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Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Prop. Mgr, Wenatchee, WA

My opinion:  YOU shouldn't be doing anything except at the direction of YOUR Designated Broker.  You are an agent for them.  They are, ultimately, responsible for negotiating the outcome.

Apr 15, 2016 02:28 AM
Becca Rasmussen
HomeSmart Cherry Creek - Highlands Ranch, CO

Here in CO "sign-crossing" is Broker-X has an exclusive contract with a client, and Broker-Y approaches the client in order to entice the client to sign with them instead. Broker-Y has then "crossed the sign" in order to solicit business from the client. That is [something wrong]*. If the client approaches Broker-Y, it's perfectly ok as long as the new contract starts after the existing one with Broker-X ends. (This used to be only with LISTING agents since buyer's representation is relatively new, and figuratively involved passing the sign planted in the seller's yard. It now applies to both listing and buyers representation, and I like to think of it more as "crossing the signature".)

I've no idea if sign-crossing applies to builder's sale representatives, probably depends some on whether or not they have to be a licensed real estate agent in your state. You might have legal recourse to the commission you would have earned from the sale on which they backed out. You could potentially even earn a commission on the new build as well but that's probably more iffy.  You're consulting a lawyer - great! 

Depending on the contract, the original seller probably has the right to retain the buyer's earnest money since the deadline was missed, which I'd think it was if I'm reading your dates correctly.

  • Insurance deadline Apr 8.
  • Buyer decided to cut-and-run  2 days before closing.
  • Closing was supposed to be on Apr 11
  • so, presumably, the buyer's decision to back out was communicated on Apr 9th, which is the day after the deadline.

IF that's the case, the buyer would likely have to retain the services of a lawyer in order to get their money back, and I'm thinking the chances are pretty slim that it would go in their favor unless there's more flexibility in the contract in question than there is in the standard CO contract.

The loss of the buyer's earnest money is, typically, the built-in compensation to the seller for having taken their property off the market only to have the buyer later back out without cause (a.k.a. not within the framework of the contract terms and deadlines).

Upshot - everyone should consult a lawyer. 

I'd love to learn how this actually turns out. :0)


* EDIT: I originally spouted that "sign-crossing is illegal in CO". After a thought or two about it, I have to back-track on that. It's "something wrong being done" certainly. Whether or not it's illegal (thus subject to criminal prosecution) [Doesn't seem to be] or against Division of Real Estate rules (thus subject to sanctions from hand-slap or up to license forfeiture) [it is: Commission Rule E-13] or is unethical for REALTORs (thus subject to REALTOR sanctions) [it is: Standard of Practice Article 16] I don't know and would have to look into it further [edited, again :0)]. 

Apr 15, 2016 03:23 AM
Candice A. Donofrio
Next Wave RE Investments LLC Bullhead City AZ Commercial RE Broker - Fort Mohave, AZ
928-201-4BHC (4242) call/text

Do you mean 'going behind the sign'?
Yeah, you need a lawyer and you probably are going to have to have them place your written agreement into the new construction escrow or have it otherwise recorded for your protection. Also sounds like the builder's agent may be on the business end of an ethics claim. But check with your attorney. DO NOT REPLY to these answers or your cover will be blown. Don't even 'like' any of the answers. :D
WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE??? Your buyers and that agent. Creepy.

Apr 15, 2016 02:29 AM
Mimi Foster
Falcon Property Company - Colorado Springs, CO
Voted Colorado Springs Best Realtor

I am not sure this is a situation of sign crossing or going behind the sign. What it IS is a breach of the Good Faith part of entering into a contract, with all parties being expected to perform fairly to the terms of the agreement. 

It appears as though the Buyers are refusing to perform their contractual obligations on a technical excuse, even though the timing of their excuse was outside of the legal time frame.

Because they are in breach of this agreement, and they are lying to you AND the Seller, and the Seller is incurring financial loss because of their duplicity (to say nothing of you), I do not believe they are entitled to their earnest money back, according to the scenario you have outlined. 

On the other hand, proving Procuring Cause is a slippery slope. In this instance, the Buyer Agency agreement appears to be your leverage.

I do NOT agree with Annette Lawrence , Palm Harbor, FL 727-420-4041 at all that you care one whit about whether or not you are burning "this bridge of referrals from your friends . . . FOREVER." What friends? The ones who are liars and back stabbers and cheats? Oh, shucks, no referrals. Like you'd get some anyway. Gimme a break. 

Good luck. It's so awful for all of us when people are dishonest. I'm really sorry this happened to you and the Sellers. People often disgust me.


Apr 15, 2016 08:17 AM
Annette Lawrence , Palm Harbor, FL 727-420-4041
ReMax Realtec Group - Palm Harbor, FL
Making FLORIDA Real Estate EZ

I don't know the laws in your state, but I am confident you do. Here's my take:

You need to be fully aware of the consequences of your action.

The EBA, most likely, compels the citizen to pay you, not the builder. If you push this you should be aware this bridge of referrals from your friends will be burned FOREVER.

It is highly likely you have no procuring cause since you were never and are still not involved in the new build transaction. So the builder owes you nothing. The builder may not be required to employee a licensed agent to sell the builders inventory. You need to verify before you find out you playing a bluff hand.

Time to talk to your good friend buyer and have 'the talk."

You know they did not expect you to work for free. Take that approach and know what you will accept. If your Broker intends to impose his/her will on the situation, which is different from what you are willing to accept, you need to measure if your broker has your best interests in mind.

