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Is it time to break up with your real estate agent?

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Person staring concerned at their laptop
fizkes/Getty Images

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Finding the right real estate agent for you can be tricky. And with more than 1.5 million Realtors in the U.S. as of 2021, there are more agents vying for your business now than ever before. If you have run into problems or frustrations with your current agent, and are starting to regret your choice, it may be time to find a new one. Read on for tips on how to break up with — or, yes, “fire” — your real estate agent, and find a new one who will better suit your personal situation and needs.

Signs of a bad real estate agent

We’re all only human, so it’s OK if an agent makes a mistake or two. But you may want to consider finding a new real estate rep if you spot several of these red flags:

  • They don’t communicate well: Your agent should be reachable and communicative with you. If they take a long time to get back to you, it can impact your ability to see listings and put in offers before the competition. And if you feel like they’re not being straightforward with you, or possibly even lying, that’s a deal-breaker.
  • They are overly pushy or aggressive: An agent’s job is to advocate for you — not against you. Someone who is argumentative or tries to pressure you into things you feel uncomfortable with is not a good fit.
  • They act unprofessional: Everyone has a different work style, but there are a few behaviors that just won’t fly. Showing up to appointments late (or not at all), being unprepared or not seeming to have time for you shows a lack of respect for you as a client.
  • They are unfamiliar with the market: A good agent stays informed about their local market. If they don’t know about current market trends in your area, how can they help you find the best place or make the best deal possible?
  • They demonstrate a lack of skills: Whether it’s marketing your home for sale or negotiating on price, you want an agent who knows what they’re doing. No one likes to feel like they left money on the closing table, whether you’re the buyer or the seller.

Can you fire your agent?

Yes — but it depends on what kind of agreements or contracts have been signed. If you’re unhappy with your agent, you may still be able to mend the relationship: Try communicating with them openly about the issues you have. If the issues persist, it’s probably time to let them go. However, you will need to do so legally.

If you’re a buyer

Have you signed anything? If not, and your dealings with the agent have remained informal, then you’re in the clear to walk away.

If you’ve signed a buyer’s agent agreement, though, you are bound by the criteria in that agreement. In that case, you’ll likely be tied to your agent until the time period specified in the agreement runs out (usually several months). Agreements do typically spell out termination rights, though, so review those carefully — you may be within your legal rights to terminate the relationship before the agreement ends.

If you’re a seller

Again, if you’ve just been informally chatting, you’re under no obligation. But if your home is already on the market, you’ve likely signed with a listing agent. A listing agent or seller’s agent usually invests more time and effort in your property upfront, such as pulling comps, marketing the home and holding open houses. This investment makes it trickier to break up with them. The most common agreement a seller would have with a listing agent is an exclusive right to sell, meaning the agent is solely responsible for bringing in prospective buyers and selling your property. It also usually means you are responsible for paying their commission.

Before you sign any agreement, make sure you read the fine print and know if and when you can terminate it. You can always ask for a short-term contract if you feel uncertain about the agent — but then again, if you feel uncertain, it may be best to find someone you’re more comfortable with.

Tips for hiring the right agent

You’ve been burned — it’s OK, it happens. But now you want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and find someone who you really click with.

When you’re looking for a new real estate agent, make sure you do your research. Ask friends and family for recommendations. Search online and read reviews. Once you narrow it down to a few candidates, schedule time to interview them, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out about their experience and market knowledge. And trust your gut — working with someone you genuinely like is always best.

Bottom line

Know the signs of a bad real estate agent. You don’t have to settle for someone you don’t like and don’t work well with, or someone who isn’t doing a good job for you. Walk away or terminate the contract as soon as you are able, then, take your time to find a new agent who will meet your needs and work to get you what you want.

Written by
Emma Woodward
Contributing writer
Emma Woodward is a former contributor for Bankrate and a freelance writer who loves writing to demystify personal finance topics. She has written for companies and publications like Finch, Toast, JBD Clothiers and The Financial Diet.
Edited by
Senior real estate editor