As a seller, you may run into several difficult situations. One of the most awkward situations is when you have a problem with your real estate agent. Maybe you call and text your agent, and you get sent right to voicemail and never receive a text back.
Your home has been on the market for months, while the house next to yours sold in days. When you have appointments with your agent, if they show up, they show up late. You are stuck in home-selling purgatory and need to make a change.
By now, you may be pondering the question, “how to fire my real estate agent?”
No one wants to feel like the bad guy, but sometimes you need to move on and find an agent who responds to your needs. It’s nothing personal, just business.
To make sure we figured out the best process on how to fire your real estate and not feel like the bad guy, we talked with Janet Anderson, a top agent who sells properties 27% faster than average in Tracy, California, and Anthony Marguleas, a top agent in Los Angeles, California, who works with 65% more single-family homes than the average Los Angeles agent. Both shared their insights and tips and explained how to fire your real estate agent.
When a Realtor® and you go into a contract they have a fiduciary duty to represent you whether you’re the buyer or seller.
- Janet Anderson Real Estate AgentCloseJanet Anderson Real Estate Agent at Keller Williams Realty5.0Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience 16
- Transactions 273
- Average Price Point $477k
- Single Family Homes 249
What are some good reasons to fire my real estate agent?
If you have clear signs that your agent is ineffective, it’s time to fire them. Anderson explains that an agent must work in your best interests, “When a Realtor® and you go into a contract they have a fiduciary duty to represent you whether you’re the buyer or seller.” When a real estate agent violates their fiduciary duty or runs afoul of the National Association of Realtor® (NAR) Code of Ethics, it’s time to fire them.
What are some good reasons to fire your real estate agent? You can get rid of your real estate agent if they:
- act unprofessional
- are incompetent
- violate NAR’s Code of Ethics, which includes being honest and truthful
An unprofessional real estate agent will
- be a lousy communicator
- show up late to, or miss appointments
- speak down to, or with disrespect for, their client
- use language unbecoming of a real estate professional
- dress sloppy or leave a bad impression on prospective buyers
Explain to your agent upfront about your communication expectations to make sure they are a good fit. If they agree to your expectations but then refuse to uphold their end of the bargain – it might be time to fire your real estate agent.
“You’re hiring them [real estate agent] to do a job. If they’re not doing that job because they’re not communicating or getting back to you within a reasonable time, that would be grounds to certainly, potentially fire them,” says Anderson.
To sell a home, you have to keep on a stringent schedule. Missed appointments and/or lateness might derail the whole process. If your agent misses appointments, showings, open houses, or other integral events, you should probably fire your real estate agent.
An incompetent real estate agent might
- do real estate part-time: ignorant of the many financial laws and regulations controlling real estate transactions
- know little about your local market: cannot accurately price, market, stage, show, or sell your home, does not know about comps (comparable home sales)
- market ineffectively: eschews social media and other online marketing venues
- negotiate poorly: poor negotiations pull money from your pocketbook
- sell slowly: time is money; when a house lingers on a stable market, it costs you money
An unethical real estate agent might
- act dishonestly or tell half-truths
- omit important information to avoid looking incompetent
- give you bad advice
- provide little or no guidance
- not take responsibility for their mistakes
Any real estate agent who acted in this manner most likely violated NAR’s Code of Ethics. You may have grounds to file a complaint.
You’ve decided to replace your real estate agent, now what?
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How to fire my real estate agent: A step-by-step guide
Before you fire your real estate agent, you should know about the potential risks depending on if you are the buyer or seller.
If you you are the seller
You probably signed a listing agreement when you decided to sell your home. The listing agreement is a legally binding contract between you and the real estate agent or the broker. The contract gives the agent or broker the right to sell the home.
You enter into one of the most significant financial transactions in your life when you sell your home. The stakes are high; high stakes cause high emotions.
You have to worry about the listing, staging, showing of your home while also living there! It causes a massive disruption to your day-to-day life. Your Realtor® needs to be there to assuage your stress and steer you in the best direction.
