When Should You Fire Your Real Estate Agent?

By Xin Lu on 7 October 2009 (Updated 22 February 2010) 29 comments

Lately several couples I know have been trying to purchase real estate, and it seems that none of them are too happy with their real estate agents. Some of them have been working with their agents for months without any positive outcome. The fact is that some of these poorly performing agents should have been fired long ago. Here are some signs that you should fire your real estate agent.

1. You know the agent is being unethical.

One person reported that his agent sent multiple buyers to the same houses, and subtlely encouraged the buyers to bid against each other. This agent is basically pitting his own clients against each other and that is not in the interest of any of the clients. If you suspect your agent of being unethical then it is probably best to cut off that relationship because these agents could bring you more trouble down the road.

2. The agent seems to have no basic knowledge of the local real estate market.

A good buyer's agent should know the general condition and trends of the real estate market he or she works in and provide some advice to buyers as to how much money to offer on a house. One person I know was extremely upset when she bid on a home that she later found out to be quite a bit more expensive than comparable homes. She blamed this on the agent for not offering any pricing advice when she asked how much should be offered. The offer was withdrawn, but the agent's lack of knowledge became pretty apparent.

3. The agent does not listen to you.

This is a pretty common complaint I hear about. Basically, the real estate agent shows homes to clients that do not meet the clients' requirements. The most common problem is that the agents show people homes outside the price ranges they have agreed upon. There are also requirements like school district or home size that the bad agents seem to ignore. Basically these agents seem to completely forget what the clients want. If this is happening to you then you should definitely confront your agent about it, and if he or she insists on showing you homes $200,000 above your budget then maybe it should be time to say goodbye.

4. The agent is difficult to get in touch with.

A good and eager agent is usually reachable by the client and replies to emails and phone calls even if they are busy. If you cannot find your agent for days on end, then maybe he or she does not really want to work with you and it is time to move on.

5. The agent displays general incompetence.

In several instances I have heard people complain about how many mistakes their agents made. For example, an agent could not spell one particular client's name correctly in emails, and then the same mistake was carried onto offers. If you see constant incompetence on the part of the agent then it is probably in your interest to hire someone new. A real estate transaction is a big deal for most people, and you cannot afford to have someone who makes mistakes as a habit.

In general, you should probably part ways with your real estate agent if it feels like you are both wasting your time. It does not do you or the agent any good if you are all running around for months without achieving your goal of closing on a home. When you are ready to fire the agent, you should check if you signed any representation contracts and if you have any financial or legal obligations to keep him or her. Usually there is some kind of Buyer's Broker Agreement with some set terms. It is possible that you have to let such agreements expire before looking for a new agent. A good real estate agent should save you time and money and make your home buying process go as smoothly as possible, but a bad agent will cause additional stress and anxiety. Of course, to avoid some of these problems you should screen your realtor carefully before hiring him or her and read any agreements you sign.

Have you had to fire a real estate agent?  What was your reasoning?

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Guest's picture
Drew

I can agree with a lot of this advice. There are a lot of agents out there that just aren't that good at their job. They don't understand that they are a small business, and don't act as such.

And while I do carry the title REALTOR, I decline to use it because I feel that it cheapens the profession as opposed to enhancing it like the local, state, and national boards would have you believe. Why do I carry it? If I want access to the MLS system, I need to join the local board of REALTORs, and pay my dues there as well as MLS access fees.

Instead, I opt to use Licensed Real Estate Salesperson. Bottom line up front, the state the agent works in is who ultimately issues their licensed as a real estate salesperson. The term REALTOR is mostly marketing.

My biggest suggestion for finding an agent you can work with is to find one who has a personality that suits you. Chances are the agent that works best with you will end up helping you build the best deal on your purchase, or get the most on your sale.

Guest's picture
Guest

The truth is if you truly have a relationship in any customer-salesperson equation you will resonate well, if you don't, you won't. Period.

Guest's picture
econobiker

"3. The agent does not listen to you.
This is a pretty common complaint I hear about. Basically, the real estate agent shows homes to clients that do not meet the clients' requirements. The most common problem is that the agents show people homes outside the price ranges they have agreed upon."

