Real Estate: Dealing with Agents/RESPA and


QUESTION: Hello John,

I was wondering if you could explain the concept of exceptions for me. Or, rather, tell me if I'm understanding it correctly. If I work with an agent and I use exceptions, I could pay a commission percentage based on what actions the agent performs. For instance, if I wanted to show my home on my own and organize open houses as opposed to the agent doing that part, but I wanted to utilize the agent's expertise in other part of the selling process, could I use exceptions in the agent's contract to address that? Forgive me if I sound like a complete dolt but this is the first time I've ever sold a home.

Thank you,


ANSWER: Hi Peggy,
Commissions are always negotiable, but it is a good idea to be as specific as you can up-front about the services you want and the commission you will pay for them.

You should be able to tailor the standard agreement to reduce the services you want, but you can complicate things too much if you use "if" a lot. For example, you could say "I'll pay you a X% commission IF you are the procuring source of the buyer, but I will pay you a smaller Y% commission if I find the buyer through an open house I hold myself." The person who finds a buyer is called the "procuring source." If you or your agent could be the procuring source, you are now in competition with your agent. This often leads to disputes based on situations such as this:
- You hold an open house and meet someone who submits an acceptable offer
- You are the procuring source and therefore pay your agent a lower commission

But... your agent could say that the buyer decided to attend the open house after they saw the house online. It was online because the agent put it in the MLS, therefore the agent is the procuring source.

Another consideration is that good agents typically don't want to put earning their commission in the hands of amateurs (sorry, but that includes you). They believe they can run an open house, conduct a showing, and move a potential buyer to submit an offer better than you. Why, then, would they sign an agreement that takes those important selling activities out of their hands? If you want an agent to do their best for you, let them do everything they can do to make your sale a success. As you mentioned in your question, this is your first time selling a property. If you get a good agent, they have probably sold at least a few dozen homes and have been trained for the job.

If you do want to divide up the work between you and the agent, I suggest you consider a flat commission that is not contingent upon who is the procuring source.

I understand you want to save money and control access to the property, but I recommend you consider working with an agent you can trust and will work with you to get the best result from your sale.

I hope this information helps.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks, John. Wow! That was super informative. I just have one follow-up question. Is "exceptions" the correct term in regards to what the terms of the standard agreement are? Or is that an entirely different concept?



I'm not familiar with Massachusetts real estate forms, so I'm not sure how you would carve out the services you don't need. I would think that there must be a section that is titled something like "Other Terms" where you can list the specific sections that you want removed from the contract in whole or in part.
If removing sections, I would use something like "The following Paragraphs in this standard form are excluded from this Agreement." Suggest you talk to your agent about how to go about this.
The word "exception" could probably also be used, but it wouldn't be my first choice.


Real Estate: Dealing with Agents

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John A. Souerbry


I can answer questions pertaining to: - How to find an agent that fits your needs - How to compensate your agent (commissions, incentives, flat fees, and more) - How to communicate with your agent before and during your transaction - How to initiate dispute resolution with an agent I cannot answer questions pertaining to: - Potential litigation or other legal matters


I am a licensed California real estate broker (CalBRE 01370983) specializing in residential brokerage, property management, and estate services. I have been licensed since 2003 and am currently working as an independent broker in the San Francisco Bay area.

Bay East Association of REALTORS(R) Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS(R) California Association of REALTORS(R) National Association of REALTORS(R)

In addition to my own web site, my blogs, articles and responses to consumer questions appear online at,, and other real estate forums. My answers also appear in several categories relating to real estate on

BS, Business Administration MBA, Globa Management

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My clients are: - Consumers searching for a primary residence or vacation home - Investors buying and/or managing residential income property - Estates in probate requiring temporary management and property sales support

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