Once you find out that your agent is not the right fit for you, it’s time to fire them.
First, closely read your contract. Search for language that indicates fees or early termination penalties. Your agreement might have a protection period paragraph that prevents you from working with another real estate agent. Find a real estate attorney to inspect the contract and provide specific advice.
Second, talk to your agent and send a follow-up email with your wishes. “I’m never going to keep someone to their contract if they’re not happy with my service. I’m going to let them out of their contract, but some Realtors® they will not,” says Anderson. In that case, she advises you to establish a paper trail and take it up a notch.
Third, talk to the brokerage (if they have one). Your agent might be one who won’t let you out of the contract. In that case, contact the broker and explain the situation.
The firm needs to maintain goodwill, so you might be able to secure a different agent from the agency or secure a release from your contract. Either way, you are in a better position than you were previously.
We want to reiterate here – get everything in writing – emails are good, but signed paper documents from the real estate or broker provide better protection.
Even if you follow all the previous steps, you may not be successful. That’s OK; you still have some options. One option is (relatively) inexpensive and slow, and the other is expensive and fast.
The inexpensive and slow option requires you to finish the contract’s terms. You can refuse to participate in the selling process, wait for the contract to end or let the protection period expire. Once the contract is up, you can find a new real estate agent.
The expensive and fast option requires you to pay an additional fee. If you decide to hire another agent, you will be on the hook for two commissions. Suppose you decide to sell the home yourself; you will still have to pay the commission on your home.
If you are the buyer
If you decide to fire your agent as a buyer, there are fewer hurdles. In general, buyers and real estate agents do not sign a contract. While it may be more straightforward, it still benefits you to be professional when you part ways.
First, make your agent aware that you want to find someone new.
Second, make sure to keep your communication cordial and business-like.
Third, if you signed a contract, refer to the previous steps. Your actions will be similar to those described above (“if you are the seller”) to help you navigate the situation.
How can I hire a better real estate agent?
You need to make sure your agent is knowledgeable. “When you ask your agent questions, the agent needs to be able to answer them,” Marguelas says. “That [non-local] agent may not know about comps, or that the city is building a new train line.”
To find the best agent for you, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
What’s the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor®?
- licensed by the state, and are members of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR)
- bound by their Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice
- subject to Code of Ethics Trainings and Certifications
What questions should I ask a Realtor® candidate?
You can interview an agent in as little as 15 minutes. When you talk to a potential real estate agent, ask these questions:
- How long have you been in business?
- How well do you know the area?
- What sets you apart from other agents here?
- How many clients do you represent at a time?
Anderson advises that you should also ask:
- Do you have references?
- Do you understand the legal and financial aspects of the contract?
“Let them know you’re interviewing them for a job,” Anderson says. You want someone who is not just looking to cash a paycheck but an actual partner and guide along your selling journey.
What do I look for to identify a good agent?
When you’ve found a good agent, hold onto them. You will know your agent is good by their performance, including but not limited to:
- Impressive average sale-to-list price ratio
- Houses spend fewer days on market (DOM)
- High number and type of transactions
Another characteristic is their availability to communicate with you. “I think communication’s the biggest key because then you’re going to feel confident that they’re [the agent] doing what they’re saying they’re doing,” Anderson says.
Is a ‘Real Estate Contract Termination Letter’ important?
Anderson notes that this is a legal question. But in general, having a termination letter establishes a paper trail and provides proof of the cancellation of the contract. The document is legally enforceable and prevents arguments if and when you find a new agent.
Bottom line: Take the guesswork out of finding a top agent
You always have the option to fire your real estate agent. If you run into issues with your agent and have to fire them, you’re now prepared.
Remember that as a seller who wants to fire your real estate agent, you should:
- read your contract and talk to an attorney
- speak to your agent
- talk to the broker (or boss)
You can also choose to wait it out or pay the fees to move on with the process.
If you are the buyer, the process is much easier, as long as there is no signed agreement. Just professionally let your agent know that you no longer need their services, and that should end the relationship.
No matter your situation, always get your agreements and communications in writing.
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