What is my recourse if my agent voids my contract during negotiations with the buyer and returns the buyer's earnest money?

Asked by Amistad, Tacoma, WA Fri Dec 10, 2010

I just submitted my counter offer, my agent is upset because she is not getting her way, so she voids our agreement, cancels the listing, cancels my contract with the buyer and returns their earnest money. Due to whatever she has told the buyers, they have now "backing away" from the deal. What is my recourse?

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17
Eduardo Saavedra’s answer
Eduardo Saav…, , Anaheim, CA
Sun Dec 12, 2010
Hello amistad: It sounds like your agent was a dual agent meaning that she represented you and the buyer this is the main reason why I think they shouldn't allow double ending you can't possibly be an agent for both parties and benefit both of them. I do agree that we need more information. By saying she wasn't getting her way were you not reseptive to her advice? Many sellers won't heed the advise of a Realtor and cause major problems with a transaction. I do question her ability to act as a professional she should of had someone mediate the problem when I run into this kind of problem I resort to my broker to intercede and workout a deal that will work for everyone involved. You just don't act like a spolied brat and take your ball and go home. There are legal ramifications that should be reviewed by a Real Estate attorney. It depends on what the contract stipulates. I wouldn't wait too long to try to solve the problem or it will be too late.
0 votes
Chris Loelig…, Agent, Redmond, WA
Fri Dec 10, 2010
While I agree with many responses here that there is something we haven't been told that caused the agent to do this. I am going to ignore that for now.

Look carefully at your purchase and sale contract with the buyer. You should note that this is only between you and the buyer. The agent has no place in this deal other than to facilitate the transaction to your benefit. The agent has no authority to void the deal on their own. Only you or the buyer can rescind an offer.

Beyond that if the agent said something to the buyer that is causing them to back away then they have violated their confidentiality agreement with you. Just canceling the listing agreement does not free them from the confidentiality requirements.

As for canceling the listing, what did you sign agreeing to the cancellation? Likewise, if the listing is through the NWMLS the agent's broker is required to sign the cancellation as well.

So, clearly you need to talk to this agent's broker. Find out if the broker signed off on canceling the listing and why.

Talk to the seller directly (their contact information should be on the bottom of the contract, page 1 , to continue the deal if you wish. But, be aware, depending on what you signed (listing agreement Form1A, cancellation Form 52) if you complete the deal with this buyer, you may still owe the agent a commission even if they didn't help from this point out.
2 votes
jo, , Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, CA
Fri Dec 10, 2010
You're missing something important here, and thats the other persons side. What happened between you 2?
2 votes
Dan Tabit, Agent, Issaquah, WA
Fri Dec 10, 2010
Amistad,
Your first stop would be the agent’s broker. If things are not cleared up here, you can either go to the Tacoma Pierce County Association of Realtors, if they are a member or Northwest Multiple Listing Association. Ultimately if you still feel unsatisfied you can tell your story to an attorney.
Agents are not entitled to "get their way" but are prohibited from not disclosing known defects in the property or title. If there were issues which they felt were not being handled in a legal or ethical way, they may have felt justified in disclosing the issue and walking away.
2 votes
Bobbie (Petr…, Agent, Puyallup, WA
Fri Dec 10, 2010
I think most of us agree that we need more facts in order to provide you with concise guidance. I am guessing that "she is not getting her way" means that she provided you with advice with which you disagreed; that happens sometimes. There must have been an extreme lack of "meeting of the minds" between the 2 of you in order for the agent to cancel the listing. I recommend that you contact your agents principal managing broker. In addition, it is wise to obtain the legal advice from a practicing real estate attorney.
Based on your statement that your agent returned the buyers' earnest money, it sounds as if there was not an agent representing the buyers, unless your listing agent was working as a dual agent. There is nothing to prevent you from working directly with the buyer-but be aware that there is a paragraph in your listing contract (if your agent used NWMLS forms) that MIGHT still obligate you to pay a commission to the listing company.
I recommend that you obtain another REALTOR to list your property in order for you to have representation and the minimize your risk of monies owed to the original listing company.
It also sounds as if the purchase and sale agreement was not signed around in mutual acceptance; it seems you were still in the process of negotiations. Until the contract is mutually agreed upon-in writing-there isn't any obligation by either buyers or sellers-so there was not an agreement to cancel regarding your sale.
Should you decide that you want to proceed with filing complaints, your options are the local Association of Realtors or the Washington Dept of Licensing-the Northwest Multiple Listing Service is not a place for you to file your complaint since they do not have the responsibility of overseeing the practices of real estate licensees-they only have the authority to enforce the rules of NWMLS membership.
I hope things work out for you.
1 vote
Pat & Steve…, Agent, Westlake, OH
Fri Dec 10, 2010
You have received several good answers. However, to get the the "heart of the matter" quickly, I suggest you consult with an Attorney who handles residential real estate matters. Then have him/her contact all of the parties involved ASAP. Otherwise, you will be waiting for responses from a number of people involved in this matter, which may take too much time. And, you will be losing the opportunity to potentially save the transaction.
1 vote
Jirius Isaac, Agent, Kenmore, WA
Fri Dec 10, 2010
Amistad,
There is really nothing else left to say that has not already been said. If you do not get satisfaction from your agent's broker, then I would contact the buyers agent & see if there is any interest there. You may also want to look at why your agent canceled the listing. I have only done that once in my 13 year career. It takes a lot to decide to never get paid for all the work I already did as a listing agent.
1 vote
Tonya Brobeck, , Everett, WA
Fri Dec 10, 2010
I would need more details to give a totally accurate answer. Please make sure you get all the details and don't leave anything out if you decided to file a complaint. A complaint can ruin your agents career & their life. Needless to say the department will/should conduct a full investigation should you go that route, however, it should be your last resort.

