What Is a Listing Agreement? Explained, Types, and Examples


A listing agreement is a legally binding contract between a property owner and a real estate broker. It authorizes the broker to represent the seller in finding a buyer for the property. This article explores the different types of listing agreements, their key components, and how they work. It also briefly touches on listing agreements in the context of financial exchanges.

What is a listing agreement?

A listing agreement is a legally binding contract that empowers a real estate broker to act as an agent on behalf of a property owner. Its primary purpose is to facilitate the sale of the property under terms agreed upon by the owner. In return for their services, the property owner compensates the broker with a commission.

Listing agreements in real estate

Within the realm of real estate, a listing agreement serves as a pivotal document. It allows a property owner, also known as the principal, to grant authority to a real estate broker, who acts as an agent. The broker’s role is to find a suitable buyer for the property based on the owner’s terms and conditions.

Listing agreements in financial exchanges

Additionally, the term “listing agreement” extends beyond real estate. It can also refer to a contract made between a security issuer, such as a publicly traded company, and the financial exchange where their securities are listed. Prominent examples of these exchanges include the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE), and the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

How a listing agreement works

A listing agreement is not merely a real estate contract; it’s an employment contract that designates the broker as the seller’s representative in the property transaction. However, it’s crucial to note that no property is transferred between the parties involved in the agreement. Here’s how it operates:

Authorization of the broker

The core function of a listing agreement is to authorize the real estate broker to act on behalf of the property owner. This authorization empowers the broker to represent the seller’s interests and negotiate with potential buyers.

Real estate license laws

Real estate transactions are governed by specific laws and regulations, including licensing requirements. In most states, only a licensed real estate broker can legally act as an agent to list, sell, or rent someone else’s real estate. Therefore, listing agreements must be documented in writing to comply with these legal provisions.

Key elements of a listing agreement

Listing agreements generally include several key elements that must be specified. These elements ensure clarity and transparency in the property transaction. Here are some of the essential components:

Description of the property

Each listing agreement starts with a detailed description of the property in question. This description includes information about the property’s physical characteristics and any unique features. It may also outline personal property that will remain with the property after the sale, such as appliances or window treatments.

Listing price

The agreement must specify the listing price of the property. This price sets the initial value at which the property will be marketed to potential buyers. It can be a critical factor in attracting buyers and ensuring a fair transaction for both parties.

Broker’s duties

The listing agreement outlines the duties and responsibilities of the broker. These typically include marketing the property, facilitating showings, and negotiating with potential buyers. It’s crucial for both parties to have a clear understanding of what the broker will do to sell the property.

Seller’s duties

Just as the broker’s duties are defined, the agreement also specifies the responsibilities of the property owner (seller). These duties may involve maintaining the property’s condition, cooperating with the broker, and making the property accessible for showings.

Broker’s compensation

The compensation for the broker’s services is a crucial aspect of the agreement. This section details the commission the broker will receive upon a successful sale. The commission is typically a percentage of the final sale price and serves as the broker’s incentive to secure a buyer.

Mediation terms

In the event of a dispute or disagreement between the parties, listing agreements often include terms for mediation. Mediation can be a constructive way to resolve conflicts and avoid more extensive legal action.

Automatic termination date

Listing agreements typically include an automatic termination date. This date marks the end of the agreement’s validity. If the property hasn’t been sold by this date, the seller can choose to extend or terminate the agreement.

Additional terms and conditions

Depending on the specific requirements and preferences of the parties involved, listing agreements may contain additional terms and conditions. These can address unique circumstances or considerations relevant to the property or transaction.


Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Efficient property sale process.
  • Professional representation and marketing.
  • Access to the expertise of a licensed broker.
  • Paying a commission to the broker.
  • The need to adhere to the terms of the agreement.
  • Potential exclusivity restrictions.

Frequently asked questions

What are the different types of real estate listing agreements?

There are three main types of real estate listing agreements: open listing, exclusive agency listing, and exclusive right-to-sell listing. Each has distinct features and implications for the property owner and the broker.

How long is a typical listing agreement valid?

A typical listing agreement has an automatic termination date, which is often set for a specific duration, such as 90 days. However, this period can be negotiated between the property owner and the broker, and it can be extended if the property hasn’t sold by the initial expiration date.

What is the role of a real estate broker in a listing agreement?

A real estate broker, when authorized by a listing agreement, takes on the role of representing the property owner in the sale of their property. This involves various tasks, such as marketing the property, negotiating with potential buyers, and ensuring a smooth transaction process.

Is it mandatory to have a written listing agreement?

Most states require listing agreements to be in writing to comply with real estate license laws and provide legal clarity. A written agreement helps protect the interests of both the property owner and the broker by clearly outlining the terms and conditions of the engagement.

Are listing agreements legally binding contracts?

Yes, listing agreements are legally binding contracts between property owners and real estate brokers. They outline the terms and conditions of the broker’s representation in the sale of the property.

Can a property owner have multiple listing agreements simultaneously?

Yes, it’s possible for a property owner to enter into multiple listing agreements, each with different brokers. However, the agreements should clearly specify the scope of representation and any potential exclusivity restrictions.

What happens if a property doesn’t sell during the listing agreement’s validity?

If a property doesn’t sell by the automatic termination date specified in the listing agreement, the property owner and the broker can discuss whether to extend the agreement or terminate it. This decision depends on the preferences of both parties.

Do listing agreements differ from state to state in the U.S.?

Yes, there can be variations in listing agreement requirements and regulations from state to state. It’s essential for property owners and brokers to be aware of the specific legal provisions in their state and ensure compliance.

What are the key considerations for choosing the right type of listing agreement?

Choosing the right type of listing agreement depends on various factors, including the property’s marketability, the owner’s preferences, and the broker’s services. Property owners should carefully evaluate these factors when deciding on the type of agreement that best suits their needs.

Can a property owner sell their property independently without a broker after signing a listing agreement?

If a property owner finds a buyer independently, they may still be obligated to pay the broker’s commission as specified in the listing agreement. It’s essential to review the agreement’s terms regarding this scenario.

Key takeaways

  • A listing agreement is a legally binding contract between a property owner and a real estate broker, authorizing the broker to represent the seller and find a buyer for the property.
  • There are three main types of real estate listing agreements: open listing, exclusive agency listing, and exclusive right-to-sell listing, each with its unique features.
  • The broker’s duties, the seller’s responsibilities, and compensation details are critical components of a listing agreement.
  • Listing agreements may also include mediation terms and an automatic termination date, providing a structured framework for the transaction.
  • It’s essential for listing agreements to be in writing, ensuring compliance with real estate license laws and offering legal protection to all parties involved.
View Article Sources
  1. Exclusive listing agreements – Cornell Law School
  2. Exclusive Right of Listing Agreement&lt – Securities and Exchange Commissions
  3. Buyer Agency Agreement: What It Is & How It Works – SuperMoney
  4. What is a Pocket Listing? How Do You Find One and is it Legal? – SuperMoney