How to Fire My Real Estate Agent? 10 Things You Need to Know
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Finding a real estate agent is hard enough, but what are you supposed to do if you think you made a mistake? What if it causes you to lay awake at night, asking yourself, “I think I need to fire my real estate agent. How do I do that?”
Your real estate agent is supposed to be someone who can help you through the homebuying process, answer your questions, and try to find a house that meets (or even exceeds!) all of your wants and needs, within your budget. But sometimes things don’t work out — and that’s okay.
“If you’re calling your agent and you just don’t feel you guys are building together to find the right property, then — especially if you’re not in any kind of binding contract — it’s probably good to move on to somebody that you have better synergy with,” says Jason Mattson, a real estate agent who works with 81% more single-family homes than the average Las Vegas agent.
Before we go through the steps of firing your agent, let’s first review some situations that would cause someone (like you) to want to fire their agent and find a new one.
6 legitimate reasons to fire your real estate agent
1. Poor communication
Like any relationship, communication is vital. Right from the beginning, you should be able to talk to your agent and let them know what you’re hoping to achieve with this transaction.
“The lack of communication and little to no responsive action is a good reason to stop working with an agent,” says Julie Kaczor, an experienced agent who has sold homes for 29 years in Illinois.
Your real estate agent should always maintain some line of communication with you, be it via email, a phone call, or even a text message — although a phone call is the most preferred method of communicating.
2. Unfamiliarity with the type of home you want to buy
You may be under the impression that all real estate agents know everything there is to know about real estate, but that’s not the case. For example, some focus on residential transactions, while others prefer commercial real estate.
Agents can also specialize in different types of properties or different buyer or seller populations, too.
Some agents are very familiar with new construction properties, while others cater to the elite and specialize in luxury properties. Others concentrate on condos, and still others help investors find homes to buy and rent out, or to fix and flip. Some agents even specialize in certain neighborhoods.
The lack of communication and little to no responsive action is a good reason to stop working with an agent.
- Julie Kaczor Real Estate AgentCloseJulie Kaczor Real Estate Agent at Baird & Warner Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience 30
- Transactions 1016
- Average Price Point $387k
- Single Family Homes 884
In terms of buyer and seller populations, there are even Realtors® who specialize in helping senior citizens buy and sell homes. Known as Seniors Real Estate Specialists®, these agents are trained to assist with niche issues — such as finding a house that is physically accessible — that are more commonly sought out by clients 50 years and older.
Military service members may also opt for a special kind of real estate agent known as a Military Relocation Professional (MRP). These types of agents complete a training program from the National Association of Realtors designed to help them better serve active and former military service members. These agents are knowledgeable about military relocation and often have VA lenders in their contacts,
No matter what kind of property you’re looking for or what type of buyer you are, you should look for an agent with a specialty that applies to you. After all, you don’t want to hire your friendly neighborhood agent to find an eco-friendly home or a waterfront property, only to discover that they haven’t had much (if any) experience with these types of sales.
Working with an inexperienced agent could prevent you from finding your dream home, or worse, cost you thousands of dollars because they don’t know the going price for homes in that market.
With more than 334 million people in this country, you aren’t going to get along with everyone you meet. However, if you’re going to work with a real estate agent, your personalities must be compatible.
This is the tricky part, though. You aren’t always going to know whether you like someone or not the first time you meet them.
“Some agents have such big egos that they don’t realize that there isn’t going to be a good fit with everyone they work with,” Kaczor says.
Check out our article highlighting the things you should ask before hiring a real estate agent so you’re likely to choose someone you’ll love working with.
4. Giving lousy advice — or none at all
Regardless of how experienced you are with buying a home, you should always be able to call on your agent for advice. Your agent should be able to look at your situation and help you determine what your best course of action would be. For example, if you have a limited income, they should be able to help you settle on a loan that’s within your budget.
However, if your agent gives you advice that isn’t helpful (“let’s just make an offer and go from there”) or vague (“lots of houses in the area are going for this price range; you should offer that”), then they aren’t someone who has your best interest at heart — and that’s not ideal!
A good agent will not only provide you with specific advice on what neighborhoods and properties will fit your budget, but they should also be backing up that advice with comparable sales. Look for someone who is able to both speak in specifics and back up their knowledge with data.
5. Limited network and resources
An experienced real estate agent should have an extensive network of professionals they can call on. These professionals include real estate attorneys, home inspectors, appraisers, mortgage brokers, and contractors, among other professionals — including other real estate agents, especially listing agents.
It’s a bad sign when a buyer asks the agent for a list of resources and recommended vendors, and the list consists of unreliable contractors or professionals with less-than-stellar reviews.
Buyers must feel confident in their agent’s recommendations because buying a home is a serious investment, and they have to be sure they’re working with the best in their respective industries.
6. Lack of ethics
When someone obtains their real estate license, they must follow a code of ethics. An agent pledges to put their client’s best interests first while still being respectful and honest to other participants in the transaction.
