A contentious real estate agent-client relationship can be just as dicey as a bad marriage, especially when the two parties don't see eye-to-eye on the issues affecting the sale of a home. Fortunately, listing contracts expire, which gives you a chance to regroup. If you and your spouse have decided to ditch your agent and sell your house solo, ensure that you understand real estate's rules of engagement, which may allow your former agent to make to a claim on your sales proceeds.
Retain the services of an experienced real estate attorney to help you navigate the complexities of the real estate transaction from ratification through closing. Even if you have previous experience negotiating real estate contracts, having your lawyer coordinate the closing with the title company, and the buyer's real agent and lender helps you avoid costly mistakes. Let your lawyer know that your home was previously listed with a real estate agent, so that he can advise you how to proceed if someone to whom your agent introduced you approaches you about buying the home.
List your home For Sale by Owner. Place a sign that includes your phone number -- preferably a cellular phone number for privacy reasons -- in a prominent location on your property. Run classified ads that describe your home in your local newspaper. You can also run ads on free classified ad websites that allow you to include pictures of your home.
Show your home and qualify potential buyers. In the absence of a real estate agent handling showings for you, setting appointments allows you and your spouse to coordinate times when both of you will be on the premises. You can be more flexible about showing times if you are willing to work with buyers' agents, who assume responsibility for their clients when viewing your home. Require interested buyers, or their agents, to provide you with an up-to-date loan preapproval letter before you accept any written offers.
Review sales contracts and accept the best offer from the most qualified buyer. Contact your lawyer right away if the offer you wish to accept comes from a buyer who first saw your home as a result of contacting your former real estate agent. If your former agent finds out about the sale and raises questions, your attorney will conduct the necessary research to determine if the agent was the procuring cause of the sale, meaning the agent helped the buyer make the decision and helped her qualify to buy your home, in which case, you might owe your former agent commission.
Prepare for and attend the closing as normal, even if an outstanding procuring cause question remains. Procuring cause is a legal matter, and a lengthy process, that can only be sorted out by your attorney, your former agent's broker and the state real estate board. The matter could take weeks or months to resolve, but does not stop you from selling your home.
- Fair housing laws prohibit you from turning away a ready, willing and able buyer, even if the buyer causes you to owe your former agent commission.
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