How to Fire Your Real Estate Agent


Whether you're selling a home or buying one, your realtor is a key partner in the process.

When you're selling, you want your real estate agent to negotiate the highest price for your home in as few days as possible. When you're buying, you want your agent to find the best house for you at the lowest price.

Working with the right agent can help you save or make a significant amount of money in what might be the biggest financial transaction of your life. So if you're dissatisfied with your agent, it might be time to break up your relationship.

But how do you do this?

Breaking up when buying

Ending a relationship with an agent who is helping you buy a home is simple. That's largely because you don't pay these agents, even when they successfully help you find and purchase a home.

When you close on a home, your agent is paid by the seller from the proceeds of the home's sale. The listing agent and the agent representing the buyer split a commission equally. This commission is usually 5 percent or 6 percent of the home sale — meaning that the agent representing you gets 2.5 percent or 3 percent of the money. That money does not come from your pocket. It comes from the seller's.

Because of this, most buyers don't even sign a contract stating that they are working with an agent. They just start working with that agent, who will show them homes available for sale. That agent will also draw up the offer papers when buyers find a home they want to purchase and will handle negotiations to close the sale on behalf of the buyer.

If you no longer want to work with your buyer's agent, ending the relationship is as simple as telling them. Give them a call and politely explain that you don't feel that they're the right fit for you.

Breaking up when selling

Ending a relationship with a real estate agent gets more complicated when they're helping you sell your house.

Because you are the one who pays your agent, you'll have to sign a contract. Most contracts between a homeowner and real estate agent are "exclusive right to sell." These contracts state that the listing agent receives the commission when the home sells no matter who finds the buyer. The contract will also state the commission you'll pay, usually 5 percent or 6 percent of the sale. It will also state the duration of the agreement, perhaps three or six months. Typically, you'll want this duration to be as short as possible. Then if you're unhappy, you can simply end the relationship by not renewing the contract.

Ending the contract early

Before you sign a contract, ask your agent what happens if you are unhappy with the service. Will he or she will let you cancel the contract before its end date? What conditions need to be met to allow a quicker break of the contract? Agents might agree to let you out of your contract if a certain number of showings aren't scheduled or offers aren't made during a set period of time. This is important: It's easier to break a contract if you can prove that your agent isn't fulfilling the duties listed in the contract.

Some agents will let you end the relationship early simply because they don't want to work with a client who isn't pleased with their services. Agents rely on positive recommendations from past clients; they don't want to take the chance that an angry client will spread negative information about them.

If you're unhappy with your agent, contact them immediately. Explain, politely, why you want to break your contract. Maybe you don't think your agent is doing enough to market your home. Maybe you aren't happy with the photos they took or the online listing they created. Your agent might be willing to make changes in the service he or she is providing to resolve your differences. If the differences can't be resolved, the brokerage in which your agent works will usually provide you with a different agent from its office with whom you can work.

If you don't want to work with the brokerage at all, you'll have to rely on its mercy when trying to break a listing contract before it expires. Some brokerages will let you break your contract if you're not happy. Others won't. Remember, your agent and brokerage have no legal obligation to let you out of a contract as long as the agent is fulfilling the duties listed in it. You can hire a lawyer to break a contract, but there is no guarantee that you'll succeed. Pursuing this option will also be costly.

Sometimes your best option is to wait out the contract until it expires. This is why signing a contract with the shortest duration is the smartest move.

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