Average length of time of a contract between a seller and a real estate agent

Asked by Melissa, New Carrollton, MD Thu Oct 27, 2011

While I realize houses in some areas are not selling very quickly, I was wondering what is the average length of time of a contract between a seller and a real estate agent - 90 days, 120 days, etc. I believe I read several years ago that it is best for a seller not to commit to more than a 90 days contract with an agent, especially since the seller and agent can always extend the listing as necessary.

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Annette Law…, Agent, Palm Harbor, FL
Fri Oct 28, 2011
Remain focused on your goal which is SELLING YOUR HOME!

If you were to ignore the comps and statistics shared with you by your real estate professional and list your home 30% above market value...the agent...and hopefully you...know your home will NEVER sell. You, however will expect your agent to spend time and resources and MONEY on your behalf. In this situation a 5 year contract would seem appropriate since there exists no true intention to sell the home.

Your agent will tell you the 'optimum' list price for your home. You choose to add the real estate fee to the top of this price, Now you are 15% over market value. Your home gets a few lookers, all the listing agents in the area have reviewed the home and are leveraging it to sell their 'real value' listings. The only offers you will get are from those who have no concern for insulting the seller with a predatory offer. Clearly this is not a strategy to sell a home. A listing contract of 1 year, in the real hope you adjust the list price, is appropriate.

Of course you could take the advise of your real estate professional and understand the 'optimum' price is the one that will establish the real value of tangible and quality of life factors regarding your home. Listing at this price will yield predictable results. Based on historic trends, the days on market can be quantified. The listing contract should cover this span of time. Wishful thinking will not overcome the real market conditions..HOWEVER....

Your agent will share with you strategies to compress this time window and alter the outcome to conform your your time and financial requirements. Yes, you can sell your home in 90 days...Yes, a 90 day listing contract is appropriate ONLY when you are truly committed to selling your home. It can be done but only with your cooperation.

You save no money, you receive no benefit, there is little purpose in being distracted by anything other than the result for which you want. Do you want your home to be For Sale or SOLD. Seriously, the choice is yours.

It is the home owner who sells their home...not the real estate agent. The difference between For Sale and Sold is you. If you know it takes 45 minutes to bake a cake, exactly what would you do if someone told you to do it in 15 minutes?
2 votes
Ron Thomas, Agent, Fresno, CA
Thu Oct 27, 2011
I am Optimistic that I can accomplish our goals within 90 days,
I am positive that I can have a good enough relationship with my Clients that we can work beyond that if necessary.
I am realistic enough that if we cannot accomplish 1 and 2, that we probably will want to go our separate ways after 90 days.

That said, I am trying to establish a life-long relationship that will lead to many future sales and referrals.

Good luck and may God bless
2 votes
Terry Bell, Agent, Santa Rosa, CA
Thu Oct 27, 2011
In this market, for homes where the owner still resides in the home usually involves a lot more work and time. When the house isn't vacant, agents usually have to set up appts. or call first. In any case, what I'm getting to, is I would definitely expect a 6 month contract. To do any kind of marketing and advertising strategy takes a while to get going. An agent doesn't want to invest a lot of time and money thinking that their client is ready to move on to the next agent just when the advertising campaign gets going. Most agents will agree to withdraw a contract if there are evident reasons for discord, so I suggest that you give your agent a "signing" of approval for a six month contract and give it a go! If you're having doubts, maybe you should interview more agents and find someone that you know is going to go the whole nine yards! Best, Terry Bell, Realtor, Sonoma County Wine Country:))
1 vote
Lauryn Eadie, Agent, Reston, VA
Thu Oct 27, 2011
Although I agree with the first 2 responders, that 90 days should be adequate, and I generally think you want your home under contract within the first 30 days to get the closest to your list price, I would generally stipulate a 120 day contract with my sellers.

If you end up going with an agent that heavily markets your property and generates excellent quality materials/brochures etc, they are going to be investing a lot of money in marketing your home, and I think they would feel most comfortable with a 120 day contract. Remember, as you are interviewing them, they are interviewing you and whether or not it is a good business/financial decision to take you and your home on as a client.

I think it is a good point mentioned below that this is a working contract and you should ask them about provisions that if things are not going well relationship wise between you and your agent, what are your options to terminate the listing agreement. Some agents will add a fee in for early termination, some will not.
1 vote
David Burnham, , Washington, DC
Thu Oct 27, 2011
Melissa, it really depends on the market for your home. For a condo in downtown DC, 90 days is probably enough. If you are selling a multi-million dollar home in Potomac, 12 months is probably a minimum. I would ask for the agent to show you the average days on the market for a property like yours and I would not commit to anything more than double that.

For New Carrollton, I would think a contract for 6 months would be fair. If you are not happy along the way, you can always talk about getting out early, but remember the agent commits most of their time and money up front and you need to give them a fair chance to sell your home.
1 vote
Lori Williams, Agent, Charlotte, NC
Thu Oct 27, 2011
It is important that you interview several agents and that you feel to tally comfortable with the agent before you sign anything. During an interview the agent should outline some of their ideas on how they will market your property. They won't have a full plan until they are hired. A good agent answers their phone, returns calls promptly and is very prompt with email. If you notice these strengths aren't there... find someone else!

Also be aware that as this is a working contract, you are allowed to fire your agent if you don't like how things are going.

I suggest 90 days, if they are doing a good job, renew the contract, if not, look for a different realtor.
1 vote
Jessica Hood…, Agent, Gambrills, MD
Fri Oct 28, 2011
Good Morning Melissa,

Our average contract length is 6 months. These are usually negotiable by agent.
0 votes
Bill Eckler, Agent, Venice, FL
Fri Oct 28, 2011
Since listing a property and doing a comprehensive job involves much more that putting the home on the local MLS and placing a sign in your front yard, the actual process in many cases can require up to a month to get everything in place.

We view the average period of time for a normal listing as being from 4-6 months. During this period, the agent/agency should be able to establish their ability to market your property successfully.

Of greater concern that the term of the listing period, should be the agents "comprehensive marketing plan" employed to sell your home. We always recommend that sellers require a written marketing plan that identifies all components of their selling initiative. This will also provide you with a checklist to monitor what is and isn't done satisfactorily.

Good luck,

0 votes
Melissa Bark…, Agent, Washington, DC
Fri Oct 28, 2011

It really depends, each market is slightly different, but an agent would more likely want more than 90 days since they are investing in trying to sell your property and want a little cushion of time, though they as much as you would like to sell it as quickly as you. I would ask the agents you are interviewing to show you the typical days on the market in your area and make the decision based on that.

Good luck!
Web Reference:  http://www.wdcmetroagent.com
0 votes
Debra (Debbi…, Agent, Livingston, NJ
Thu Oct 27, 2011
Most listings in my area are listed for a 6 month period..........some upper bracket homes might even be listed up to 1 year.

I always put in wriiting and list everything I will do iin regard to marketing a home..........if I don't follow through as promised, I will release the seller from any further contractual obligation.
0 votes
Donald Reich, , Larchmont, NY
Thu Oct 27, 2011
These days, 180 days is more and more common. Yes, priced right, the house should sell much faster than that, but it is also taking longer for buyers to get a mortgage, so you need to allow for a longer period of time for the transaction to be complete
0 votes
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