. You are asking for interpretation of a contract and Realtors are not trained to do that.
    Here are my thoughts:
    If you haven’t talked with the Realtor and told him that you are unhappy and want out of the contract then you should do so ASAP. This is the first step. If you can’t get in touch with him in a day or two then contact the broker and explain your dissatisfaction and ask to be released from the contract. More is More is exactly right, the listing agreement is with the brokerage and not the Realtor. The broker may want to assign another Realtor to work with you. The broker may have the right to do that and that might be a reasonable compromise. Every broker I’ve worked with would let you out of the listing contract. Get something in writing when you are release just to be safe. An email might be O.K., but a release agreement signed by yourself and the broker or office manager would be better.
    It may be that the brokerage is a one man show. If that is the case after you have tried to get the broker to release you I would contact the Board of Realtors for your jurisdiction (Washington DC, Montgomery County, Prince Georges County, etc.) Let them know what is going on and ask for advice. They will probably tell you to contact an attorney.

    BTW, the 6% or whatever the commission is is usually split in half with the buyer’s agent. The half that stays within the listing brokerage is divided between the broker and the agent at a rate agreed upon by the agent and broker.

    I’m sorry to hear you have having such a bad experience and wish you luck. As much as I would love to hear who the agent is I suggest you not post his name for all the reasons above.

  • Call the broker. If he doesn’t want to release you from the contract, call the board of realtors.

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