home listing length just right
Real Estate Adviser,
What is the best length of time to commit to a listing agent; 30,
60, 90 or 180 days? If the agent has paid to advertise our home
and our relationship does not work out, will we have to reimburse
her for her fees?
I always advocate listing arrangements that steadfastly
look out for the best interests of the client. If the allotted days
are too numerous, it can invite apathy on the part of the agent.
However, if they are too few, that can discourage continuity and
even thwart a budding sale.
But I think a 30-day listing is just too truncated,
unless the market is simply booming. Even then, the most earnest,
successful agents may not be able to produce a buyer in a month.
In fact, a lot of real estate companies will not even accept 30-day
contracts. Too many things can go wrong, even with a "sure-thing"
buyer. For example, the buyer can't qualify, he changes his mind,
he must sell his slow-moving home first, bad weather strikes on
open-house weekend, repair or disclosure issues suddenly arise,
On the other hand, I like 60-day or 90-day contracts
because they demand performance in a time frame that's fair for
both parties -- although many agents will argue that 60 days is
still too short. Sometimes, you have to tailor your listing contract
to the average time on the market that it currently takes to sell
a house where you live -- not the average sale time over the last
year. Some markets that were bustling a year ago have softened,
in which case a 90-day contract may be more practical.
But do not accept a 180-day deal. Such half-year contracts
can invite procrastination and minimal accountability, especially
if more potentially profitable listings come along for the agent.
An exception to that is if that agent will allow you to add an unconditional
cancellation clause to the listing agreement that allows you an
"out" after 90 days. That at least gives you some assurance
that the place will be marketed aggressively. If the agent doesn't
agree to that, find another agent. Similarly, you might ask for
a 30-day "out" on a 60-day contract in the more active
As for the "lost" marketing costs on a failed
sale, most realistic agents just write this off as the cost of doing
business. But some will try to structure the listing contract to
try to recapture the expenses if you bow out early. Before you sign,
check the listing contract for "special assessments" or
marketing fees. Some agents stipulate they will charge from 1 percent
to 2 percent of your asking price if you cancel before the contract
The seller, as well as the agent, should always act
in good faith. For a faster sale, be sure to facilitate the sales
process every way you can, in accordance with your agent's recommendations.
To ask a question of the Real Estate Adviser, go
to the "Ask the Experts"
page, and select "buying, selling a home" as the topic.