How long is reasonable for a buyer's agreement?

Asked by kevinjj1, Minneapolis, MN Wed Mar 27, 2013

Last summer I sold my house in the Minneapolis, MN, area and began looking for a new home. I signed an agreement with an agent who I was working with, and we worked to gether for about a month - then I lost my job. I contacted the agent immediately, told him what happend, and said I was off the market. He sympathized, understood - that was that.
This spring (it has been 6 months) I started looking again with another agent. This agent is much more responsive to my needs, I trust him more, and ... well, I just heard from the prior agent (I have not heard one word from him in over six months). Wondering if I'm back in the market, and that I signed an agreement with him for one year.
! I remember signing an agrement for six months, and even that was "oh, this is just a technicality - if it doesn't work out, I am fine cancelling the agreement early."
I of course cannot now find my copy of the agreement!!
Is it really likely he would have made it for one year/?

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Susan Hoffla…, Agent, Shoreview, MN
Thu Mar 28, 2013
Agreed, Mark! Mea culpa, Kevin. Your contract is with the broker THROUGH the agent. Same procedure applie. Also agree with Mark that the current agent you are involved with missed some very important steps. This new agent SHOULD have asked you if you were working with another agent to find out what that part of your history was.

However, I will say, Mark, we don't know that DIDN'T happen. Perhaps the agent asked and the buyer said something that made the current agent think there were no issues.
1 vote
Joel Johnson, Agent, Blomington, MN
Wed Jul 2, 2014
It's possible the agreement is for a year. I would hold him to his verbal agreement with you and ask that he present the original agreement to you for your signature. If that doesn't work, contact the agent's broker and work it out with the broker.
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Karl Miller, Home Seller, Baldwinsville, NY
Tue Jul 1, 2014
I have found recently, that three months is acceptable in central NY. I also know that MANY agents want you to do the work for them. I just don't know what they think that commission is for.
Do your homework when selecting an agent. Find out their strategy, and get examples of exactly how they represent the average seller, not just one specific one three years ago. "how to sell your home in five days"
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Gabriel Hars…, Agent, Bloomington, MN
Tue Jul 1, 2014
6 months is typical. Ask the Agent for a copy of the right to represent.
-Best of Luck to you in your home search
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Derrick Monr…, Agent, Rockford, MN
Sat Jun 14, 2014
6 months pretty standard in MN.
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Dorene Slavi…, Agent, Torrance, CA
Wed Jun 11, 2014
In my state (California) it takes (6) six months to complete a sale with the average buyer. Sometimes it takes even longer, it just depends on the budget of the buyer and available inventory. My agreements are a minimum of six months long. There's no way to tell what your contract was for, you will have to call the previous agent to find out.
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Deeyon Persa…, Agent, Minneapolis, MN
Tue Jun 10, 2014
Per State P.A it states clearly agreement should not exceed 6 months. if the previous agent would pull that he's probably not for your best interest and just out for a commission. just as long as you don't purchase a home he showed you, you are not bound by the agency agreement with him.
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Dorene Slavi…, Agent, Torrance, CA
Wed May 28, 2014
My contracts are (6) months at the longest. It might be different in a more difficult area.
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Arne Johanss…, Agent, Minneapolis, MN
Sun Dec 15, 2013
If you call him up he will probably cancel the agreement.
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Richard Newm…, Agent, Minneapollis, MN
Fri Dec 13, 2013
Normally, a conscientious agent will discuss the term with you before asking for an agreement. Depending on the time frame of the buyer, the term can be short for someone that wants to be in their new home soon, or longer if they plan on house hunting for some time before making the move. There is an option to cancel if both parties agree - and most agents will agree to cancel if client is not satisfied with the service.
0 votes
Cody Anderson, Agent, Minneapolis, MN
Thu Dec 5, 2013
I set mine up for 1 year typically. It is unfortunate that you didn't check with the realtor whom already spent time and energy with you. The 1st agent is human and we all get busy with business. When someone tells me they are going to hold off for a while...I personally don't contact them until they reach out to me again.

What are some of the area's you felt the first agent was lacking in?

