How to Cancel a Listing Contract

Buying a New Home
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Canceling a listing contract for your home should be a straightforward process, particularly if your real estate agent hasn't brought in any potential buyers. You can ask for a release or, if it's a large firm, request a different agent. The terms of cancellation should already be spelled out in your contract.

Most residential listing agreements are a bilateral contract, meaning both the agent and the seller must perform. The first step in canceling a listing contract is establishing the grounds for cancellation. This could be because of a lack of good communication. For instance, your agent may not be providing the updates you require. It could also boil down to a lack of good chemistry. At the other end of the spectrum is unethical behavior. Determine whether any of those reasons apply to your situation before taking any action.

Key Takeaways

  • If you're not satisfied with the performance of your listing agent, you may be able to cancel your listing contract.
  • Before you go firing your listing agent, figure out what it is that you're dissatisfied with, and bring it to their attention.
  • If they're unable to meet your needs, you can ask the broker to assign you another agent.
  • If that doesn't work for you, cancel the listing, in which case you should make sure you get everything in writing.

Taking Action

Keep things cordial and professional:

Ask for a release: The time to ask about canceling a listing is when you sign the listing contract. Ask your agent whether he or she will release you if you are unhappy. If you keep the contract to a three-month period, it will be easier to move on to a new agent. This is an item to negotiate, and many listing agents prefer a minimum six-month contract.

Request a release in writing: Tell your agent immediately if you want to cancel. Do not delay this communication. Put your request in writing and document your expectations. An email will work fine.

Ask to be assigned another agent: Realize that your listing is between the brokerage and you, not you and your agent. If you are unhappy with your agent, it might be entirely permissible and easier for everyone if you ask the broker to assign another agent to you.

If you have laid out the reasons that you want to cancel the listing, and the agent refuses, you might have to hire a lawyer, although there is no guarantee that a lawyer will get you the outcome you desire.

Reasons to Cancel a Listing

Various factors could contribute to your canceling a listing, although if your agent is experienced, you may want to reconsider the cancellation. In many small communities, years can pass before a home sells. Still, some reasons for cancellation are:

Poor communication: If you prefer daily or weekly updates from your agent and they do not provide them, that's a good reason to cancel a listing. First, though, give your agent an opportunity to improve their communications skills. Don't just yank the listing away.

Bad photographs: Photos are the most important aspect of marketing. An agent can misspell words or use the wrong words and a home will still sell. Photos, however, are a different story altogether. Look at your photography. The images should place your home in the best light possible. If the photography is not professional grade, you might want to cancel the listing.

No internet exposure: Google and other search engines are essential tools in getting your listing out into the wider world. If you put your address into a search engine and don't return any results, that's a big red flag that little is being done to sell your home.

Mismatched personalities: Sometimes you don't get to know a person until you have worked together. You might be an overachiever now paired with an underachiever. You might want just the facts, but the agent might lean toward a passive nature. It's OK to cancel a listing if your personalities don't mesh.

Unethical behavior: Agents rarely set out to be unethical, but it can happen. Perhaps they've flip-flopped on broker fees or have overpromised buyers on things that are not possible. If you feel that your agent is not representing your best interests, it might be time to cancel the listing and look for a new agent.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does it take to cancel a listing contract?

If you're having a sinking feeling that it may be time to cancel your listing contract before the original terms, the first thing you'll want to do is look at the actual contract. If there are no fees to cancel, then you should be able to cancel at any time just by speaking to your agent. If there are fees, look at the contract terms and have a straightforward conversation with your agent about why you want to cancel the listing contract. From there, you should be able to agree on moving to another agent or canceling the contract with the brokerage entirely.

How long does a listing contract usually last?

When you sign a listing contract, you effectively decide how long a particular agent has to sell your home. While the agent can suggest how long the listing contract should last, it is ultimately your decision. Most listing contracts can be between 30 days and a year. A good rule of thumb is to pick a number of days that coincide with how long it takes to sell other homes in your area.

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  1. NOLO. "Signing a Listing Agreement With Your Real Estate Agent."

  2. National Association of REALTORS®. "Section 3: Definitions of Various Types of Listing Agreements."

  3. National Association of REALTORS®. "2022 Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice."

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