If you have an agent who is willing to mislead clients to get a listing, work as a dual agent without disclosing that they’re representing both sides (or at all, in some states), or reveal confidential information about their clients, they are acting in an unethical manner.
You should be able to trust your real estate agent to do the right thing, and if they don’t, you should find an agent you can trust.
Selling your house? 3 more reasons to fire your agent
Many of the reasons that cause buyers to fire their real estate agents also apply to sellers. If you’re selling your home and your agent is a poor communicator, is unfamiliar with the type of home you’re trying to sell, or is acting unethically, it might be time to end the relationship.
But there are some additional situations that are unique to sellers. Let’s take a look at a few.
1. Poor marketing
Selling a home in the 21st century means that you need 21st-century marketing. And that almost always means going digital.
A seller’s agent should ensure that a house is well staged, photographed well, and listed in the multiple listing service (MLS) in order to attract buyers.
Because most people begin their home search online — 97% of homebuyers use the internet in their home search — photos, videos, and 3-D walkthroughs are key marketing materials.
If your agent is taking poor quality photos or otherwise failing to market your home digitally, it might be time to look for someone new.
“Everybody is looking at listing now online,” Mattson says.
“Your photography is going to be the No. 1 thing that’s going to draw people to make an appointment for your property.”
2. Encouraging you to take a poor offer
A seller’s agent should help their clients secure the best possible offer. If an agent is pressuring you to take the first offer — even if it’s below asking price and the home has only been on the market for a few days — it might be time to look for another agent.
One situation where this may occur is in a dual agent scenario. If an agent has a client interested in buying a house where they’re also representing the home’s owner, then they might encourage the seller to take a lower offer from their buyer in order to capture both sides of the agent commission.
“If they think their client is desperate to sell the property, then they may try to give a lowball offer to their own client as opposed to properly marketing the property,” Mattson says.
3. Your home isn’t selling as quickly as it should be
If your home is having trouble selling, then it might be time to take a look at your agent to see if they might be part of the problem.
An agent who is rude to prospective buyers during an open house, one who doesn’t put the effort into helping you stage your home, or one who didn’t conduct a proper comparative market analysis to help you find the right price might be a reason to look elsewhere.
How to fire your real estate agent the right way
Your real estate agent doesn’t have to be your best friend, but they should at least uphold their end of the relationship. If they aren’t, you don’t have to try to make the best of it. You have options.
Step 1: Did you sign an agent agreement?
It isn’t uncommon for real estate agents to ask their clients to sign a buyer’s agent agreement or a listing agreement for sellers. You should always read through any agreement carefully so you know exactly what you’re signing.
If you’ve signed a buyer’s agreement, it should outline the conditions for terminating the contract. This will usually include all of the acceptable reasons for terminating the contract — such as the ones mentioned above.
Keep in mind that ending the contract may result in being charged an early cancellation fee, which would be disclosed in the agreement.
For sellers, terminating a contract may be a little more complicated. While buyers may or may not sign a buyer’s agent agreement, sellers almost always sign a listing agreement with a listing agent.
This agreement will likely have an exclusivity clause, which gives one agent the right to try to sell your home and earn a commission from it. These contracts vary in the level of commitment they require from the seller. In some cases, you don’t have to pay a commission if you find your own buyer, while others give the listing agent exclusive rights to sell the home.
These contracts typically last between three and six months. If a listing agent doesn’t sell your home in that timeframe, the contract expires and you’re free to look for other agents.
Your listing agreement may outline terms for terminating the contract, but others may not. It helps to ask for these terms to be added to the contract before you sign. That way, you know how to terminate the contract if you’re unhappy down the road.
Step 2: Talk to your agent
If you haven’t signed an agreement, all you have to do is tell your agent that you’d like to find another agent (of course, don’t be rude about it).
If you did sign an agreement, talk to your agent and explain why you’re unhappy with their services. In doing so, you’re giving the agent a chance to explain their actions (or lack thereof). By airing your grievances and giving your agent a chance to tell, their performance may improve. (That doesn’t mean you have to keep working with them, however.)
After they explain, if you are still interested in working with a different agent, you should ask them to terminate the contract early. If they agree, there may be early termination forms that you’ll have to complete. Sellers may have to pay a termination fee to cancel their contracts since their former listing agent won’t get a commission from selling their home.
We recommend that you check with your real estate agent or state division of real estate to see if your state requires these forms. It’s also important to remember to get the contract termination in writing so you don’t open yourself up to future legal risk.
Step 3 (escalation): Talk to the broker
If your agent refuses to cancel the contract, you’ll want to speak to the agent’s broker.
The broker oversees the real estate agent. The broker will have the power to cancel the contract, though they could encourage you to stay with the brokerage and simply work with another agent. In most cases, both buyers and sellers can simply decide to work with a different agent at the same brokerage without breaching any agreements they may have signed.
“A full-service brokerage is important for many reasons. If there’s a problem, remember that the broker owns that contract, not the agent. Technically, the managing broker is there to help — not force you to sign an exclusivity agreement,” Kaczor explains. “When the broker gets involved, they can sign the client to another agent who may be a better fit.”