Best wishes
0 votes
, ,
Wed Dec 4, 2013
I would contact the broker of the first agent and see how he would like to handle things. Contracts differ from agent to agent and there is no set way.
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Arne Johanss…, Agent, Minneapolis, MN
Fri Nov 29, 2013
3-6-12 months. I usually do 12.
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Mark Claesse…, Agent, Coon Rapids, MN
Thu Mar 28, 2013
You know, Kevin, I actually apologize for an oversight on my end. I never really answered the one opening question you had, which was "how long is reasonable for a buyer's agreement?"

Okay, the answer is....whatever both parties agree to. I have many buyers where, based on what they are wanting to do, I sign a one year term. I just signed an agreement with someone the other day for 3 months. the only reason for that was simple: deadlines. If we can't get them into a house and have it close by xx-xx-2013......then they literally will be forced to sign another 1 year lease. I have no desire to keep them in their agreement more than necessary, but because we invest time and money and hard work.....and the fact that legally that contract must take us all the way past the closing date......6 months would be a minimum, in my estimation. Every buyer is different. No less than 6 months, most of mine are 9-12 months. I always tell them two things. ONe, we can always extend the contract if we need to. and then I tell them something that aligns itself with the law and what I have already shared here: that if for any reason they were unhappy with my work, behavior, ethics, communication, or even use of the technology and tools that I am promising to show them how to use.....that can sit down with me and my broker and discuss the option of assigning them to another agent. That's pretty simple. And I've never had one issue in 11 years.

Someone mentioned below (can't remember who) that an agent did or could or should tell a buyer, "OH, and if this doesn't work out I will go ahead and just cancel this agreement". No agent in their right MIND would say that. One, there would be no reason for a contract then! That would be like getting married and saying, "Hey, if you don't like me tomorrow, then we can just get divorced." the second reason I think I and Susan have established: it is not the agent's freaking call. The agent has nothing to do with that. Only the broker can cancel that arrangement. Any agent that touches a buyer rep agreement or listing contract AFTER it has been executed and changes anything, would lose their license in a heart beat. They are not allowed to do that. I even explain this "lightly" to my new clients. I always tell them to remember that I can personally sign them up....but I can't let them go. Only the broker can do that. But, again, I am extremely proactive and well-liked. I don't have these problems to begin with.

Just wanted to answer your main question, Kevin. Good luck!

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Mark Claesse…, Agent, Coon Rapids, MN
Thu Mar 28, 2013're sweet. Your apology accepted, just an oversight. And I think you are more than right that a GOOD agent and respectful, ethical agent would have surely had this conversation right away with the buyer. And you are also correct that we have to not assume that this did or did not happen. Right on! and I gave you a thumbs up for being a stand up woman on that.

Kevin, we don't actually know what happened. But going with what Susan said, let me state that although you feel better about your 2nd agent you picked out, if they did not sit down with you and IMMEDIATELY have you sign a Agency Relationships Disclosure (that is the LAW!!) and then sit down and discuss your wants/needs/story WITH you, then I am afraid I and the others would agree here that you are not dealing with a "good" or ethical or honorable agent to begin with. That, by the way, is not up for debate. That is a fact and the law.

After I sent this to you, I just actually had this same thing happen to me. Yes, I can fit in a new buyer right now. But this guy called and was complaining about his agent, who was not returning calls, never gave him the agency disclosure, never signed a buyer rep agreement, etc. The first thing I did with him was ask him - or any buyer or seller that calls me - is this: "Mr. Smith, before we discuss anything about your situation I need to ask you a very simple question and this is because I am ethical and follow the law: have you signed a contract for legal representation as a buyer or seller with any other agent?"

Kevin....this is our DUTY. We swore an oath when we started. PERIOD. No agent should be out showing houses to a buyer, or doing a CMA on a house.....only to find out that the buyer or seller already has a contract. This is a simple question up front. And quite frankly, if your agent did not give you that disclosure and as you that question the first time you talked or had substantive contact....I would run like the wind anyway. This is black and white stuff for us as real estate professionals, Kevin. There is no room for gray area on this stuff. and if anyone wants to tell you different, they are lying. Either you have a contract with an agent (buyer or seller), or you don't. that is pretty simple. And for me or anyone else here to meet with you or begin either the buying or selling process without even ASKING this....would truly be sad.

Now, I feel the need to comment on what Mr. James wrote in below here before Susan. Mr. James, with all due respect, I am astonished at the comment, especially since you said you are a broker. I think it is sad that you jump immediately to the "rescue" of the buyer, refuse to look at the law and the facts in this case (some of which Kevin has not yet shared with us). You advised a buyer, who apparently has a legally binding contract to send an email to his former realtor and ask the realtor to cancel the contract? Donald James...that is ILLEGAL in this state. And you must know that.

