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February 27, 2024

What is a Listing Agreement (Guide for Sellers)

Signing a listing agreement is one of the first and most important steps in a real estate transaction.

This legal document outlines the relationship between the property seller and the real estate agent or brokerage. It specifies both parties' obligations and expectations, ensuring a clear and structured process for selling the property.

Understanding the listing agreement is vital for sellers to navigate the sales process effectively and confidently.

This blog covers:

  • What a listing agreement is
  • How they work
  • The most common types
  • What should go in one
  • How to negotiate one

What Is a Listing Agreement?

A listing agreement is a contract between a property owner and a real estate brokerage. This agreement authorizes the brokerage to represent the seller and sell the property.

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How Does a Listing Agreement Work?

The key components of the listing agreement include:

  1. Parties involved: The agreement is between the property owner (seller) and the real estate agent or brokerage. Identifying the parties with their full legal names and the property address provides clarity about who is involved and what property is being discussed.
  2. Services provided: This section details the responsibilities the agent commits to, such as marketing the property, conducting open houses, and negotiating with buyers. It outlines the strategies the agent will use to sell the property.
  3. Commission fees: This part specifies the percentage of the sale price the agent will receive as compensation. Sellers must understand how the commission will be calculated and paid.
  4. Duration of the agreement: This clause defines the timeframe for which the agreement is valid. It indicates when the agent starts to market the property and the agreement's expiration date. If the property isn't sold within this period, the seller may renew the agreement, modify the terms, or switch to a different agent.

Having this agreement in writing and signed by both parties ensures legal validity, provides clear evidence of their commitments, and helps prevent potential disputes.

Types of Listing Agreements

There are primarily three common types of listing agreements.

Open Listing

The owner can sell the property independently or list it with multiple agents in open listing agreements and isn't bound to a single real estate agent or brokerage.

The standout benefit of this arrangement is financial: the seller is only obliged to pay a commission to the broker who successfully closes the sale.

If the homeowner finds a buyer without any agent's assistance, they aren't required to pay any commission at all.

This approach reduces the seller's expenses, offering a more cost-effective route to market their property.

While it provides considerable savings and autonomy, the seller must be more involved in the selling process, balancing the desire for broad exposure with the potential for direct, commission-free sales.

Exclusive Agency Listing

Unlike an open listing, an exclusive agency listing strikes a balance. In this arrangement, the seller can avoid paying a commission if they find a buyer on their own, yet they benefit from a dedicated broker's full marketing services and support.

On their end, the broker is motivated to work diligently to sell the property, knowing their efforts are protected under the agreement — they earn their commission if they procure the buyer.

This type of listing fosters a cooperative relationship between the seller and the broker, aligning their interests while providing the seller with flexibility and control not available in other agreements.

An exclusive agency listing is a good option for sellers looking for professional assistance without forfeiting their right to sell privately.

Exclusive Right-To-Sell Listing

This is just like an exclusive agency listing, except the seller pays the commission even if they find a buyer independently.

The assurance of a committed agent working diligently to market the home can lead to achieving top dollar and a quicker sale.

The agent's proactive efforts in advertising, virtually staging, and showcasing the property can attract a wider pool of potential buyers, enhancing the opportunity to sell the home swiftly and at a competitive price.

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Another advantage is increased visibility through its listing on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which is accessed by a broad network of real estate professionals and buyers.

What’s Included in a Listing Agreement?

A typical listing agreement must include the following terms:

Listing Price

Determining the recommended list price is a critical step in the listing agreement process. It involves a collaborative analysis of market data, comparable home prices, and the specific condition of your property.

Engage with your real estate agent to review this data thoroughly to ensure the price aligns with current market conditions and reflects your home's unique features and any improvements or issues.

This price must be consistent with your discussions with your agent beforehand to prevent any misunderstandings. Once agreed upon, the listing agreement should explicitly state the price.

Permission to List on the MLS and Present All Offers

In the agreement, you'll grant your real estate agent the right to post your home on the MLS, significantly increasing its visibility and the likelihood of receiving competitive offers.

Including a provision that mandates your agent to present all offers is crucial for maintaining transparency and ensuring you can consider every potential deal.

Broker’s and Seller’s Duties

The broker's responsibilities extend beyond mere listing. They're tasked with effectively marketing the property, presenting all received offers to the seller, and engaging in negotiations on the seller's behalf. The broker also coordinates the various aspects of the closing process, providing a smooth transaction.

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Conversely, the seller must act in good faith throughout this partnership. This includes being honest about the property's condition, being responsive to the broker's requests for information or access to the property, and considering all offers seriously.

The seller should also comply with any agreed-upon terms in the listing agreement and collaborate with the broker to facilitate the marketing, showing, and selling processes.


