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Types of Listing Contracts
                     

                                          


Types of Listing Contracts

There are several different types of listing contracts, but very few of them are used. The "Exclusive Right to Sell" is the most common, but there is the "open listing," the "exclusive agency listing," and the "one-time show."


Open Listing

The "open listing" is mostly used by people trying to sell their home by owner who are also willing to work with real estate agents. Basically, it gives a real estate agent the right to bring buyers around to view your home. If their client buys your home, the agent earns a commission. There is nothing exclusive about an open listing and a home seller can give out such listings to every agent who comes around.

For that reason, no agent is going to market your home or put it in the Multiple Listing Service. If your home fits the criteria for one of their clients, and it is convenient, they may be willing to show it to their client. That is all an "open listing" is good for.


One-Time Show

A "one-time show" is similar to an open listing in many respects, as it is most often used by real estate agents who are showing a FSBO (for sale by owner) to one of their clients. The home seller signs the agreement, which identifies the potential buyer and guarantees the agent a commission should that buyer purchase the home. This prevents the buyer and seller from negotiating directly later and trying to avoid paying the agent’s commission.

As with an open listing, agents will not be spending money on marketing your home and it will not be placed in the Multiple Listing System.


Exclusive Agency Listing

An "exclusive agency" listing allows an agent to list and market your home, guaranteeing them a commission if the house sells through any real estate agent or company. It also allows sellers to seek out buyers on their own.

This is not a popular type of listing agreement. The reason is that there is not much incentive for agents to spend money marketing your home. If you come up with your own buyer, they have spent money they cannot earn back through the real estate commission. Plus, it is too easy for a greedy buyer to go around the agent and negotiate directly with the seller.

If you find an agent willing to accept such a listing, do not expect too much from them. They will probably just place it in the Multiple Listing Service and sit around to see if something happens. A good agent would never accept such a listing, and you probably want a good agent.


Exclusive Right to Sell

Giving a real estate agent the "exclusive right to sell" your property does not mean that there will not be other agents involved. Your agent is the listing agent and part of his or her job is to market your home to other agents who work with buyers. Those agents will show your home to their clients. Regardless of who sells the home, even if you sell it yourself to a friend at work, your listing agent will earn a commission.

An exclusive right to sell is the only type of listing an effective real estate agent will accept. This is because they have a reasonable expectation of earning back any money they spend on promoting and marketing your property.


Details of a Listing Contract

Obviously the name of the seller and the property address will be included in the listing contract. There are many other things that are included, too, and you should be aware of them.


Price and Terms of Sale

When setting the terms of sale, the main thing you are concerned with is the price. You should have a basic idea of what your home is worth by keeping track of other sales in the neighborhood. Plus, you have probably interviewed at least two real estate agents and they have given you their own ideas. Exercise great care in determining your asking price, making sure not to set it too high or too low.

In addition to the price, you will disclose what personal property, if any, goes with the house when you sell it. Personal property is anything that is not attached or fixed to the home, such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, and so on.

There may be some item that is considered "real property" that you do not intend to include in the sale. Real property is anything that is attached to the home. For example, you may have a chandelier that has been in your family for generations and you take it from home to home when you move. Since the chandelier is attached to the house, it is considered "real property" and a reasonable buyer would normally expect it to go with the house.


Lockbox - Yes or No?

A lockbox is a basically a padlock with a cavity inside where a key to your home can be placed. Only someone with an electronic key or the combination can get into the lockbox and access the key. Having a lockbox available at your house makes it easy for other agents to get access to your house.

Without the lockbox, agents representing buyers would have to set appointments to meet you or your agent at the house so they could gain access and view the home. This would be inconvenient. Since almost every other house does have a lockbox available, if you do not allow one most agents will simply not show your property. You will miss out on lots of potential buyers.

The listing contract specifies whether you allow a lockbox or not. It is locked into place, usually on the front door and cannot be removed. Only other agents can access the key that is located within the lockbox.


Real Estate Commission

In some areas of the country there is a certain percentage that real estate agents expect to earn as a commission.This commission amount is a certain percent of the sales price.Or, some companies will charge a set fee for their services.However, just like anything else in real estate, this amount is negotiable.When completing the listing agreement, you and your agent will agree on the amount of the real estate commission.


Multiple Listing Service

Your listing contract should specify whether or not the house will be listed with the local MLS (multiple listing service). It is definitely in your interest to have the house listed. This is because your sales force is automatically multiplied by however many agents are members of the local MLS. If your house is not listed, then you only have one agent working for you instead of many.


Agency Duties of a Listing Agent

The listing contract will specify that your agent is acting as a "seller’s agent." This means that, in the sale of your house, they are working for you and only you. However, there may be times when your listing agent has a client who wants to buy your home. For that reason, there is a little "wiggle room" in the listing contract. If your agent also represents the buyer, the listing contract should specify that they provide an additional disclosure that details their duties as a dual agent.

The contract also provides permission for your listing agent to act as an agent for others on other transactions. They can continue to list other properties, and represent buyers looking at other homes.


Resolution of Disputes

There are times when you and your agent have a disagreement that you cannot resolve by yourselves. Maybe the agent did a poor job or misrepresented something. Maybe your agent was really doing their job correctly, but you did not understand. Perhaps the agent will have a dispute with you.

The listing contract specifies what methods will be used to settle such disputes. You can choose to accept binding arbitration, which is usually cheaper than hiring a lawyer and going to court. Usually, matters that can be dealt with in a small claims court are excluded from having to go to binding arbitration.

You are not required to sign or initial the binding arbitration clause. This would leave you free to hire an attorney and pursue disputes in civil court instead of binding arbitration. Consult your attorney for advise on this legal matter.


Listing Commissions and Related Issues

Are Commissions Negotiable?

In some areas of the country there is a certain percentage that real estate agents expect to earn as a commission.This commission amount is a certain percent of the sales price.Or, some companies will charge a set fee for their services.However, just like anything else in real estate, this amount is negotiable.When completing the listing agreement, you and your agent will agree on the amount of the real estate commission.


Cut-Rate Listing Commissions

With the advent of the web, a lot of agents are offering "cut-rate" commissions. Most of the time, lower commissions are tied to a lower level of service. If all you want is to be listed with the Multiple Listing Service and a sign in the front yard, then a cut-rate commission may be right for you. If you want an agent who will actively promote your property to other agents and spend money on advertising, then you probably are not going to get that level of service with a reduced commission.

At other times, the lower commissions are offered when you agree to tie in to other services offered by the broker, such as agreeing to use a specific lender, escrow, settlement, or title company. The broker (not the agent) will probably have some type of ownership or profit participation in those businesses. The problem with agreeing to tie in to these other companies is that they do not have to be as competitive in pricing their products or services.

Another common practice when you see an ad for a reduced commission is that the compensation is lowered when you agree to buy your next home through the same agent or broker. Usually, the reduced commission is not really being offered on the sale of your existing home but on the purchase of your next one. The ads are usually unclear on this.

As a result, when you see an offer for a lower commission, you should analyze what you are giving up by accepting such an offer. It probably will not be readily apparent in the advertisement. Be sure to ask lots of questions.


How and When Listing Commissions are Earned

Your listing contract specifies a listing price. Your agent’s job is to bring a "ready, willing and able" buyer to present an offer. If you reach agreement with the buyer, then the agent has done his job and earned the commission. Once the sale has closed, the real estate broker gets paid from the proceeds of the sale.

If the buyer proves unable or unwilling to conclude the sale, the house is placed back on the market and the agent has to begin earning his or her commission all over again.

However, if the seller backs out or does not accept an offer that meets the price and terms of the listing agreement, the listing broker has still earned the commission. They may want to be paid, even though you did not actually sell your home. Therefore, it is very important to carefully consider every detail when completing your listing contract and accepting an offer to buy your property.


"Hot Market" Under-Pricing Sales Technique – Commission Issues

During a "hot market" there is a certain marketing technique which, though very effective, could cause trouble because of the way the contract is written. This is the practice of "under-pricing" the home. In a hot market, a home that is under-priced gets a lot of attention from other Realtors, and they all start showing your home to their clients. Often, you get into a situation where multiple offers are presented and the price starts going up because of the frenzy. You end up selling the house above your asking price and perhaps above what you could have received if you had priced it traditionally.

However, the technique does have the potential to backfire, so you should build safeguards to prevent having to pay a commission "just in case."

You see, the listing contract usually states that if an offer is received that meets the terms presented in the contract (including price), the real estate agent has earned his or her commission – even if you decide not to sell. A reputable agent would never attempt to collect a commission if they were using the "under-pricing" technique and it backfired, even if they are technically entitled to one. For that reason, in the "additional terms" space on the listing contract, you should specify your true target price – when the agent has really earned the commission.


The Listing Agent - Preliminary Marketing of Your Home

The "Real" Role of a Listing Agent

When you bought your home, you probably used the services of a real estate agent. You found that agent through a referral from a friend or family member, or through some sort of advertising or marketing. The agent helped you in many ways and eventually you found the house of your dreams, made an offer, closed the deal, and moved in.

For whatever reason, now it is time to sell your home and you need a real estate agent again. Many home sellers, especially those selling their first home, tend to think all agents are similar to the one that helped them buy their home.