Go figure that most real estate people would try to max out their customer's purchasing costs since that results in higher commissions. But then again the Freakonomics economics guys proved that many agents get their clients to accept offers slightly lower than needed since this sells quicker. They compared the prices which agents got selling their own homes versus homes of other people and it showed this trend...

Guest's picture
Lorenzo

There may be good real estate agents out there, but I haven't met them. In the past few years, we have purchased twice, and sold once. We worked with about ten agents over that time. However well intentioned an agent might be, there are simply not the financial incentives in place for an agent to do other than what you have described. Now, there are plenty of resources available for a buyer or seller to do market analysis for themselves. This clued us in to just how poorly our agents were doing, from our perspective. What was particularly frustrating was that when we suggested alternate compensation schemes that would reward our agent for the behavior we wanted, there was always a great deal of resistance.

Guest's picture
Wonka

I recently bought a home and had a decent experience with my Realtor. However I experienced problems from the seller's agent. She acted unethically to get the most out of the house like lying about other offers to put pressure on me. My Realtor was from the same large agency and didn't push back hard enough. So I felt like I was ganged up on from both sides. I'm not sure firing my agent would have helped much in that situation.

Julie Rains's picture

I had to not hire an agent who then thought I was using her to get market advice (only). My husband and I had found ourselves in an odd situation, having to sell a house within 6 months of buying it and after negotiating a good price because the house had been on the market for about a year and was near a foreclosed home. She panicked and decided the market was falling b/c we had gotten a decent deal (our home was included in market comps) and was discouraging. We decided we needed someone who was more positive so we went to another agent, who happened to be incredibly professional and of course very upbeat. The house sold in 30 days.

There are great agents out there but they can be difficult to find (perhaps they are busy!); a good one will not be intimidated by buyers or sellers who have some knowledge and have done market research but still value the agent's expertise.

 

Guest's picture
Guest

I had to fire an agent becuase they had family issues that were translating into poor job performance.

Guest's picture
Guest

If, as was suggested, you check the representation agreement, or Buyer Broker contract, it's likely you will find a clearly written clause that states that the agent may show the property to more than one buyer. As a Realtor, I have had to do this myself on several occasions. Especially in the lower price ranges, there is an undersupply of homes, so it's very common for multiple buyers to be vying for the same property.

In the interest of disclosure and fairness, I always disclose to these buyers that I have other clients interested in the same property. It's not a scare tactic to induce an offer, but a question of disclosure. The disclosure is as far as I go. Offer prices and terms are never, ever discussed. Sharing such information to give one party an advantage over another would be very unethical.

As in any industry, there are high performers and low performers, and the majority of agents lie somewhere in between. I freely submit that the barrier to enter the real estate sales market is extremely low. Agents and consumers alike would be better served if the licensing standards were dramatically increased. I'd be glad to discuss this, or any related topic, so feel free to comment or contact me directly.

Guest's picture

I would also add that when the agent is pushy pushy pushy. One thing that I love about my Realtor is that she is not afraid to tell us what she thinks and listen to what we liked/didn't like about a house instead of being one of those agents that can only say positive things about a house that they are trying to sell so that they can move onto the next commission.

Financial Samurai's picture

The real estate industry is one of the shadiest industries on earth, from the assessors on down.

I was so mad when my agent made $30,000 in commissions off a house I found. I was a newbie and ignorant then. He should have given me at least half of his commission, or allowed me to use the $30,000 to reduce the purchase price of my house.

Til this day, I'm still mad at him and I will never use him.

The industry is a bunch of crooks. Beware!!

I just buy property on my own now.

Keigu,

Financial Samurai
"Slicing Through Money's Mysteries"

Guest's picture
MyMy

Is this a joke????you could have just submitted a lesser bid.

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

What about when your agent knows what he's doing but after seeing 80 places you still don't want to buy? Is it anyone's fault?

The Writer's Coin  |  Follow me on Twitter

Guest's picture
Carol

Sound like there is/was too much available on the market. In a buyers market, many would-be buyers look and look and look. They see lots of houses that they really like, but never actually make a decision on any of them. Instead they keep looking because with all that's out there for sale, there is probably a better one than the ones they have seen. I've had buyers making plans for what they can do with my house, where they will put the furniture,etc. They exhibited all the signs of being ready to buy. But later the agent tells me that they really love the house, have it on their hot list, but want to see what else might be coming up available. That is partially the agent's fault for not working to close the deal. Not the listing agent, but rather the agent who brought the people to look. The listing agent can't close another agent's clients.

