Q: My agent is a neighbor. We agreed to sell my house by owner, and I would pay her 2 percent of the sales price for bringing the buyer to the table.
The escrow papers show a payment of 3 percent paid to the agent.
When I asked the agent, she said that 2 percent was her agent’s fee and 1 percent is for the escrow fee. The escrow company said they were instructed to charge 3 percent for the agent fee, and the escrow fee was not included in that amount.
The agent then said I was charged another 1 percent for processing papers by the local multiple listing service (MLS). Can I sue the agent?
A: It sure sounds like your agent has all kinds of stories for why she backpedaled on your agreement.
You may indeed be able to sue, but let’s start with the real problem: you relied on your neighbor to be a good business partner and she failed you. You compounded the problem by not checking on the paperwork and details for yourself.
You should have challenged your agent/neighbor and told her you weren’t going to close on the property until the escrow papers were changed to reflect your actual agreement.
I assume you’ve now closed. Contact the brokerage firm that employs the agent and speak to the managing broker. Then, contact your state’s association of Realtors and file a complaint against your agent/neighbor. Her behavior is unacceptable, unethical, and possibly illegal.
You can also contact the agency that regulates real estate agents in your state. If you’re in California, for example, you’d want to contact the California Department of Real Estate.
A real estate attorney specializing in litigation can discuss your legal options with you.
Oct. 10, 2006.