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There’s no law requiring a seller to hire a Realtor

April 28, 2017
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Mr. Feichthaler:

My husband and I have lived in our house in Cape Coral for almost 40 years now. In fact, it is the only house either of us have ever owned! We are both retired educators, and we never had a reason to buy or sell real estate. We are planning on downsizing now. My husband thinks that Florida requires every seller to hire a real estate agent to sell a house, but I see "For Sale By Owner" listings all the time in the newspaper. We agreed to settle our "dispute" based on your answer. Hope you can help!

- Gladys N., Cape Coral.

Dear Gladys,

I hope this is the biggest disagreement you and your husband have had in your many years together, and I am glad to help on this one. First, Florida law does not require for a seller to hire a Realtor to sell their home. You win! The primary role of the Realtor is to find a suitable buyer for your property through marketing the home. So, if you already have a buyer that wishes to purchase your home, the 6 percent commission you will pay the Realtor will be wasted. Those homeowners that have a buyer lined up can attempt to draft their own contract (which, if you read my column weekly, you know I would not recommend), or hire an attorney to write the contract for you. This will protect your interests for just a few hundred dollars.

However, in situations where you do not have a buyer, hiring a Realtor can often be a good decision. Our local, experienced Realtors are excellent at providing a fair estimate on what your home will sell for, and many have the contacts both locally and around the world to find a buyer. When choosing a Realtor, I always recommend asking how many properties they have sold in the past year, and how many listings they have. Also, it may be a good idea to check the local Clerk of Courts to see if your agent has any legal troubles. If the Realtor you intend to hire passes these tests to your satisfaction, make sure you read the listing agreement very carefully, or hire an attorney to do so. Some agreements may provide for punitive action should you cancel early and in other circumstances. The commission you pay will likely be one of the largest single bills you pay in your life, so attention to the details before signing can save a lot of headaches, and cost, later.

From my personal experience, in most situations it is beneficial to hire a Realtor. You could put up a sign and attempt to find a buyer, but depending on your location, nobody may ever drive by. Although the 6 percent commission can be a sizable amount, the important question is how much could you obtain without the assistance of a Realtor? In general, I believe hiring a Realtor is beneficial, and it takes all of the effort of advertising, showing the home and preparing the contract and puts it in the hands of the Realtor.

As written previously, I recommend never signing an offer provided by a purchaser until you have it reviewed first. There are many reasons why this is important. For instance, the contract may provide for several extensions at the request of the buyer. If the contract had these terms, a buyer could tie up your house for months or even years, and you wouldn't be able to sell to someone else. As always, be cautious in this, which will be one of your largest lifetime transactions.

I hope your disagreements continue to be benign, and I wish you the best of luck on your sale.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for 28 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.



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