How to fire your real estate agent

May 29, 2018 - 4 min read

Your agent isn’t cutting it – now what?

Real estate agents play an important role for home buyers and sellers. Their hard work and skill can lead to happy outcomes. These can include a faster sale at the right price. But not every agent is the right fit for their client. And if you’re not getting the results you want, you may ponder how to fire your real estate agent.

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Not always easy

But prepare yourself: this is not always an easy process. If you signed a contract, it may include language that makes it tricky to get out of. And even if the agent kindly agrees to part ways, you may owe him or her money.

Come to this decision after careful thought. Learn the facts. Weigh your options. Use the right language. And get legal help if you need it.

Grounds for firing your agent

There can be many good reasons to fire your agent.

“Typically, a seller will fire an agent for failing to find a buyer within the required period of time. Or a buyer or seller will fire their agent for failing to give good advice. This means failure to provide a high level of care,” says Zachary D. Schorr, real estate attorney with Schorr Law. “But in most cases I see, the agent is fired for some sort of misconduct.”

Misconduct can include actions that violate the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

These can include deliberately misleading you about market value of a home. Not submitting an offer or counteroffer when time is of the essence is another. Failing to preserve your confidential information is also forbidden. Discriminating on the basis of race or color is, too.

“A lack of communication on the part of the agent is another issue. It’s often cited as a reason for agents being let go,” says Realtor Aaron Hendon, author of “Don’t Get Fooled Again: An Insider’s Guide to the 7 Question You MUST Ask to Avoid Hiring the Wrong Real Estate Agent (Again).”

Firing is easier for buyers

Buyers can fire their agents much more easily than sellers, Schorr says. That’s because buyers usually don’t sign an agreement/contract until much later in the process.

“If there’s no agency agreement in writing that you’ve signed, there are no legal issues to deal with,” says Hendon.

Say your agent is not providing good service. “Then you as the buyer are free to switch agents or fire your agent,” Schorr says.

Firing is harder for sellers

Sellers and their agents almost always sign an exclusive right to sell agreement early in the game. The terms of that contract usually require the seller to pay the agent their commission, notes Schorr.

“This contract is legally binding,” Hendon says. “It could open you to legal action. That’s certainly true if you terminate it early and then sell the property later to someone for whom the agent could prove they were the procuring cause.”

After signing your contract, “you may only be able to fire your agent for cause or based on misconduct,” adds Schorr.

Still, a contract can be dissolved if both parties agree to it.

“I’ve never heard of an agent putting up any kind of stink when a seller decides to dissolve the contract early. For them, it’s not worth the hassle, the bad will or the fight,” says Hendon.

How to fire your real estate agent

Convinced that your agent has to go? Follow these tips:

  • If you signed a contract, review its terms. “Be careful. You don’t want to fire your agent without good cause. You may owe them their full commission even though they didn’t sell your property,” says Schorr.
  • Document anything the agent did that you feel is a fireable cause. Log all details and dates carefully. Write down any other reasons for wanting to move on.
  • Avoid recruiting a new agent until this matter resolves. “In Washington state, it’s not illegal for a client to look for a new agent,” says Hendon. “But it’s against the MLS rules for an agent to talk to a buyer or seller, who is currently contracted with another agent, about representing them.”
  • Arrange to meet with the agent in person. “People tend to be less combative in face-to-face meetings,” Schorr suggests.
  • Explain your points and present your notes. “Be friendly. See if you can get the agent to agree to part ways and not have the agent make a commission claim,” says Schorr. Ask to have this termination put in a written document that you both sign.

If your agent resists

If your agent is not agreeable, you still have options. Try these suggestions:

  • Offer to compensate the agent. A seller’s agent may be more willing to terminate the contract and forgo their commission if you do so. Agree to pay something for their time in marketing and showing your home
  • You may offer to cover any out-of-pocket costs they incurred. Ask your agent to provide proof of their time spent and expenses.
  • Go higher up. If the agent still won’t budge, speak with the broker. Ask to cancel your contract. Or request that they assign you a different agent from their team.
  • Get legal help. Still at an impasse? “Consult with an attorney to determine if the contract is valid,” Schorr says. “Or have the attorney negotiate a release from the contract language in exchange for avoiding a full-blown dispute.”
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Erik J. Martin
Authored By: Erik J. Martin
The Mortgage Reports contributor
Erik J. Martin has written on real estate, business, tech and other topics for Reader's Digest, AARP The Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune.