What is a “listing agreement”?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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The listing agreement is a contract between the seller and the listing broker. It sets out the conditions of the listing. Whether it’s an exclusive agency listing agreement or another type of listing agreement, the details of the agreement should be negotiated. A listing agreement generally includes the following:

What must be included in the listing agreement?

(1) the length of the listing period — As the seller you’d want to be able to switch brokers if the sale does not happen as quickly as you like. The broker wants to have the listing period as long as possible, recognizing that it often takes a fair amount of time, effort, and expense to generate other broker interest and find a potential buyer. If the time period is too short s/he loses the commission.

(2) the desired sales price, as well as a price that might be accepted. It’s possible that a suitable listing price for the initial listing is neither figure.

(3) the amount of the commission — While the commission rate is generally claimed to be “standard” within a community, don’t believe it, and it is sometimes possible to negotiate different percentage commission rates upfront such as 2% to the listing broker and 3% to the selling broker. However, if the rates are too low, the listing broker may not want to do all that is necessary to “push” your house, such as advertising it heavily, particularly if they handle several active listings. Meanwhile, the selling broker may prefer to sell her prospects a home that carries a higher commission percentage than she’d get on your home.

(4) any exceptions to the commission. For example, would there be a reduced fee (or no fee at all) if you sell the house on your own, or you sell it to a friend who expressed interest in the property? Generally, the broker will insist on you naming any such persons in the listing contract.

The seller should pay very careful attention to the listing agreement, and probably should have it reviewed by a lawyer. The listing contract is a critically important document to the seller. Once a broker produces a willing and able buyer, assuming all conditions are met, the seller owes the broker his or her full commission payment unless the terms of the listing agreement provide otherwise (for example, “The commission is payable at close of escrow and is conditioned upon the close of escrow”). If for any reason the seller chooses not to sell the property (perhaps s/he wants to hold out for more money, or a proposed job transfer falls through), the agent commissions must still be paid unless the terms of the listing agreement are negotiated otherwise.

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