What Is an Exclusive Listing?

An exclusive listing is a real estate sale agreement in which a specified real estate agent stands to gain a commission if a property sells within a specified number of months. In most cases, the agent earns the commission no matter how a buyer is found. The purpose of an exclusive listing is to motivate the agent to sell the property quickly and at the highest price possible.

Agents of an exclusive listing get the commission for a property if sold within the exclusivity period, regardless of how the buyer is found.

How an Exclusive Listing Works

The exclusive listing agreement can act as a protection period to prevent the seller from abusing an agreement to avoid paying a commission to the agent for doing their job. The protection period would allow the agent to receive full commission on certain types of sales after the expiration of the agreement. For example, a potential buyer the agent previously brought to the house during the listing period might return later and decide to complete the purchase. The agent would receive their commission on that sale.

Key Takeaways

  • Exclusive listings are used to motivate the agent to achieve the maximum price, as quickly as possible.
  • These types of real estate agreements act as protection for agents that do their job, regardless of how the property is sold.
  • Specific terms and exemptions are agreed upon in advance and set for a predetermined period of time. 
  • Exclusive listings are preferred by agents over open listings as open listings cause agents to compete with each other for sales, with no guarantee of earning any commission.

Special Considerations

If a homeowner signed an exclusive listing agreement with an agent, and the homeowner also placed an ad for the property, the agent could still earn a commission even if the buyer acted upon the ad.

The agent would not earn a commission if the seller who placed the ad also established exclusive agency—the right of the seller to sell the property themselves without paying commission despite the exclusive listing agreement.

Requirements for an Exclusive Listings

Terms must be agreed upon by the seller and the agent for an exclusive listing. Those details will include establishing a time frame for the agreement to be in effect. This could be a period of six months or even briefer when demand is high in the market. There must also be an agreement on the size of the commission the agent can earn on a sale.

An exclusive listing agreement may include a list of exempted parties who can buy the property without the agent earning a commission. These exemptions typically include family members or close associates who the seller favors to buy the property. For example, if the seller’s sibling makes an offer to purchase their home and they were named among the exemptions, the agent would not collect a commission on the transaction.

Exclusive Listings vs. Open Listings

Real estate agents tend to prefer exclusive listings over open listings that only pay about half the usual commission rate. Open listings put real estate agents in competition with each other to bring in buyers but with no guarantee that agents will earn a commission at all. The buyer could negotiate their own deal with buyers and completely cut out the agents.