Guest's picture
Guest

I would add to that list that you should not choose a "family friend" as your realtor, so you don't feel obliged to stick with him/her even if they turn out to be a horrid realtor. My realtor kept showing me houses 100-200K over my price range, and after months of this, she pretty much told me I was hopeless. Then I found a perfect house in the neighborhood I wanted that was within my price range. It had been in market all along, but my realtor just kept showing me the expensive houses in the same neighborhood. Horrible, greedy realtor.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

WC, if you saw that many houses without getting any results and you believe that your agent is doing the best he/she could, then in my opinion it is probably time to take a break and look back on what has happened.  I know that some homebuyers are super picky, too, but sometimes deals fall through because agents are not good at negotiating or relaying information.  Also, some agents just don't have the clout and relationship with some of the seller agents that control a lot of the bank owned properties now.  It is not that they are not working hard, but they are not working smart.  It is not anyone's "fault" in particular, but if it's really not working out then it is better to switch to an agent that could close the deal for you to avoid wasting any time. 

Guest's picture
Lucille

We had to fire one realtor in the middle of trying to sell our house and buy a larger one. She was doing very little to actually help find a buyer for the house beyond running a color ad.

What was worse was the properties she was showing us. First she told us we could not afford new (we actually could). We found out from our new agent that the square footage on these new homes did not include the unfinished lower level. So a two bedroom home could be finished out as a 3-4 bedroom with 2+ baths. We would have looked at new had this first agent not steered us away from new homes.

The second thing she did was to show us a series of homes that probably should have been condemned and then tell us this was all we could afford. There was new construction in our price range so this is doubtful. One was an abandoned farm home that would have needed to be completely gutted and redone. It was also tiny with no architectural value. The other was an older home that had decent features but was infested with carpenter ants eating the wood and a basement with an ongoing water problem and mold growing all over it. She told us these were our only options and pushed us hard to make an offer on the home with the carpenter ants and mold. She was extremely nasty when we fired her the next day.

Some of the bigger problems we have had with agents is how many of them were trying to push people into these sketchy loans being written by mortgage brokers. There was some serious conflict of interest issues going on there.

Real estate can be full of questionable tactics and big consequences if you get stuck with a bad property or mortgage. I opted to not hire a relative to inspect the most recent home we purchased. It was as-is and a foreclosure. If someone was going to screw up I didn't want it to be a relative and put a huge strain on our family if something went bad later. I guess I was screwed either way. Because I didn't hire her she has refused to speak to me for years other than to call me two years later and chew me out for not hiring her.

There is a reason buying a home ranks high on the list of things that stress people out.

Julie Rains's picture

WC, something like this happened to me, and the realtor was actually very good. My husband and I were moving to a new area and trying to decide between 1) the nice community with houses that were hard to sell later and 2) the bedroom community with houses that turned much faster. She represented 1 and we all should have figured out the problem before she showed us so many homes; adding to the problem was that the homes we could afford were not in the kinds of neighborhoods we really wanted -- I happened to like established, walkable ones btw. But this was before online MLS (or online anything really) so the search could be streamlined now. We never made an offer with her, and ending buying and selling in area 2 -- good thing b/c we were only in this area for about a year before relocating -- should have rented a house, which we did next!

But as Xin mentioned, if the agent can't help push things through, then something definitely is wrong -- we've also had this problem. Agents got testy and refused to present offers that were just $1000 below asking prices, even though it is state law that all offers need to be presented.

Guest's picture
Guest

So my realtor seems to be continuously lying about the availability of some properties. Certain houses which we liked and asked to see would suddenly have an accepted offer. Then we call the listing agent for that property and there is no offer. Why would our agent do this? Does it have something to do with what listing agents he/she likes to work with?

It's total garbage I'm not hiring a realtor ever again.

Guest's picture

These are all good comments, and I'm sure there are many many multiples of each story. However, there really is a great way to locate a super efficient, and very market knowledgeable real estate professional. And, it didn't exist even 5 years ago.

