Our listing agent has ignored 2 prospective buyers. Can we fire her?


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Dear Real Estate Adviser,
We discovered that 2 potential buyers of our home tried for days to arrange a viewing with my listing agent and she ignored them. They’ve since moved on to buy other homes. Why would an agent act like this? Can we fire her?
— Val D.

Dear Val,
It seems you have grounds to dismiss her, unless a part of the story is missing. After all, quality selling agents will respond to all reasonable calls and emails as soon as possible, especially showing inquiries, even when they’re busy. The agent is a small business operator and needs to act like one.

Now that an atmosphere of distrust has permeated your relationship, you probably won’t feel comfortable proceeding until you find other representation anyway.

60% to 70% of unsuccessful sellers blame their agents for a lack of communication.

But dismissing an agent isn’t always easy. If you’re near the end of her listing term, be it 90 days, 180 days, etc., then just let the agreement lapse. But if you’ve got several more months left, don’t waste any more of your time. Try talking calmly with the agent about the situation and explain why you want to cancel. Most agents will just retreat and move on.

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Some listing agents won’t go without a fight

But some won’t budge without first nicking you for marketing expenses, even if they were lazy or irresponsible in other ways. Moreover, some contracts include termination fees these days. (Sellers should cross these out before signing listing contracts, by the way.)

If your agent won’t let your listing go, call the boss of her brokerage and explain why you want out. Before doing this, tell her such a call is your next course of action, and that may be enough to sway her to go away.

But realize that if a buyer she brought to the table — assuming she’s returned anyone’s calls or emails — buys the home, the agent will no doubt insist on commission, and perhaps rightfully so.

Poor communication in the industry is mystifyingly rampant. Surveys in recent years indicate that 60% to 70% of unsuccessful sellers blame their agents for a lack of communication.

Why some listing agents don’t respond to buying inquiries is anyone’s guess.

Games some listing agents play

  • Sometimes, an unethical agent will ignore viewing requests from buyer’s agents in hopes that the client will get frustrated and just contact the listing agent directly. Then the listing agent will try to convince the would-be-buyer to use him or her in a duel-agency role, perhaps for 4.5% or 5% total commission instead of what would have been a 6% agent split. This act of cutting out the buyer’s agent entirely is known as “poaching.”
  • The agent may be trying to stack the deck for a specific buyer if that benefits someone she knows, such as a close associate or friend.
  • The listing agent may not take showing requests seriously when they come from people who aren’t professionally represented.
  • Sellers’ agents also tend to de-prioritize listings if they believe their commission is too low, the listing price is unrealistically high or the seller won’t cooperate.

Bad business to ignore potential buyers

Whatever the justification, ignoring would-be buyers is bad business. Sure, a lot of inquiries don’t translate directly into a sale, but responding to them in a timely manner creates goodwill for agents and an opportunity to demonstrate professionalism and market knowledge that will eventually pay off with future referrals.

Under real estate law, it’s the responsibility of the listing agent to submit any and all offers to the seller, unless the seller expressly instructs the listing agent otherwise. But it’s not against the law to ignore calls and emails, though it’s certainly a violation of industry ethics and grounds for dismissal.

Thoroughly screen the next agent, and price your house at what he or she suggests. Then clarify your other expectations and you should be fine. Good luck.

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