Before they’ve found a buyer, a home seller only has their listing agreement with their real estate agent to worry about. Backing out at this early stage of the process is less problematic, but can still cost some money.
Agents start working for their clients immediately upon signing the listing agreement. They spend time and money on marketing, staging the home, and showings. If a homeowner reneges on the agreement, they will expect financial reimbursement for their expenses.
It is best to inform the real estate agent immediately about deciding not to sell. They can pull the listing and cancel any upcoming open houses and marketing efforts. If they’re kept in the dark, they will continue to work on selling the home, racking up more expenses.
Some listing agreements lock a seller into a timeframe during which they can not sign with another agent or sell the house themselves. If the homeowner has changed their mind completely about selling, it won’t be a big deal to let the agreement lapse. If, however, they change their mind again, they may have trouble listing with anyone else. If they have reimbursed the agent fully for expenses, they may have a better chance of being released from the contract.
A lot will depend on how sympathetic the realtor is to the homeowner’s situation. The leasing agreement is a legal document, so the agent can choose to sue the homeowner for their losses related to the breach of contract.