As the Web has become the marketing venue with the most clout, and blogs have become the tool of many marketing-savvy real estate professionals, you can find one who knows what's going on in their market and can articulate it well. Just go to their websites, and not from paid results on Google. Use the free results.

Then, check out the content of their site. Is it the same old "use me I'm great" stuff? Is "Top Producer" mentioned multiple times? Are there a lot of photos of the agent/broker? Can you find relevant and up-to-date market statistics? In 95%+ of site visits, you won't find stats, and you will find plenty of the old marketing hype.

But, when you find a site with articles/blog posts about the business of real estate in that market, this is one you should look into further. Lots of statistics, sold property data, area and subdivision news and information, and common sense content about the process of buying and selling, title insurance, negotiations, repairs and other issues are what you should find.

This should indicate a real estate professional who values market knowledge, and wants to share it without hype or constant requirements to "register" to get your email address for marketing. The new breed of "professional" will offer valuable information without obligation, knowing that enough site visitors will appreciate it and give this person their business.

Guest's picture
eliza-b

Wow! What concept. Essentially, everything one does for gainful employment is a form of "fee for service." Some work harder than others.

Realtors, real-estate consultants, real estate sales agents, etc., do a LOT of work for their clients if they are ethical and understand contracts. I would say that if you feel like you don't trust your agent, look for a new one. Rely on your gut feeling - being able to communicate with and understand this person is critical.

Don't overlook the newer agents who will work VERY hard for you and typically have an abundance of experienced mentors following behind the scenes. Knowing market data is great sign that agents know their market. But, in a city like Los Angeles, where every neighborhood has a different median sales price and a different absorbtion rate, it is impossible to know every statistic for the numbers and types of homes that buyers wish to see.

My advice to buyers is to make a list of "must haves, wants and don't want." Inlcude area and price on your list as well as number of bedrooms/baths, for starters. Improve your list as you go along; you might find that, for example, having a fireplace or a pool has changed from a "don't want" to a "want." Engage your agent in developing this list so you are both on the same page.

My advice to agents, do the same thing. Know your inventory and stats. Know when to refer a buyer to another agent when you feel that the relationship isn't clicking smoothly.

Ciao.

Guest's picture
Jim

I had to fire the first realtor because she was showing us homes that were above what we wanted. That was easy. I am about to fire my current realtor because over the past year, she show little interest in listening to what we want. She did not want to lease our home out while the market is so bad. Eventually it was rented at our prodding. Now, while the current renter would like to set up a lease option to buy, we have agreed and we are still waiting after two weeks for our realtor to find time to help us. While I am mentioning it, our contract with our realtor ended on July 2009 so I know we are not under any obligation. Just to many little mistakes on their part. The list goes on.

Guest's picture
Marcy

Well, it hasn't gotten any better, and in some ways it's a whole lot worse. My personal experience was half outstanding and half infuriating. My agent (buyer) is great. We work exceptionally well together. I found the right property within hours of it popping up on the MLS, and have now closed escrow. That said...the seller's agents were a complete nightmare. I see what they do, and it is utterly reprehensible.
1) Told the home owner she should not list on the MLS, then had their straw buyer make a ridiculous $50,000 offer (land alone is worth nearly 200k, let alone house, barn and outbuildings). During this time, they also refused to speak to anyone who called on the property (it had a For Sale sign on it, with their number) or made up lies as to why it could not be shown. They never told the owner anyone had called.

2) She refused, asked that it be placed on the MLS. I saw it, made a full price conventional, 20% down offer...and they went to her with another straw buyer, and said she should take THAT offer - which was 120k. $90,000 less than my offer.

3) She refused the straw offer and accepted mine - and then the shenanigans began. They canceled necessary appointments she made for inspections, refused to answer phone calls, were "unavailable" whenever my agent called, belittled (slandered, really) the seller to me and my agent, sent people to the property to harass whomever was there working on it, wouldn't tell the seller when there was papers she needed to sign and acted in every way possible to try and make the escrow fail.

Luckily, the seller and I had become friends during this time, and figured out a workaround for everything: we basically cut her agents out of the information flow completely and simply didn't use them. I would speak to my agent or broker, they would speak to escrow and then give me the info, which I would relay to the seller. Things became much easier after that.