You stated that "most realtors will send you a copy of the cancellation immediately, with their apologies"? Really? Where on earth did you get that information. Then you mentioned that they should "copy the agent's broker on this as well". Again, this must go through the broker if it is to happen. The agent is not the principle on this legally binding statutory contract, the BROKER is the principle.

And then for some crazy reason, then you told them to contact the MAR to file a complaint. Really? Why? In Kevin's very own words....the first agent did nothing wrong whatsoever!!! What is the complaint, Donald? I think we over here would all like to hear that. The only complaint Kevin could make here would have to - if he spoke 100% truthfully (and this is based, Kevin, on everything we here understand to be real, true and genuine based on your testimony so far) - would be as follows: "Dear MAR, I would like to file a complaint. About 6 months ago I signed a legally binding contract with Broker X, agreeing to work exclusively with them to help me find a home. I agreed to a 1 year contract. I lost my job right away and put this on hold. Now that I found another job, I happened to find another eager agent that wanted to help me. I guess I liked him better because of xxxxx. Well, I just found out that my other agent remembered the contract. I asked him to cancel it and he won't. Yes, I agreed to commit for one year. No, the "new" agent did not give me nor sign an agency relationships disclosure. No the new guy did not even ask me if I had signed any other agreements. And yes, I am trying to get out of my commitment to Broker X. And my complaint is that they won't let me out of the contract that I signed and swore to uphold. Oh, and yes, they have upheld their end of the deal and are still willing to work with me."

Where do you think this will go with MAR? They will tell you the same things I have.

0 votes
Donald James, Agent, Edina, MN
Thu Mar 28, 2013
Hi Kevin,
Typically the buyer's agreement is six months to one year. This contract is written strongly to protect the Realtor. You should send an email to your former Realtor and ask them to cancel the contract. Most realtors will send you a copy of the cancellation immediately, with their apologies that it didn't work out with them. Copy the agent's broker on this as well. If you don't get satisfaction, contact the Minnesota Association of Realtors to file a complaint. Good luck with your house hunting!
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Mark Claesse…, Agent, Coon Rapids, MN
Wed Mar 27, 2013

You do have some great advice from Chris and Susan. The only amendment I would add, to what Susan said, is that you actually cannot cancel your buyer rep agreement with the other agent. Your agreement is between you and the principal, which is the broker. So.....

My first comment is that you should realize one thing, and that is that you entered into a legal contractual relationship with that broker. NOT the agent, the broker. With all due respect to your feelings, they are the subjective item here. The objective item is there is a legal contract that seems to be in place. Your first move should be to go talk with the manager/broker at your agent's office. Ask to see the contract and tell him/her you want a copy of the contract.

Let's assume it is in place for the full year as your agent states. The fact remains clear that you made a commitment and so did the other agent, on the broker's behalf. Are you with me? You have to remember that we can't go around signing legal contracts and backing out of them. They are there for a reason.

Your next step would be to be honest with that broker and tell them what happened. They will most likely remind you that you did sign a legal agreement and because you have had words and they were negative.....with the agent....they will probably tell you that they will gladly re-assign you to another agent that will take good care of you.

Now, you signed a legal contract, and they may want to keep that intact and take care of you. If that is what they want, I would recommend that you agree to uphold your end of the agreement, get a new agent, apologize to the one you found later that is trying to help you (unethically I will add), and you will be fine.

On the other hand, you can beg them to just cancel the agreement so you can just do what you want and move on and work with your other agent. They may just take what I call the "high road" and just cut their losses, let you go, so as not to create any bad blood. Just be sincere and kind and maybe they will let you go.

Please don't think I am taking the other side or being harsh, Kevin. I am not. But I am a firm believer in honor and integrity. I'd literally rather die than break my word. And my word is gold, Kevin. Period. And I don't have a lot of pity or soft feelings for people who try to back out of their commitments, starting with me, my children, or anyone. And yet....before you think I am a bad guy, I have had a couple of situations with buyers in my career where the buyer simply decided they cannot buy a house. One time they lost a job or got hours cut in half at work, I can't remember. The other time they just said it was a family emergency in the family. I was not sure if they had another agent talk them into switching or not. In both cases I was kind and understanding. In neither case was I worried, nor did I want to cause an issue. So I asked my broker to cancel the contract, and she said, "Sure, if that is what you want." and she did. One of those two came back to me a couple years later and I as glad we helped them. The other disappeared.

I hope that helps you, Kevin. But I would not get involved with mediation. It is too stressful and you really did sign a contract and based on what you told us here.....the agent did nothing wrong. He was waiting for you to get back to didn' chose to forget about the commitment....he called you in good faith asking how you were doing....and here you are.

I'm not taking sides, Kevin. I am just repeating your timeline The market is wonderful right now. And I would hate to see you waste 6 months in legal hassles and pass up these great rates and the awesome deals out there. If they won't cancel your contract, just work with another agent from that company and go buy a nice home. And you will be blessed because you kept your word and honored that contract. Believe me.

0 votes
Jennifer Fiv…, Agent, Red Hook, NY
Wed Mar 27, 2013
I usually do an agreement for about 6 months. At the time you had contacted the agent you should have had a conversation about about how you would move forward or not.
If you can't find your copy of the agreement ask the agent to send you a copy.
0 votes
kevinjj1, Home Buyer, Minneapolis, MN
Wed Mar 27, 2013
Thank you all for your input!
i don't think things will end well with the former agent given some words in his most recent email, but...we'll see what mediation brings!!
Warm regards to you all,
0 votes
Matt Brown, Agent, Roseville, MN
Wed Mar 27, 2013
Hi Kevin,

I completely agree with my fellow real estate consultant Chris Block. I think you should explain the situation to the agent and let him know that you would like to cancel your contract with him. In my business I typically set the term of the contract for 6 months to 1 year (depending on if the buyer is looking for a primary residence or an investment property).

That being said, I would certainly allow the buyer to cancel the representation agreement if they had an issue with my service or has someone else that they felt better suited them.

At the end of the day this is a service based industry and if you don't feel that the service you have been given is meeting your needs, you should have the right to work with someone who does. That is my opinion anyway.

Best luck to you and happy house hunting!

Keller Williams Integrity
2680 Snelling Ave N, #100
Roseville, MN 55113
Office: 651-203-1700
Cell: 651-343-3304
E-Fax: 651-340-4072

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0 votes
Susan Hoffla…, Agent, Shoreview, MN
Wed Mar 27, 2013
Hi, Kevin!
Oh, I know this feels really awkward and a little uncomfortable. And it's also a shame that you can't find your copy of the contract. Maybe your agent e mailed to you and it's on your computer?? Take a look.

The thing is, you do need to cancel one contractual agreement before you can resume another. So, regardless of how long you signed the contract for, you need to cancel the one with the prior agent before your relationship with the current agent can move forward without any repercussions.

It says right on the Minnesota forms (paraphrasing) "contract may be canceled by mutual written agreement by both parties", which means you and the prior agent. I'd just send him/her an e mail with something in writing that you've signed stating you wish to terminate your agreement with him/her.

I know it's uncomfortable, but it'll be OK. I can't imagine that other agent would still hold you to anything. I mean, you always have the option to just let it expire, which wouldn't work out for anyone.

Good Luck!!!
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Christopher…, Agent, Bloomington, MN
Wed Mar 27, 2013

It is quite possible the agreement could have been for a year. I know some agents that will do standard 3 or 6 month agreements. Some like to have every one go till December 31st for simplicity sake.

The reason why realtors are sometimes loose on the length is because exactly what you said. It just is not good business to try to hold a buyer to an agreement they don't want to be a part of. This is a customer service biz, and in truth the realtor did not contact you for 6 months. I contact people at least every 2 month's that is in your situation, because guess what I would like to still have your business! You feel good with the other realtor AND THAT IS JUST FINE!

There is a legal side of things when it comes to procurement. Bottom line? Everything you said in the question makes sense to me. If you feel this current realtor deserves your business then just tell prior realtor about the situation. If the contract is still current request a cancellation (and request a copy of the contract too). That way you can provide it to your new realtor and move on.

I like to think the majority of realtors out there will understand and do what is best for YOU. Hopefully this guy or his broker does not make a mess of things. Just remember at the end of the day we realtors are here to serve the customer. If you are happy with your current situation then that is how it should stay.

Hope this helps!

Chris Block
Realtor North/NE Suburbs
0 votes
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