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By Kelly Killian | Broker in 10011

Queens Seller Beware: Exclusive Listings

As an agent that works on both sides of the East River in Manhattan and in Queens, I can tell you that business is done very differently in both areas.  One of the most surprising things to me is how unaware sellers are regarding what their rights and expectations should be when selling their Queens home.  Here, I hope to shed a little light about what you should expect and ask for. 


First, you should know what the commission you pay gets you.  In Queens, agents effectively have two different forms of listing agreements:
Type 1:  True exclusive listings (generally 4-6% negotiable commission, 6 month time frame) and list on the MLS (www.mlsli.com) with standard photography.  Membership in LIBOR (Long Island Board of Real Estate) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) require signed exclusive agreements in order to be on the MLS.  And, to be on the MLS, agents are required to co-broke or share listings with buyer's agents, and by law are required to present all offers. 

Why is being on the MLS so critical? 90-95% of buyers utilized buyer’s agents, and those agents develop their searches via the MLS.  In reality, you are really marketing to buyer’s agents.  Two of the other critical web-sites, Realtor.com and Street Easy require that same MLS exclusive agreement in order to post on their sites.  As you know, the more traffic to your home, the more competition, the better qualified buyers to choose from and ultimately, higher the price you will obtain.

Type 2:  The other form of listing that agents in Queens utilize is an “office exclusive.” An office exclusive is where the commission rate is generally around 2%, your home is not put on the MLS (and as a result not on Realtor.com or Street Easy), and the agent may decide not to present offers from other agents in order to keep 100% of the commission.  They can’t afford to split commissions because the commission is so low.  What do you think the result is if this form of listing only reaches 5-10% of the buying public? Lower price for your home, longer time to sell. There is a cost for that low commission that you pay.

Second, in either an exclusive listing or “office exclusive listing” agreement, you should have a written and signed contract.  This document should 1)  indicate that the listing is officially your agent's, 2) clearly define what the total commission is and if it will be posted on the MLS, and 3) how that commission will be split with the buyer's agent.  The agent should also verbally or in writing outline exactly how they will market your apartment.  If you don’t have a clear, written agreement, then seller beware.

Importantly, check up on your agent.  If your contract provides for mlsli.com listing and your agent is behaving in "office exclusive" format (i.e. you can't find your listing on mlsli.com, realtor.com or Street Easy), then you have every right to demand that s/he correct the situation.  If that doesn't work, speak to their broker about cancelling the contract in 24 hours if not resolved.  If that doesn’t get any action, threaten to complain to NAR, LIBOR, and NYS DOS if they don’t resolve the problem or let you out of your contract.  You might be surprised how quickly that works.


I run my business identically in Manhattan and Queens. I list on the MLS and the Manhattan Broker Web-site, NYTimes, Street Easy, Trulia, Craigslist and about 80-100 different web-sites as applicable.  I provide professional photography, on higher priced properties I get floor plans, I personally run open houses regularly.  Depending on the home, I may send out announcement post cards, or broker blasts.  I discuss your home with the agents in the neighborhood.  I do comps.  And, most importantly, I always have a clear, signed listing agreement with a fair split between the buying and selling brokers to ensure that you are on the MLS. 

Transparency if critical.  You and I need the buyer more than the buyer needs the home.  There are a ton of properties on the market for the buyer to choose from now.  If this is a buyer's market, why wouldn’t you ensure that your home is where 95% of the buyers are-on the mls via their agents?  If this is a buyer's market, why wouldn't you insist that for the higher commission you pay that the buyer’s agent gets the same split as the selling agent?

Why should the buyer's agent commission splits be important to you? Because you are marketing to the agent first.  As much as the internet has helped buyers and their agents have a lot more information, it has helped buyer's agents determine how they will schedule listings. What does that mean?  Agent can now easily rank those apartments that meet their buyer's criteria by commission paid.  So? If your home is essentially the same as home #2, but home #2 pays 2.5% commission vs. your 2% commission to the buyer's agent, guess where the buyer’s agent takes the buyer first?  Not your home. Guess which will get sold first? Not yours.

So, in conclusion 1) Have a written and signed agreement with your selling agent that outlines commission and how it is split between buying and selling agencies to be sure you are attracting buyers' agents 2) understand what the commission that you are paying will get you (are you on the MLS, will you reach 90-95% of buyers, where will it be advertised, how many open houses etc...what is the work that your agent will do for you?) 3) ensure your agent meets their promises, check on the MLS, realtor.com, the various advertising media promised for your home, 4) ensure your agent is open, honest and up front with you about what you are getting, and 5) know, that if you are providing a low commission that you aren't reaching 100% of the buying public and will therefore be limited in getting the highest value for your home.  Let the Seller Beware.  Be smart.  Ask the hard questions. 

Kelly Killian

Licensed Real Estate Agent
Bond New York
Cel 954-675-9915
Office 646-666-2395

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