It’s important to know — what do real estate agents do? But even understanding their role doesn’t ensure you’ll be happy with the job they are doing. Hiring a real estate agent is like entering into any relationship. Unless you do exhaustive due diligence ahead of time, it’s hard to know exactly what you’re going to get in terms of communication and work product. Ideally, you’d choose an agent who treats you professionally and meets or exceeds your expectations, but if you don’t, there is a way to fire them.
How to Fire a Real Estate Agent
You may ask yourself “Can I fire my real estate agent?” The answer is yes, you can. Whether it’s a lack of communication, unprofessionalism — or even fraud — people have lots of reasons they’re dissatisfied with their real estate agent. If you’re one of these people, hopefully you’ve signed a short contract (ideally no more than 30 days) and you can let it run out before hiring a new agent. If you have a longer contract or need to sell your house ASAP, here’s how to fire your agent.
Step 1: Give the Real Estate Agent a Warning
Sometimes your dissatisfaction is the result of a simple miscommunication. Maybe you didn’t clearly communicate your expectations in the beginning, or maybe you said one thing and the agent heard another. Whatever the reason, the first course of action when you’re unhappy with your agent is to have a conversation about it. Be specific about your expectations and where they have fallen short, then give them a two-week period of time to remedy the problem.
If the real estate agent is a professional and cares about you as a client, they will take immediate steps to fix the situation.
Start your relationship with your real estate agent off on the right foot by setting your expectations upfront. Tell them how often you expect to communicate and via which medium. If it’s a listing agent, get a detailed breakdown of how they plan to market your home and if they are a buyer’s agent, be clear about how often you want to see new listings and tour homes for sale.
Step 2: Meet With the Real Estate Agent’s Broker
All real estate agents must list their license under the supervision of a broker. So if your agent is stubborn and unwilling to change, or if they attempted to fix the problem but were unsuccessful, make an appointment to meet with the managing broker or the owner of the firm.
In the meeting, be as specific as possible. Explain your expectations to the managing broker or owner and give a detailed account of how the agent fell short. The broker will likely try to convince you to hire another agent from the same firm so it’s best to decide before the meeting whether or not you want to switch companies altogether. If you do want to switch companies, explain to the broker that you want to terminate your relationship with the firm as a whole, not just the agent.
If the broker is unwilling to try to make it right, explain that you have a lot of friends and family in the area and you would hate to advise them to stay away from this real estate firm. Real estate agents depend on referrals and one unhappy well-connected client can put a serious dent in the firm’s ability to do business.
Step 3: Sweeten the Pot
One of the biggest reasons real estate agents resist terminating their listing agreements early is they often spend a lot of their own money upfront to market your home. If your agent seems really resistant, ask for a detailed breakdown of their expenses and if it seems reasonable, offer to pay them. Knowing they won’t be out money because of the termination might make them more likely to walk away from the relationship.
Step 4: Breach the Contract
Breaching the contract could have legal implications so be sure to read it carefully before you take any action. Know what your financial obligations to the real estate agent will be and how long you’ll have to wait in order avoid them. Breaching your contract is a measure of last resort and should only be employed if your agent is really negligent or has committed fraud.
Unfortunately, firing a real estate agent isn’t like firing an employee or breaking up with a partner. The listing contract you sign at the start of the relationship means you have to take extra care when dissolving it. Hopefully, your dissatisfaction can be resolved with a simple conversation, but if it can’t, you have a few options on how to move forward.