Although real estate agents can (and do) work with both buyers and sellers, most tend to concentrate more on one than the other. They specialize. When you bought your home, you probably worked with a "selling agent" – an agent that works mostly with buyers. Because of the nature of real estate advertising and marketing, the public’s main image of the real estate profession is that of the selling agent.

As a result, many homeowners expect their listing agent to do the same things that a selling agent does – find someone to buy their home. After all, they do the things you would expect if they were searching for buyers. A sign goes up in the front yard. Ads are placed in the local newspaper and real estate magazines. Your agent holds an open house on the weekend. Your house is proudly displayed on the Internet.

But this is only "surface" marketing. More important activity occurs behind the scenes. After the "for sale" sign goes up and flyers are printed, your agent’s main job is to market your home to other agents, not to homebuyers.


The "For Sale" Sign

It seems fairly obvious that when you put your house up for sale that your agent will put a "for sale" sign in the front yard. The sign will identify the agent’s company, the agent, and have a phone number so prospective buyers can call and get information.

Signs are great at generating phone calls, even if very few actually purchase the home they call about. However, you might be one of the lucky ones. For that reason, you should determine what happens when someone calls the number on the sign. Does a live person answer the phone or does the call go to a voicemail or recorder?

You want someone to answer the phone while the caller is "hot." When buyers call the number on the sign, the call should go to a live person who can answer questions immediately. A potential buyer may be on the street outside your home, placing the call using a cell phone.


Flyers and a Brochure Box

Your agent should prepare a flyer that displays a photo and provides details about your house. There should also be a phone number so buyers can contact your agent to get additional information. The flyers should be displayed in a prominent location in your home and also in a brochure box attached to the "for sale" sign.

The brochure box is convenient for those buyers who drive by and just happen to see the "for sale" sign in front of your house. It provides enough information so they can determine if they want to follow up with a phone call or inform their own agent they are interested in your house.


The Listing Agent - Marketing Your Home to Other Agents

The Multiple Listing Service

Even before the sign is up and the brochures are ready, your agent should list your property with the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service). The MLS is a database of all the homes listed by local real estate agents who are members of the service, which is practically all of the local agents.

Important information about your property is listed here, from general data such as square footage and number of rooms, to such details as whether you have central air conditioning or hard wood flooring. There should also be a photo, and a short verbal description of what makes your house "special."

Agents search the database for homes that fit the price range and needs of their clients. They pay special attention to homes that have been recently placed on the market, which is one reason you get a lot of attention when your house is first listed. Many agents will want to preview the home before they show it to their clients.

The main point about having your house listed in the MLS is that you expand your sales force by the number of local MLS members. Instead of having just one agent working for you, now you may have hundreds or more, depending on the size of your community.

The listing agent’s main job to make sure that the other MLS members know about your house. This is accomplished through listing your house in the Multiple Listing Service, broker previews and advertising targeted toward other agents, not homebuyers.


Office Preview

If your listing agent belongs to a fairly sizable office, an "office preview" will introduce your house to other agents working in the same office. In effect, they get a "head start" on selling your property. Once a week, the office’s agents will get together, share vehicles, and "caravan" to all of the new listings. They generally pull up in front of your house at about the same time (some even use a bus) then file quickly through your home like some bizarre "follow the leader" game.


It can be amazing to watch.

They go through very quickly, since most of them are familiar with similar models of your house. They are usually looking for anything memorable or different and to determine if your house is one they would be proud to show their clients. Then they all pile back into their cars and move on to the next house on the tour.

But some of them come back…with buyers.


Broker Previews and Culinary Delights

Broker preview is very similar to an office preview, except it is open to all the members of the local multiple listing service. It usually occurs within the first week your house is placed on the market, just after the office preview. However, there are lots of new listings to choose from, and not all the agents preview all the new listings each week. You may not get as many agents visiting your home as there were on the office preview.

Unless your agent "entices" them to come. This is where you could provide some help, if you are so inclined.

Though it may seem funny, nothing seems to attract a real estate agent like the offer of free food. So if your agent offers "free eats" at a broker preview, you are likely to get more visitors than if nothing is offered. Realize that many agents have been on this weekly circuit for years, so "boring" food does not really accomplish much. In other words, sandwiches supplied from the local grocery chain are not very enticing.

If you want to help your agent sell your home quickly, try and help them be creative and original in the choice of a culinary treat.

Of course, some agents will actually come to look at your house, too – whether food is offered or not.


Office Flyers

Your agent will undoubtedly prepare flyers about your property so that prospective homebuyers can be informed about the attractive features of your house. These flyers (or similar ones) should also be sent to all the local real estate offices, too. Most areas have a weekly flyer service that delivers advertisements to all of the local offices. Since agents get these flyers every week, they do not always look at them. However, a large percentage of them do. Some agents will keep the flyer and bring buyers to your house.

