Finding a real estate agent is hard enough, but what are you supposed to do if you’re not happy with them? 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.
Before we go through the steps of firing your agent, let’s first go over some situations that would cause someone to want to fire an 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.
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.
And it goes far beyond just these two segments! Agents can specialize in different types of properties, too. Some agents are very familiar with new construction properties, while others cater to the elite and specialize in luxury properties. Others specialize in condos, still others help investors find homes to buy and rent out or fix and flip, and some agents even specialize in certain neighborhoods.
No matter what kind of property you’re looking for, 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 home, only to discover that they haven’t had much (if any) experience with these types of properties.
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.
“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,” says Kaczor.
With more than 329 million people in this country, you aren’t going to get along with everyone you meet — which is fine! 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 tell if you like someone or not the first time you meet them.
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 good.
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.
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 a buyer’s 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 terms for terminating the contract. This will usually outline the acceptable reasons for terminating the contract — such as the previously mentioned reasons.
Keep in mind that ending the contract may result in being charged an early cancellation fee, which would be disclosed in the agreement.
Step 2: Talk to your agent
If you haven’t signed a buyer’s agreement, all you have to do is tell your agent that you’d like to find another agent (but don’t be rude about it!).
If you did sign a buyer’s 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.
We recommend that you check with your real estate agent or state division of real estate to see if your state requires these forms.
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 is the boss of the real estate agency. The broker will have the power to cancel the contract, though they could encourage you to stay with the agency and simply work with another agent.
“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 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 misleading about the home’s real 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.
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.
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.
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, 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 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)