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-- Posted: July 26, 2000

Dorothy Rosen -- The Dollar Diva Ask the Dollar Diva

How do I break a contract with a Realtor?

Dear Dollar Diva,
I am three months into a six-month contract with a Realtor to sell my home. When he first got the listing, my agent posted it on the Internet and the Multiple Listing Service, and put two ads in the paper. He also put a sign in the front of my house with his name and phone number on it.

He hasn't done a thing in the past two months. People stop by my home for information because he doesn't return their phone calls. I don't think he knows how to sell my home and I would like to void my contract.

I have spoken to the Realtor about his agent not making any effort to sell our home, and all I get is excuses. How do I get out of this contract?


When Realtors are good, they are very, very good, but when they are bad, they are awful. Selling a home is tough enough without having to deal with an awful Realtor. The Diva offers the following advice to help you get things back on track.

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The real estate contract is a two-way street. You agree to make your home available for showing, and the Realtor agrees to use due diligence in the pursuit of buyers. Due diligence includes such practices as advertising, listing in the multiple listing service, preparing flyers and calling potential buyers back when they inquire about the house.

If you are making your home available for showing and the Realtor is doing nothing to find buyers, he is breaking the contract. Send him a letter stating that by not practicing due diligence in the pursuit of buyers for your home, he has violated the agreement. Tell him that you have evidence that the agent is not returning calls from potential buyers (the Diva hopes you wrote down their names for future reference), and to your knowledge the agent has done nothing to find buyers in over two months.

Give him one week to provide written validation of the steps he has taken to find buyers for your home, including the dates that the steps were taken. If he cannot provide satisfactory written evidence of due diligence, tell him you will consider the contract null and void and he is to acknowledge in writing that he agrees that the contract is voided. Further, tell him if you do not receive a response within one week you will take the matter up with your local board of Realtors. Do everything quickly and with a sense of urgency. If you have access to a fax, give him the fax number to expedite his response.

Send the letter certified mail so you know he received it, or hand deliver it and have the person receiving it sign for it. If you don't hear from him within a week, call your local board of Realtors and report him. Ask the person your dealing with to e-mail or fax the complaint form, and get his fax number and e-mail address for speedy future communication.

The Diva advises you not to list with another real estate agent until this mess is cleared up. You don't want to add insult to injury by ending up with two commissions to pay.

Here are some of the things you should ask about the next time you're shopping for someone to sell your home:

  • How many years he's been a full-time real estate agent. Longevity counts.

  • A list of homes that he's sold in the past six months. None is the wrong number.

  • A list of references from recent sales. Checking references never hurts.

  • Exactly what he intends to do to find buyers over the period of the contract, and a time line of when he intends to do each thing. Get this in writing.

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