The flyer should be done professionally and photocopy well. Ask your agent to show you copies of office flyers they have done in the past.


Marketing Sessions

Your agent probably belongs to a local association of Realtors and they often have meetings once a month. At these meetings there is often a "marketing session" where some agents stand up and tell about their listings and other agents stand up and tell about their buyers. Your listing agent has an opportunity to "pitch" your house at these marketing sessions.

At the same time, these sessions may not be as effective as they were in the past. One reason is that they are often more social occasions than serious business meetings. Another reason is that, as technology has expanded, local associations have tended to merge and create larger Multiple Listing Services and Associations. Local meetings have become poorly attended gatherings.


The Listing Agent - Marketing Your Home to Homebuyers

The Purpose of Advertising in General

Every home seller likes to be assured that their listing agent or the real estate company will run ads featuring their home. Newspaper ads could be large display ads with lots of listings or small classified ads featuring just your property. Ads may also appear in local real estate magazines and your listing will also show up on the Internet.

Of course the agents and companies will run ads featuring your house, but not for the reasons you expect.

You see, the main job of advertising is not to sell your house directly. Advertising creates phone calls and some of those callers become clients of the agents answering the calls. This builds up a pool of homebuyers looking for property in general, all represented by selling agents. Multiply this by all the agents and companies who also advertise homes, and there is a large pool of homebuyers in the market at any given time – all of whom are represented by selling agents.

The agents representing those homebuyers know about your home because it is listed in the Multiple Listing Service, has been on office and broker preview, and because your agent may have also sent flyers to all the local real estate offices.

The agents match up their clients with available homes, one of which may be yours. Then they show the homes to their clients, who eventually make an offer on one. That is how your house gets sold. Ads create a pool of clients, one of which buys your home. Ads do not usually sell your house directly.


Real Estate Office Advertising

As mentioned previously, advertising your home in newspapers and magazines rarely sells your home directly. More likely than not, the buyer who eventually purchases your home will have called on a totally different house. The same thing happens with buyers who call on your house. They will probably buy something else.

You still want to be certain the real estate company selling your house runs ads in the local and major newspapers, whether they feature your house or not. The ads generate phone calls to the real estate office, and if those agents viewed your house on the office preview, they will be familiar with it. This is how your property is sold.

Or you could be one of the lucky ones – someone calling on your house may actually end up buying it.

You should also realize that when a company advertises the homes they have for sale, there is more than one objective. Sure, the real estate office wants to generate phone calls and sell houses, but the advertising also shows home sellers how effectively they market properties. This impresses not only you, but others who may be thinking of selling their home.

The advertising brings in more listings, which generate more ad calls, which produces more buyers and that is how real estate advertising really works.


Individual Agent Advertising

Individual agents may advertise your home for the same reasons as companies do. They usually advertise in classified ads or in specialty magazines featuring houses available for sale.

As in other types of advertising, these ads rarely sell your home. Once again, the main goals of advertising are to accumulate homebuyers as clients, and to impress you and future home sellers with how well they market their listings. Some agents actually do sell their own listings, but not that often.

It is much more productive and beneficial if your listing agent directs most of his or her marketing efforts toward other agents. Since this is "behind the scenes" marketing that you don’t actually see, it is often difficult for you to measure how hard the agent is working for you.

It is a mistake to measure your agent’s effectiveness solely by counting the number of newspaper and magazine ads featuring your property.


Neighborhood Announcements

When you first list your home many agents send "announcements" to all of the other houses in your neighborhood. This can be done in the form of postcards, a letter, or flyers left hanging on the front door. These are important because your neighbors might have friends who are looking to buy a house.

The announcements create "word of mouth" advertising, which is the best kind.


Open Houses

An open house when your property is first placed on the market can be very important, but not for the reasons most homeowners think. Just like with advertising, most visitors to open houses rarely buy the house they come to look at. They may not even know the price of your home when they stop by to visit – they probably just followed an "Open House" sign to your door.

An open house performs a similar function to the neighborhood announcements – it lets all of your neighbors know that your house is for sale, and it practically invites them to come "take a look." Being generally nosy, a lot of your neighbors will take advantage of the invitation.

And they may tell their friends about your house, creating more "word of mouth" advertising.

Of course, there are other reasons for holding open houses, too. Listing agents who "farm" a particular neighborhood use them as an opportunity to meet with other local homeowners who will someday be selling their home. Your agent may hope to list their homes in the future.

Open houses held after your home has been on the market awhile do not usually serve a useful purpose in selling your home. Most of the neighbors already know your house is for sale and open house visitors rarely buy the homes they visit.

However, if you really want more open houses, your listing agent may allow other agents to hold it open. Open houses attract prospective homebuyers and agents hope to convince some of those homebuyers to become their clients.