Apr 15, 2016 02:45 AM
Debbie Reynolds, C21 Platinum Properties
Platinum Properties- (931)771-9070 - Clarksville, TN
The Dedicated Clarksville TN Realtor-(931)320-6730

Do what your broiker advises you to do with the help of an attorney if you need it. Sign crossing in my area generally means an agent encourages a client to break or breach an agency relationship.

Apr 15, 2016 12:35 PM
Caroline Gerardo
Licensed in 20 states - Newport Beach, CA
C. G. Barbeau the Loan Lady nmls 324982

You did your work and want to be paid. I understand.

Deal cancelled at the ninth hour because it sounds insurance said roof was at end of it's life. Didn't inspector and appraiser note this? IF they did seller might win in court at keeping deposit.

Builder doesn't owe you a commission, often builders (my parent company is Lennar) don't have Realtors and may not pay 3% to buyer's agent - they pay a small flat fee is most states. Clients found builder without you - would be different if you took them there.

I would NOT hire an attorney. The costs to sue them for your commission may be worse than you think. What are legal fees? $20000. ? Emotional cost  worrying? The clients will spread ill will in places you may never know. 

What does your broker say to do?

Today set up a coffee meeting with them. Speak softly. Do not threaten to sue or say anything in anger.

After the meeting go meet with builder and show them the agreement. Builder may offer you a small fee. Take the fee and move on. They offer no fee, also move on with a smile.

I've closed more than 2 billion dollars in loans in my career. I never kept count of how many I lost after they were approved. Some cancel a purchase because they got cold feet, some heard they could get a better deal from somebody's cousin and came back to me, some just want the moon. 

In the same breath you let this one go - go make three calls, mail two thank you notes and go get a new deal.   hugs to all anonymous questions that sound painful

Apr 15, 2016 05:30 AM
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Happily Retired - Franklin, MA
Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team in making the sign of the cross??  learn to genuflect, too!!

Apr 15, 2016 04:07 AM
Valeria Mola
SIB Realty - Miami, Sunny Isles Beach - Sunny Isles Beach, FL
305-607-0709 SIB Realty Condos for Sale and Rent

Great answers you got for your question.

Jun 28, 2019 08:07 PM
Evelina Tsigelnitskaya
SIB Realty - Sunny Isles Beach, FL

No idea.

Jun 14, 2019 10:21 AM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, KW Diversified - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

May be good to send your buyers a not reminding them that they owe you a commission even if they buy with someone else.

Jul 24, 2017 08:27 PM
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

Consult an attorney and your broker.

Apr 16, 2016 10:59 PM
Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
Serving the Greater Phoenix and Scottsdale Metropolitan Area - Scottsdale, AZ
Haven Express @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty
Apr 15, 2016 10:31 PM
Kathleen Luiten
Resort and Second-Home Specialist - Princeville, HI
Kauai Luxury Ocean Home Sales

This is something for your broker to handle. If their are grounds it is something to pursue but not as an agent. Let your broker decide the best course.

Apr 15, 2016 07:37 PM
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Leave it to your's for them...

Apr 15, 2016 03:46 PM
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Follow your broker. 

Apr 15, 2016 12:39 PM
William Feela
Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No.

Get back to the basics and stay there if you don't wnat a load of problems

Apr 15, 2016 12:18 PM
Ryan Huggins - Thousand Oaks, CA - Thousand Oaks, CA
Residential Real Estate and Investment Properties

So sorry to hear about this!  I have no idea about sign crossing and really couldn't advise, other than to say "work with that lawyer you're talking to."  If it were me, I'd "go to the mattresses" and go for blood.  Out here, the buyers would be due their EMD.  I don't know about the buyer's agreement though, if that would allow you to sue them and the builder.


The biggest piece of advise I can give is to figure out what the commission would be and figure out the lawyer fees, then decide if what is left over is worth going through a court battle and the added stress you'll be under from it.  Sometimes it is worth walking away and letting karma bite them in the arse, to save the headache and allow you to focus on getting more business.

Apr 15, 2016 06:13 AM
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

This is beyond me, I would follow the advice of your broker.

Apr 15, 2016 05:35 AM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

It sounds like a problem may be a legal council can help....

Apr 15, 2016 04:59 AM
Diana Dahlberg
1 Month Realty - Pleasant Prairie, WI
Real Estate in Kenosha, WI since 1994 262-308-3563

I've never heard the term "sign crossing" in our area.  But the best advise is to be sure of all the facts, talk with your Broker and consult with an attorney.  You probably want to talk with the buyer and find out what they were thinking and do they understand the ramifications of breaching the Buyer Agency Agreement?  Above all, legal advise is to be gotten from a reputable attorney in your area.

Apr 15, 2016 04:37 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

I don't understand what sign crossing is but I definitely would be talking to my broker about this, and an attorney. The laws on these sorts of issues vary by state. None of us can really properly advise but it's always good to hear about new scenarios in our business

Apr 15, 2016 03:33 AM
Dan & Laurie Pittsenbarger Team
Keller Williams Western Realty - Bellingham, WA
Lakeside & Coastal Single Family Homes

No - never heard of sign crossing.  I'd guess that it's referring to showing someone a property and by doing so they are made aware of some other property (next door or right around the corner etc. that they would not know about if the agent hadn't taken them to the first property). You are doing the right thing contacting your designated broker and/or an attorney. I'm not so sure your clients are entitled to their earnest money back - but impossible for me to know without seeing the contract and knowing your state and local laws.

Apr 15, 2016 03:13 AM