Q: I’m trying to sell a condo for my mother, who has moved to a retirement home. A first real estate agent did very little, so when the listing period expired I switched to a new one. (Both agents had been recommended.)

I told the new agent in advance I wanted frequent updates about various items. She has now had the listing for more than a month and has communicated little, despite my frequent phone calls and e-mails asking questions. If I leave a message, she does not call back. Most recently I sent her an e-mail asking for the following information: (1) List of multiple listing services where this unit has been posted, along with dates posted; (2.) Copies of all ads that have been placed, whether flyers or in newspapers; (3) List of groups to whom mailings that have been sent, and a copy of the letter or material; and (4) Summary of sales of any units in the building or comparable units nearby since this listing began.

I asked her to provide this information by the following Friday, which has passed, but have had no response at all, not even an e-mail asking for more time.

When I signed the listing agreement, I changed it to make the time period shorter, but did not change the text provided. The document does not seem to obligate her to do anything. Did I have to add language stating the work I expected? Would that have been enforceable anyway? What are my options now? Is this non-performance? Would it make sense to offer an extra incentive to try to get the place sold?

I realize the real estate market is not good, and I don’t know if I could find anyone better, and I am 800 miles away. Thank you for your advice.

A: It’s hard to be a long-distance seller – as you’re finding out. I don’t think your expectations are unreasonable, but it seems as though you’ve found two agents who aren’t making you happy.

The good news is that’s what managing brokers are for. The managing broker of a real estate office is in charge of making sure that the real estate agents are doing their job and to assist when problems arise with customers.

Please place a call to the managing broker who heads up the office that employs your agent. In this call you should let the managing broker know that you’re unhappy with the service that is being provided to you by the agent. Explain that the agent doesn’t provide you with updates, and doesn’t communicate at the level you require.

Make sure you tell the managing broker that you are 800 miles away and need these updates to get information about the selling process. You are not at the house or even nearby and need these updates to stay informed. The market may be slow in your area but you would like to know exactly what your agent is doing to sell the home.

The agent may have only listed the home in the multiple listing services and has not sent our flyers or placed ads in newspapers for the home. She may not have held any open houses or brokers’ open houses. But you are entitled to know what has or has not been done to sell the home.

You should list your requirements, and talk about the email you sent, and then ask the managing broker to speak to your agent to see if she’s up for the task. If your agent decides that she really isn’t up for the task of working with an out-of-state buyer, then you should ask the managing broker to find someone else who would be familiar with the neighborhood and building and would be willing to give you weekly updates or other information to make you feel informed about the selling process. In some cases, the update information given to you could merely state that there were no showings at the property and the property is still listed on the multiple listing service in the area in which your home is located.

You should have this conversation in a nice, polite tone of voice, but please be very clear with the managing broker that you expect something to happen within the next day or two. You don’t want to let this sit and fester.

If nothing happens, then it would be entirely appropriate to ask the managing broker to simply find someone else who is more willing to work with you in the office to take over the remainder of the listing. Or, the managing broker can simply cancel your listing agreement, and you can change brokerage companies.

When it comes to selling condos, I’ve found that often there are in general one or two agents who typically “work” a big condo development. If your mother’s condo is in a large development where one or two agents typically control most of the sales, these agents typically represent many of the owners who decide to sell. If this is the case for your mother’s condo, you’d be wise to find out who these agents are and perhaps have exploratory conversations with them, just in case it doesn’t work out with your current agent.

April 24, 2008.