Step 4 (escalation): Speak to a lawyer
If the broker refuses to cancel the contract, you might be forced to speak to a lawyer who is familiar with real estate contracts. Should you decide to go this route, you’re going to want to have your buyer’s agent agreement or listing agreement on hand, in addition to any supporting evidence or documentation that there was a breach of contract.
Supporting evidence or documentation includes:
- Emails or other written documentation about important details regarding the transaction or buyer/agent relationship
- Recorded conversations (with the agent’s approval, of course)
- In the case of poor communication, a record of your attempts to contact the agent without a response
- Inspection reports
Step 5 (escalation): File a complaint
When all else fails, you can file a complaint with your local real estate board or state division.
Now, you can’t submit a claim simply because your personalities clash, or because you’re dissatisfied with the agent’s performance. Still, you can (and should) make a complaint if they use unethical practices, such as not disclosing they are a dual agent, or if they were misleading about the home’s actual value.
If you decide to file a complaint with the real estate board, and the board determines the agent broke the code of ethics, you are unlikely to receive monetary compensation, but the agent will face disciplinary actions.
A brief look at the complaint process
Once the board receives your complaint, they will determine if they have enough information to place it under investigation. This process usually takes 12 days after the complaint has been filed.
The board will notify the agent that a complaint has been filed against them. The agent is required to respond to the notice and provide the board with documentation for their defense.
The evidence provided by both parties will be reviewed to determine if the agent violated any real estate licensing laws. If disciplinary action is required, the board will determine the appropriate penalty as outlined by local sanctions guidelines.
During this time, the buyer can ask the courts to rescind the contract (thus allowing you to find a new agent) and refund you any money you already paid the agent.
How to find a new agent
Once you’ve parted ways with your previous agent, you’re going to need to find a new agent. To do this, you will want to pay attention to a few different statistics, and you may need to talk to several agents to find someone who meets your needs.
“Interview more than one agent,” Mattson advises. “You’re probably going to get your best results from an experienced agent. Do your research on the agent.”
The sales-to-list ratio refers to the actual sales price of a home compared to the asking price. You can figure this ratio out by dividing the sales price by the asking price. As a buyer, you want to find an agent with a low sale-to-list price. A low sale-to-list price indicates how well the agent can negotiate and get the seller to agree to a lower price. (Sellers will want to do the opposite and find agents with high sales-to-list ratios.)
How many clients of theirs have successfully bought a home in your target area is an essential factor when choosing a new agent because it’ll give you some insight into how well they know the area. It also shows that the agent knows what is considered a competitive offer by referring to accurate comparable properties. Plus it indicates how successful they are at helping clients find a house they want to buy in that neighborhood or area.
Network of professionals
Ask prospective agents about their network of professionals in the business. Your new agent can help you connect with motivated sellers and can introduce you to reputable people that you’re likely to deal with as a homeowner. Their network can include lenders, home inspectors and appraisers, handymen, contractors, plumbers, and so forth.
A buyer’s agent should also know plenty of listing agents! If your agent already has a relationship with the listing agent of a house you love, that’s a connection that can only work in your favor. Your agent can try to get the inside scoop on why the house is for sale and write you a super-competitive offer based on inside knowledge.
When you’re assessing potential real estate agents, it can be helpful to try to get a read on their negotiating skills. That way, you know how they’ll advocate for you when it comes time to negotiate an offer.
One way to assess an agent’s negotiating skills is through your own conversations about the terms of the listing agreement or the buyer’s agent agreement.
“If he gives away the farm when he’s negotiating his own fees for you, imagine how well he’s going to negotiate when he’s trying to negotiate the price on your property or negotiate terms for your sale,” Mattson says.
Check out their social media profiles to gauge their involvement with the community. The more involved they are, the better they should know the residents of the area, their lifestyles, and other important aspects of the neighborhood you’d like to move to. You can also use their social media profiles to find reviews and ratings from previous clients.
Yes, you can fire your real estate agent
Buyers and sellers, if you’re tired of asking yourself how you can fire your real estate agent, know that you have options.
If you haven’t signed a buyer’s agent agreement, all you have to do is tell them that you’d like to part ways. However, if a buyer’s agent agreement or listing agreement was signed, you’ll have to read it very carefully to see the terms for ending a contract early, then follow them.
When you decide to find a new agent, you can ask your friends for recommendations, or use our search tool to find local top-rated real estate agents and check out reviews, experience, and specialties.
Header Image Source: (Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels)
- "Housing for Seniors: Challenges and Solutions," U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Policy Development and Research (Summer 2017)
- "VA Home Loans," U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (March 2022)
- "U.S. and World Population Clock," United States Census Bureau (June 2022)
- "2022 Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice," National Association of Realtors® (January 2022)
- "Real Estate Agency Law - Fiduciary Duties are Like an OLD CAR," the balance small business (September 2018)