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Procuring Cause in Vermont

There seems to be a misunderstanding of what the standard is for "procuring cause" for a real estate agent to be entitled to a commission as a buyer's representative in Vermont. The Vermont Supreme Court has set the standard under Vermont law. Buyers (and sellers) should be aware of this standard when a real estate agent claims that they are owed a commission as the "procuring cause" of the sale. The legal standard is as follows:

1. It is not enough to simply show the property once or even twice to a buyer. The Vermont Supreme Court has said " [T]he assumption that the broker first interested [the purchaser] in buying the property is not enough to constitute him as the procuring cause of the sale. Although the brokers efforts need not be the sole cause of the sale, it is essential that they dominate the transaction and amount to something more than an incidental or contributing influence. If it were otherwise, every broker who has any concern with the property might earn separate commissions on a single sale. 123 Vt. at 154-155, 186 A.2d at 183. Thus, the agent must demonstrate that they were the dominate agent in the transaction and assisted the buyer in more than just seeing the property. The agent must show that they advised and assisted the buyer throughout the transaction until the purchase was complete.

2. Under Vermont law, to be entitled to a commission, "a broker must show that he procured a purchaser ready, willing, and able to purchase at the price and upon the terms prescribed by the seller." One example where the agent would not be considered the procuring cause under this standard is where the buyer is shown a property prior to selling their home. If the buyer cannot purchase the new property until they sell their existing home then the buyer is not currently "able" to purchase the property. The agent must continue working with the buyer until they are "able" to purchase to be considered the procuring cause. (See Ellis-Gould Corp. v. Kelly, 134 Vt. 255, 257, 356 A.2d 497, 498 (1976)). Thus, in this example the agent would have to be assisting in the purchase at the time that the buyer's house is sold.

3. Finally, the agent claiming to be procuring cause must also show there was continuity and no break in the chain of events. If the agent shows the property in January to a buyer but the buyer decides to hold off on a purchase until June, the agent who first showed the property would not be entitled to a commission as the procuring cause unless the agent continued working with the buyer in June when they decided to purchase the property. If the buyer hires another agent in between January and June, the new agent would be entitled to the commission as the procuring cause.

An agent claiming a commission as the "procuring cause" must be able to show that each of the factors above have been satisfied. If they cannot then, under Vermont law, the agent has not met the legal standard of "procuring cause" and is not entitled to a commission.

Hopefully this helps clarify some of the confusion.

If you still have questions about procuringcause, or any other real estate lingo, contact us.

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