How to Break Up With a Real Estate Agent

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, the relationship with your agent is often more complicated than most business relationships. And as with any relationship, sometimes it doesn’t work out as you’d hoped. For whatever reason, it may be time to call it quits. Here’s how to break up with a real estate agent.

Advice for Buyers

Real estate agents rarely require buyers to sign a legal contract. Instead, you make a handshake agreement that means, in essence, you agree to work exclusively with the agent. And that’s fair. Agents often work long hours for buyers with no real guarantee of a pay-off. It’s only logical that the agent wants some assurance you aren’t simultaneously working with another agent, and that whoever finds your dream home first ‘wins.’

When working with an agent, start slowly to get a better feel for his style and knowledge. The further down the road you go with an agent, the more difficult it is to ‘break up’ later.

However, if you’ve worked with an agent for some time and things aren’t going well, it’s time for a heart-to-heart talk. Offer constructive feedback about what’s not working. When possible, give the agent a chance to improve. Have a deadline in mind, by which time the agent needs to have shown improvement. During the ‘grace’ period, consider looking for other agents. If your current agent still isn’t performing when time’s up, tell him you’re moving on.

Advice for Sellers

For sellers, breaking up with an agent isn’t as easy. Most likely, your written, signed listing agreement has a term to it. You’re contractually obligated to work with your agent’s company throughout that term.

When things aren’t going well, express your concerns to your agent. If it’s not working out or isn’t a good fit, a good agent will simply let you out of the listing agreement. Sometimes, an agent, out of resentment, may hold you to the agreement but stop showing the home and entertaining offers. If that happens, contact the agent’s company (the real estate brokerage firm). Tell the manager how your agent responded. Ask to be released from the listing agreement. Most brokerage firms, wanting to keep a good reputation, will try to find a better agent in the office for you or, failing that, release you from the listing agreement.

Do Your Homework to Avoid a ‘Break Up’

The best way to avoid ‘breaking up’ with your agent is to do your homework up front. Never engage an agent without getting referrals, vetting candidates, and having a few preliminary discussions first.

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