The marketing section of a listing agreement typically outlines a comprehensive strategy that the real estate broker will employ to promote your property. This strategy is designed to maximize exposure and attract a broad audience of potential buyers. Key components include:

  1. Listing it on the MLS
  2. Hosting open houses
  3. Online marketing via the real estate agent's website and other listing portals. Here, you should weigh the pros and cons of featuring a virtual or real property staging.
  4. Social media promotion using state-of-the-art real estate photographers. While the agreement may not specify budget allocations for marketing, it should clearly outline the intended strategies.

While the agreement may not specify budget allocations for marketing, it should clearly outline the intended strategies.


Commission is expressed as a percentage of the property's selling price. The commission is divided between the listing agent and the buyer's agent. The agreement specifies this percentage and details the distribution process, ensuring transparency for all parties involved.

The commission is considered earned when the property is sold, and at closing, it's paid out from the sale proceeds.

If another broker is involved, the commission is shared according to the terms outlined in the listing agreement.

Expiration Date

A listing agreement can last up to a year. This date is significant for the seller because it sets a timeline for the agent to sell the property. If the property isn't sold within this timeframe, the agent's right to market it is removed.

Here, you'd also include a clause that specifies a set number of days during which the agent would still be entitled to their commission if a buyer, who was introduced to the property during the listing period, decides to purchase it after the agreement has ended.

It's crucial to define the exact duration of this protection period in the agreement — often ranging from 30 to 90 days — to provide clear expectations for both parties.

Security, Insurance, and Showings

Implementing robust security measures helps prevent unauthorized access and potential damage, especially when the property is being shown frequently. Sellers are advised to secure valuables and personal information. The home should be accessible for viewings, which may include installing temporary lockboxes or security systems and setting specific showing hours.

Insurance coverage is critical during the listing period, as it safeguards the seller against potential liabilities and losses. Given the increased foot traffic during showings and open houses, there's a heightened risk of accidents or damage.

Sellers should consult with their insurance providers to confirm that their policy covers these risks and consider purchasing additional coverage if necessary.

For showings, establishing specific protocols is essential for both security and efficiency. This includes:

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Verifying the identity of those viewing the property,
  • Outlining which areas of the home are accessible. Sellers should work closely with their real estate agents to develop a plan, so each showing is conducted safely and professionally, with minimal disruption to the home and maximum appeal to potential buyers.

Mediation and Dispute Clause

This is a preemptive measure to address and resolve any disagreements between the buyer and seller or between the seller and their real estate agent. This clause outlines a process whereby an impartial third party, the mediator, facilitates a resolution before the dispute escalates to litigation.

If a disagreement needs to be mediated, here's what'll happen:

The mediator engages with the disputing parties to explore their concerns, uncover underlying issues, and identify possible solutions.

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Importantly, the mediator doesn't impose a decision but helps the parties communicate effectively and work toward a mutually acceptable agreement.

This process aims to reach a resolution that respects the interests and needs of all involved. Mediations turn out to be successful outcomes 80% of the time.

Mediation can preserve business relationships by creating a cooperative rather than a confrontational environment It's typically faster and less costly than going through the courts, saving time and financial resources for all parties.

How To Negotiate a Listing Agreement

Any clause in a listing agreement is up for negotiation.

Negotiating the agent's commission is a common starting point, usually set at 5% or 6%.

While there's an industry standard, there's also room for flexibility depending on the agent's willingness and the value they provide.

Balancing fair compensation for the agent with your financial interests is important. Similarly, clarifying the agent's duties ensures that your marketing, communication, and support expectations are met.

The list price is another critical aspect.

While the agent will provide a recommended range based on their market analysis, your input should reflect your research (consider using a free home value estimator) and financial goals.

The duration of the listing agreement can also be tailored to your timeline, with shorter durations offering more flexibility but potentially less market exposure and longer durations ensuring sustained effort but requiring a longer commitment.

The type of listing agreement — whether exclusive right-to-sell, exclusive agency, or open listing — impacts your level of commitment and the agent's motivation. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, influencing how aggressively the property is marketed and the degree of attention it receives from the agent.

Approaching the negotiation process effectively involves being well-informed, understanding the market, and communicating your needs and concerns.

Listening to the agent's perspective and finding a mutually beneficial arrangement is also important.

Are You Ready to Sign on the Dotted Line?

When approaching listing agreements, pay close attention to all of their components because they play a crucial role in defining the relationship between the seller and the broker, setting the stage for a successful property sale.

Before signing on the dotted line:

  1. Assess your needs and objectives regarding the sale of your property.
  2. Engage in informed discussions with potential brokers or agents, clarifying each party's expectations and responsibilities.
  3. Carefully review and negotiate the terms of the listing agreement to ensure it provides the necessary protection and aligns with their selling goals.
  4. Seek legal or professional advice if any part of the agreement is unclear or requires further clarification.

By taking these informed actions, sellers can establish a productive partnership with their real estate agent, paving the way for a successful and satisfying property sale.