Imagine. You take the time to interview real estate agents; you sign a contract with the agent you think you can work well with, and then a few weeks down the line, you realize you have made a terrible mistake. When you find yourself in this position, can you fire your real estate agent?
You can fire your real estate agent, but how smoothly that goes and the impact it may or may not have on any sale or purchase of your home will depend on a variety of factors. Whether or not:
- You have a signed contract with your agent
- How willing your agent is to “let you go.”
- The stage of your purchase
Can You Fire Your Real Estate Agent?
In principle, yes, absolutely, you can fire your real estate agent, but it is not as straightforward as firing an employee.
This is because, technically speaking, your real estate agent doesn’t work for you. Instead, you and your agent enter into a contract where they agree to provide you with a particular service, and you agree to ensure something in return for that service. As a contract is a legal obligation and cannot just be broken by one side without any legal repercussions, you cannot turn round and simply “fire” your real estate agent in the way you would someone in an employee/employer relationship.
The details of how you go about finding your real estate agent depend on whether you are a buyer or a seller.
The First Steps To Take If You Have A Problem With Your Real Estate Agent
For both buyers and sellers, when you first begin to have a problem with your real estate agent, the best thing to do is to set up a meeting and speak with them. It may be that your agent is surprised to hear you are unhappy, and as soon as you mention the problem, they may be willing and able to fix it.
On the other hand, if you speak with your agent and you cannot come to an agreement, you can then move onto the next step.
How To Fire Your Agent – Buyers
If you are a buyer who wishes to fire their agent and speaking with the agent hasn’t resolved, the issue is to consider is where you are in the purchase process.
At The Begining Of Your Home Search
When you are at the beginning of your home search, and you haven’t yet found a place you like the look of, you have a couple of options:
- Speak with the agent’s broker and see if they can resolve your issue or set you up with another real estate agent in the brokerage.
- If the agent is also a broker and works independently, or if you do not wish to stay with the same brokerage, you can ask to end the contract.
- In a situation where the agent is willing to end the contract, ask them for termination of the agreement form. In states where this is used, both parties sign the form to agree they will no longer work together and that the terms of the contract will no longer be enforced. If there isn’t a form available, put the cancelation in writing and have your real estate agent sign, as well as signing it yourself.
- If the agent does not agree to early termination, review your contract to see if the agent has failed to adhere to the conditions in any way. If they have, you can point this out and ask again that the agreement be terminated due to the fact they have broken the terms of the contract.
- On occasions where this is not enough to end the agreement, you can either wait for your contract to expire, or you will have to contact a real estate lawyer to help you.
When You Have Found A Home
When you have found a home you wish to purchase, and your agent was the one to bring the property to your attention, things are more complicated.
Once your buyer’s agent shares a property with you, and you then make an offer on that home, your agent becomes the “procuring cause.” This means that they were the reason you found this propery, and as such, they are entitled to a commission. Even if you fire your agent, as soon as they have become the procuring cause, they become entitled to their payment.
If this is the situation you find yourself in, you have to ask yourself whether the benefits of firing your agent will outweigh the problems.
If you can grin and bear it, that is the best solution, if not, speak with the agent’s broker and see if someone else in the brokerage can take over, without leaving you financially liable or any commission payments.
When none of these options are possible, your only recourse is to speak with a real estate lawyer who can advise you as to your next steps. This is still the case, even if the agent has broken the terms of your contract.
And whatever you do, don’t take on another buyers agent without legal advice.
How To Fire Your Agent – Sellers
For sellers who have decided they cannot work with their agent, the process is a little more complicated.
Before You Find A Buyer
As with buyers agents, you can:
- Ask to end the contract, and they may be willing to do so. Again, be sure to have this agreement documented and signed.
- If you cannot end the contract by mutual agreement, you can speak with the broker to see if you can work with a different agent in the brokerage.
- When this is not possible or if you are unwilling to stay with the brokerage, you can review your contract to see if the agent has broken any terms. If they have, you can try to use this as leverage to extract yourself from the agreement.
- Finally, if none of this works, you can either let the contract expire, or you can contact a real estate lawyer for advice.
A Word Of Caution For Sellers
Although you may not have an offer from a buyer when you fire your real estate agent, if you subsequently receive an offer to purchase from a buyer as a result of the work of your fired agent, they can still claim that they are the procuring cause and as such are entitled to commission.
This applies even after your listing, and your contract have expired, so don’t try to wait out your real estate agent and make the sale after the expiry date. If you try this, you’ll still owe the fired agent their commission.
After You Have Found A Buyer
Once you have accepted an offer from a potential buyer, things become more complicated. Your agent is the seller’s side of the “procuring cause” of your sale, which means their work was responsible for bringing you and the buyer together.
In this case, your agent is entitled to the commission to which you agreed in your contract. Even if you fire your agent at this stage, unless they agree in writing that they forego their payment, you will still be on the hook for their entire commission.
Therefore, if you are unable to resolve the issues with the agent or their agency, your next step is to take legal advice.
No matter what the reason is for wanting to fire your real estate agent, the best thing to do is simply sit down and talk with each other. Layout the problems you have and see is they can be resolved in such a way you are happy to carry on with the relationship.
If you are unable to fix the issues you are having, then the first step is to ask your agent outright is they would be willing to cancel your contract. If they are unwilling to cancel, or if they must have broker approval for a cancelation, then your next step is to ask the broker to cancel the contract. The majority of real estate agents will not want to force you to continue a working relationship if the client is unhappy.
If you already have a purchase agreement in place, or if your eventual sale is the result of your agent’s work, then things become more complicated. Once you have a signed purchase agreement, your agent becomes entitled to their commission, even if you fire them, and as a result, most agents would be unwilling to walk away from their contract with you at this stage.
An agent who has been instrumental in introducing a buyer and a seller can still claim their commission if they have been fired before the sale agreement has been signed if they can show it was their work that resulted in the sale.
The best advice is that if you cannot come to a mutually agreed end of the contract, seek legal advice to ensure you do not find yourself in lengthy and expensive litigation.
Other Helpful Information From Real Estate Professionals
Even when you do your best to find the right real estate agent, you can still wind up with someone you are unsatisfied with. Whatever your reasons, you may find that you want to fire your Realtor. Find out how from Bill Gassett.
Are you thinking of firing your real estate agent? Before you decide to jump ship and starts interviewing new agents you need to answer these 6 questions from Michelle Gibson.
The majority of Realtors are conscientious individuals and do a really good job for their clients. However, what surprises me is those home sellers who are unfortunate enough to end with a dud agent, why they don’t complain or do something about it? Read this comprehensive list from Conor MacEvilly.
About The Author
Geoff Southworth is the creator of RealEstateInfoGuide.com, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.