How to Fire Your Agent or Client

When It's Time to Say Goodbye to Your Real Estate Agent

businessman and woman having serious conversation
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When under the pressure of the home-buying process, buyers and sellers can both become a little bit nuts. Agents and brokers can become a little nuts, too, especially when personalities clash or a real estate deal isn't going to plan or meeting expectations.

When it comes to real estate transactions, the difficult-personality factor can take a while to pop up. But by then, there’s generally some sort of contractual agreement in place. So, how do you get out of it? How do you fire your agent? And further, agents, do you want to know how to fire your client? It can be a two-way street.

How to Know When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

The best thing you can do for yourself (and for others) is to end a relationship before it escalates to the point where you want to choke each other. If you’re a client who is unhappy with your agent, your entire home selling/buying experience—which should be a pleasant and happy time for you—will be affected by this negative attitude. You will probably need to fire your agent.

If you’re an agent ticked off by a client, you’re wasting time and blowing energy that could be channeled into more profitable ventures for you. In other words, you probably need to fire your client.

Here are some of the signs telling you that it’s time to call it quits:

  • Both of you vehemently disagree, are at opposite ends of the spectrum and believe you will never see eye-to-eye.
  • When you talk about the situation, your voice rises a notch or two in volume.
  • Unflattering adjectives precede the person’s name every time you talk about them.
  • Irrational thought processes begin to cloud your judgment.
  • You’ve made repeated requests that are ignored by the other party.
  • When the person’s name shows up on your cell phone, you send the call to voicemail.

How Do Agents and Clients Reach the Boiling Point?

It can happen to anybody. Say the market changes. Prices start to fall, and an agent calls her client to let them know the price they thought they could get is no longer viable. She advises them to lower the price and provides them with recent comparable sales and market trend statistics to validate her advice. But the client and her husband, an unemployed baker, for example, says, “I disagree; my husband grew up in this neighborhood and has done research on the internet. We can get our price.”

  • The agent, realizing the client has no basis nor professional background for her convictions, could become frustrated because the client cannot substantiate her position. It's irrational.
  • The client, on the other hand, obviously does not trust nor rely on the agent’s advice and may wonder why she hired the agent in the first place. She may think the agent is just looking for a fast sale at her expense.
  • The end result is the client is not going to sell; the agent is not going to get paid. Nobody will win, and it may be time to end the association.

Communication Issues

The single most commonly heard complaint that clients voice about their agents is dissatisfaction with communication. Some say it’s the client’s fault for not establishing preferred methods of communication upfront, and others say it is the agent’s responsibility to ask the client what is expected of the agent. I’m with the camp that believes the agent should determine the policy and then adhere to it.

It can be very irritating to work with an agent who doesn’t promptly respond to voicemails, text messages or e-mails. If that happens to you, it might be time to fire the agent and hire somebody else. But first, lay it on the line. Tell your agent what you expect and ask your agent if it's possible for the agent to perform in that manner.

How to Cancel Agreements/Contracts

So, you’ve determined that you’re fed up and want out. How do you do it? Legal issues aside, because this is not legal advice—the best way is by mutual consent. Do not enter into a contract in the first place if the other party will not mutually agree to a release if requested. You can ask about cancellation policies in the event of a dispute before entering into the contract.

Threatening the other party is rarely a good idea. For example, do not say the agent needs cancel the contract or you will report the agent or write a nasty online review because that approach is unlikely to gain cooperation and that tactic could also be considered blackmail.

Canceling Listing Agreements

Ask the agent to cancel the listing. Be aware that Exclusive Right-to-Sell listings contain a safety or protection clause.

  • If the agent refuses, call the agent’s broker and request a cancellation.
  • If the broker refuses, consider asking the broker to assign another agent to you. However, most reputable brokers who want to maintain good community relations will cancel a listing if the seller insists.
  • If there are no workable solutions, call a real estate lawyer for termination assistance, but first, tell the broker of your intentions to do so. Sometimes, that’s enough to get a release.

Canceling a Buyer’s Agency Agreement

Ask your agent to give you a form called Termination of Buyer Agency. It will cancel oral or written agency agreements.

If you are an agent who wants to cancel the agency agreement, you may want to soften the blow and suggest that your client would be better off working with another agent who could more readily meet the client’s needs. Then refer that client to an agent in exchange for a referral fee.