1st I would call your agents designated broker and request that you get a face to face with them now and the agent who's been serving you. If the broker is any good he/she should have the issues resolved right then and there.

If you're happy with the resolution, I would then have the broker call the "buyer's agent" and see if they can put the deal together, on the terms that tis is the only way you will keep the listings in their office.

If the broker is unable to fulfull your request I would personally move my listing to another broker who you know is a heavy hitter in your area.
1 vote
Pam Grant, Agent, Federal Way, WA
Fri Dec 10, 2010
Go back to your agent and clarify your understanding. Then ask your posted question again to her. If not satisfied..go to her broker with or without her. The dialogue needs to remain open and honest. You have hired this person for you. Honesty and/or lack of understanding is needed in our market place. I am not saying it is the case here...but these questions are arising more each day from lack of clarity. Some of it is due to our times ,but most of all it is part of who we are as people. Try to do business with the person you have hired . If your goals and expectations are not reached..evaluate from there on how you are going to move forward. This is your property so keep your power. Most of us agents work really hard to see that this does not happen.Thank you for asking.

Seldom do I take time to answer these questions, but I just had a conversation with more that one person reflecting what you just asked.

Have a good Holiday Season!
Pam Grant from Washington....:)
1 vote
Jim Swanson, Agent, Tacoma, WA
Fri Dec 10, 2010
I agree with another answer in that you are welcome to work with the buyer and their agent directly. You should have their contact info on the offer you received. It sounds like there is something we are not being told such as why your agent felt so strongly that they decided to walk away from you. The managing broker of the firm you hired to represent you should already know what the story is, so you could talk to them as well.

When you say she is not getting her way, we tend to think "what a knucklehead?", but the reality is that she would have to feel pretty strongly to do this, so I am certain you are not disclosing enough data for us agents/brokers to be helpful.

You ask about recourse, and this is hard to answer without knowing the circumstances. Ultimately the Washington State Department of Licensing oversees our licenses, but your recourse starts with the managing broker, the firm, the Multiple Listing Service, Association of Realtors (if your agent is a Realtor), and of course, Dept of Licensing. Attorneys can cost you additional fees which you may or may not recover, but many will do an initial consult free of charge.

I would really be curious to know why she walked away though. A lot of sellers do not "get" the market, and have very unrealistic expectations. Ethical issues are very common, and our job is to represent the buyers and sellers, not to BE the buyers and sellers. The clients make the decisions often based on our guidance and knowledge. Many of us face chalenges daily but to walk away would have to mean there is something serious at question.

Good luck and I hope it all works out ok.
Web Reference:  http://www.vahomesnw.com
1 vote
Tonya Brobeck, , Everett, WA
Sun Dec 12, 2010
I sent those referrals to your email along with their stats from the NWMLS that you requested. Please keep us posted as your progress! Good luck!!!
0 votes
Tim Moore, Agent, Kitty Hawk, NC
Fri Dec 10, 2010
First, you had no contract with the buyer if you are countering. It is questionable if she can withdraw the listing agreement since it is not hers to do, ALL listing agreements belong to the broker of the office (principal broker or broker-in-charge) and they are the only ones that can cancel a listing if they even can, it depends how it is worded. I would certainly contact the agents broker.

You can also now contact the agent who was writing the offer assuming your agent is not acting as a dual agent in the deal. Often agents get way to emotionally involved with their clients or customers and yours sounds like this. I would also file a complaint with the real estate commission and the local Board of Realtors as this is all just not the way we do business and we don't need this type of agent giving all of us a black eye.
0 votes
Teri Rugeley, Agent, Charleston, WV
Fri Dec 10, 2010
I would call the agents broker and get that person involved. The agent works for you and should not have foiled the deal. If you both are seeing things differently, then she should you discuss this with you and ask to be dismissed from your listing contract. It appears that did not occur. If she did ruin the potential sale, then you have every right to cancel your agreement and list with another person or pursue that buyer yourself.
0 votes
Scott Godzyk, Agent, Manchester, NH
Fri Dec 10, 2010
That is strange and highly unusual. Your first step should be to talk to the agents broker nad you may want to contact the state real estate commission. They have no right to void offers, they can cancel your listing agreement but unless the buyer asks to be released, they can not take it upon themselves.
0 votes
David Poulsen, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Fri Dec 10, 2010
Wow, that is strange. I would go straight to that agent's broker, if that does not work, then to the local Real Estate Board.
0 votes
James Hsu, Agent, Bothell, WA
Fri Dec 10, 2010
while you do what Felix suggest, .. you can hire another agent or contact the buyers directly and try to work a deal with them directly.
0 votes
Felix Hung, Agent, Huntington Beach, CA
Fri Dec 10, 2010
You should bring it to the attention of your former agent's broker and also consult a real estate attorney.
0 votes
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