Q: I currently have three properties listed with a real estate company in Chicago for a total of about $2.5 million.

Last week, I sent the listing agent written notice that I want to cancel the listing contract on all three properties due to our opposing views on marketing.

Unfortunately, the listing contract was a basic letter that only stated the price of the properties, the number of days the listing would be valid, and the total commission that would be paid, without breaking it down.

The contract did not contain any statements regarding cancellation of the contract. The problem is that the listing agent is refusing to release me from the contract although I have given written notice about canceling.

Is this possible? Obviously, I should have thought about this earlier, but I didn’t. I want out and I don’t know what my options are. I don’t want to risk paying a double commission, nor do I want to lose another five months by keeping the listing with this agent.

Can you help me?

A: You should call a real estate attorney and ask him or her to review your listing agreement to determine if you have the right to terminate it.

When you signed the listing agreement, there should have been a time limit for the listing. If you signed for 6 months and have now become unhappy with your broker’s opinions about the market, but your broker is otherwise doing a good job, you may be out of luck. You can’t just terminate a contract on a whim.

You should have signed a listing agreement that had a shorter time period for the listing, say 3 months. If you liked the agent, you could have always renewed the listing.

If you don’t want to hire a real estate attorney to assist you, then call the managing broker of the office. Your listing agreement should be with the firm, not the agent. You may be able to find and use a different agent in the firm work who shares your marketing vision for your properties.

But the real question is why you suddenly seem so unhappy with your agent and what he or she is telling you about the market. Clearly, the residential real estate market in many places has slowed down considerably.

During the last ten years , many properties sold quickly and some sold on the day they were listed. Some sold for more than the owners were asking. Now that the market has cooled, it may take longer to sell a home.

How do you and your agent differ in marketing strategies? Is he not doing what he is supposed to?

If the agent you hired is flat out neglecting his duties to you, you may have a right to terminate the agreement. But if he is doing his job, has listed the home in the local multiple listing service (MLS), has held open houses, has held brokers open houses and has advertised the home, you may not be able to break the listing agreement.

If your agent has truly failed in his responsibilities to you under the listing agreement and the company you hired is not responsive to your complaints, you can let the managing broker know that you will be reporting the agent to the National Association of Realtors (Located on Michigan Avenue across from the Tribune Tower), the Chicago Association of Realtors and the Illinois Office of Banks and Real Estate for the agents failure to comply with the terms of the listing agreement.

Obviously, you will bear the burden to prove that the agent has failed to work on your behalf. Before you move forward on any of these fronts, I suggest you talk to the real estate attorney who assisted you when you bought the property.

Published: Sep 3, 2006