Ask an Agent: What if You Change Your Mind About Selling Your Home After it’s Listed?

Jennifer Greenberg
Loewith, Greenberg and Company

Jennifer Greenberg is an “I” dotter and a “T” crosser.

The team lead and Broker at Loewith, Greenberg and Company always wants her her clients to have understanding and clarity around what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and when they’re doing it. With that clarity and the roadmap Greenberg provides, she knows her clients will always stick with her. So we thought we’d challenge her with this week’s question by asking her to answer the exact opposite scenario.

What should you do if you’ve changed your mind about selling your home after it’s been listed?

If you have an open and honest line of communication with whoever you choose to represent you, there’s an understanding that a listing is simply an advertisement to sell something. It’s also a legal contract that binds the parties to work together so one can represent the other one’s needs. But the listing itself is still just an advertisement and there’s never an obligation to sell if goals are not met.

It’s for this reason that I’ve rarely found clients to have a change of mind, because they’re walking into the situation with an understanding: What are our goals? What are the outcomes we’re looking for? What are the criteria that need to be met in order to make a move to sell this property? If we’re not meeting those criteria, why would we be selling?

Generally speaking, you’re having these big conversations – about your needs, wants and desires from the sale of this property – prior to listing. I would say that when a property does not sell, it’s because of some other major change in a client’s life that no longer enables them to sell their property. Maybe they lost a job, maybe a work transfer came through, or maybe somebody is unwell. So many of these types of things happen, but very rarely does a person change their mind mid-listing, just for the sake of changing their mind.

READ: Ask An Agent: What Are Successful Strategies for Selling a Home Another Agent Couldn’t?

If we don’t meet our goals, we don’t encourage a client to sell a property because we know there’s a minimum expectation – and minimum in a positive way – of satisfying a client’s needs. Often, the agent themselves also have some skin in the game. They’re paying for staging, they’re paying for photographers, and they’re paying for floor plans. They’re absorbing a lot of the cost to bring a property to market, so if you have an understanding, people don’t generally changer their mind mid-listing.

The only thing that could possibly arise is a change in a person’s circumstances or you don’t meet the goals. If goals are not met, there’s a change in circumstances or, despite how unlikely it is, the client changes their mind, what happens really depends who you go to the dance with.

Generally speaking, most agents will say, I understand what you’re going through right now. As long as you have that line of open communication, your agent is likely going to come to you and say, “I don’t think we’re going to meet the goal at this time.” But let’s say you’re working with someone you haven’t had these bigger conversations with and they haven’t met your expectations or your circumstances have changed, but you’re not really communicating at a higher level. You’re going to call your agent and say, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” and they’re going to say, “What do you mean you don’t want to do this anymore?” Most realtors will release you from that contract, but some may require the contract to expire and it go its full course. Since you are no longer allowing the property to be shown, that listing becomes suspended instead of terminated. Ideally, you’d want to go to your agent and say, “I need this to stop right now,” and you’d terminate the listing. You’d fill out some paperwork, they’d fill out some paperwork, their manager would sign it and they will terminate the listing.

READ: Ask An Agent: What Will Real Estate Sales Look like In 3-5 Years?

Sometimes, however, an agent will say to you, “Well, I won’t release you from this contract.” When that happens a listing becomes suspended. They suspend a listing when they no longer market it or show it, but they’re not choosing to release you from the contract. They don’t get paid. They only get paid if there’s a successful sale. However, not releasing you prevents you from engaging another agent to help sell your home during that time, so an agent who suspends a listing is looking to delay that opportunity. They suspect that you want to do a private sale and that you’re trying to exclude them from that.

Most Broker-Client relationships are pretty reciprocal, so if you step into the listing agreement with somebody having those big conversations behind you, having goals set, understanding obligations and expectations, then, as a seller, you most likely won’t change your mind. However, if you enter into a listing agreement without having those bigger conversations – setting goals and expectations – you may find yourself saying, “I don’t want to work with you anymore.”

With any good contract you enter into, there should be an understanding of how to exit from it as well.

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