Pretty sorry stuff. So vindictive that they were not able to snap up the property for a pittance and flip it for at least 150k profit, that they then acted unethically over and over. Unfortunately, this current market is rife with such. Do your own research, and don't believe anything you are told out of hand. If there is more money to be made by theft and lies, there you will find thieves and liars looking for the next mark.

Guest's picture
Don Groff

All Very good Reasons indeed.  Pretty obvious ones too.  An agent showing any of these tendencies is also not going to go to bat for you in the negotiation process.  Unfortunately there are too many part time agents or agents that do not uphold their fiduciary duties to their clients... and that makes us all look bad.

Guest's picture
Guest

what if your agent befriends your banker or mortgage broker? I am not at ease with that at all, but is it a red flag?

Guest's picture
Carolyn Thatcher

What do I do if I obtained an agent and during doing a contract with him to sell my house, he said if you want to void this contract at anytime you can do so, I understand what you've been through. Now I wrote a letter to void the contract and he won't. But he only showed my home to three people in one month and never returns my calls when I have a question. Also I wanted a lockbox and he never put one on, I wanted other agents to have easy access as he hardly ever answers his phone. So how caould another agent show my hone. what do I do now he won't let me cancel?

Please help
Carolyn Thatcher

Guest's picture
Guest

What about a realtor who is rather "green" or new to the job? I feel as if ours is a little inexperienced and doesn't yet have the traffic to move our home. Also, I ask for feedback regarding those who view our house, but never get consistent feedback.

Guest's picture
MorningStar

We just had a bad experience. We know a guy who is a realtor and many friends had used him, so we thought it was OK. The lender he works with often also came highly recommended, but he hasn't been forthcoming about how the estimated payments were broken down and we had to drag it out of him what our percentage rate was. he estimated a little less than $1400 for a $250,000 house including taxes and insurance. I knew this could vary based on the property tax, but we were a little shocked when this property came out $200 higher than that. We decided we needed to pass on that.

The realtor asked us if we had prayed about buying a house. We found it inappropriate.

He told us the seller's price was firm. Isn't that what everyone says? Rather than suggest we negotiate a price, he asked us where we could cut our spending to afford it and ignored all of the maintenance concerns we had - the windows with broken seals, peeling paint by the skylights, really old appliances, etc. Any one of those things were a threat to our savings account.

We were called at 11:30pm and both the lender and the realtor tried to tell us that this payment would be the same as our rent when you consider the tax break. I explained that we would only see half a year of tax breaks because we're buying in the middle of the year. They said we could change our withholdings, but that wouldn't make up the difference or even close. They said we should take a leap of faith and we told them no.

What made me really mad was that I told the realtor it would be nice to live close to my parents because you never know how long they're going to be around. He passed that on to the lender and when he sent us a video comparing graphs and why it makes so much sense to buy vs. rent, he said, "If your mom were to get sick, think of how much you would save in gas money if you needed to take care of her and lived close by." I literally felt sick to my stomach and woke up Mother's Day feeling awful. I knew we needed to dump both of them.

Also, this was the first house we looked at. The realtor was an hour late and decided it was pointless to look at the other houses we planned on. Just one house and he decides it's the perfect place for us even though we weren't that interested in it. The location was great and that was about it.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've just fired my Agent after many long months of working together. We made lots of offers but were still unlucky, for several reasons. We stayed with him because we both liked each other but, over time, he got very complacent, became argumentative, was always busy and the last house he didn't even turn up to show us but sent me a text to say that he'd left the key out and could we lock up when we were done so I sent him a very nice email thanking him for all that he had done for us but that we had decided to take a different route. Since then, he has sent me texts and emails, the last one being a long, hugely insulting one that attacked both me and my husbands character, amongst other things. He claims he was taken in by us and I am so shocked at how unprofessional his response has been. Is this normal? How can I avoid the same thing happening with the next agent?

Guest's picture
Guest

Our current realtor is a friend, we now rarely see or run into. He sold us our current home over 15 years ago. We are looking for a new home. I find most of the homes that are close to what we want. He only sends email lists generated by his company of possible interest. He has given excuses for not showing a few homes I have requested to see. I recently found two homes that meet my criteria that he has not offered to show me and is not included in his list. Do they only show ones that will get them the commission they want or are under certain companies? Hate to drop him but am concerned.