real estate

How to dismiss your real estate agent

Not all brokerage firms use termination fees, but the practice is common around the country, says Adams, who advises homeowners to strike out the fee before they sign the listing agreement.

Consider the agent's costs

"Keep in mind that the agent may have spent considerable money upfront to market the listing," says Sam DeBord, managing broker at Wiegand & DeBord in Seattle. "In that case, there may be more hesitance to allow a seller to cancel a listing in a short amount of time without finding some way for the agent to recoup their costs."

Photos, labor and a few ads can easily reach $1,000 or more right off the bat, DeBord says. If the broker can't sell the home by the end of the contractual period, then most brokers "understand that those costs are unrecoverable." But if the seller tries to terminate the agreement soon after listing, a lot of brokers are likely to feel duped, DeBord says.

Some brokers might accept a seller's offer to pay their costs in exchange for terminating the contract early, DeBord says. But, he says, brokers want the full opportunity afforded by the length of the deal to make a sale.

Let it lapse, but be careful

Usually it takes awhile before a seller becomes dissatisfied with the agent, and if the contract is almost over anyway, it probably makes a lot of sense to just let it lapse. But homeowners who plan to turn around and sell the house themselves right after the contract ends should be careful, says Lee Wilber, an agent at Hilton Realtors in Springfield, Mo.

"Most agreements used throughout the country will offer a protection period for the agent" for up to six months, Wilber says. If the owner sells the property without an agent during that period and the buyer learned of the property while the listing agreement was in effect, the seller might be required to pay the broker a commission.

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