Switching Agents: How to Change Real Estate Agents

Real estate agent shaking hands with couple
••• Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Question: Switching Agents: How To Change Real Estate Agents?

A reader asks: My wife and I find ourselves in sort of a pickle and don't know what to do about our agent. She found this agent online and really liked him, but after we looked at homes with him, I didn't feel a connection. It's not that I don't like the guy, but he's a little bit too laid back for me. I called another agent and asked her opinion of the guy my wife likes. This other agent said he's a good agent but he hasn't sold very many homes. I feel like this second agent is more experienced. I'd like to change agents, but I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. How do I switch agents and keep everybody happy?

Answer: That's a good question. You don't. If you change agents, one of the agents will be hurt, disappointed. Possibly even angry. There is no fool-proof way to switch agents without making the agent you passed over feel let down. But there are ways to make the transition somewhat easier on yourself.

Why Would You Want to Change Agents?

Buyers have a lot of reasons for wanting to change agents. First, realize that if you have not signed a buyer's broker agreement, you are not owned by any real estate agent. No agent has claim on you, and you can switch to another agent you prefer. Here are some reasons to dump the first agent:

  • Poor communication skills
  • Cannot adequately answer questions
  • Seems unfamiliar with the neighborhood
  • Shows you homes that do not fit your parameters
  • Does not respond promptly to inquiries
  • Appears more interested in his / her own needs than yours
  • Gets easily confused or distracted from job at hand
  • Personal style is not a good match for your personality
  • Lacks a visible quality that is important to you
  • Shows evidence of a weak negotiation ability

If your second agent surpasses the first agent in all or most of the above, then you probably have ample grounds for switching agents.

How Can You Diplomatically Handle Switching Agents?

If you tell your agent the truth such as "You are pushy, obnoxious, and I can't stand sitting in the car with you one more minute," you're not helping the agent. And you're feeding the fire. There is no way an agent can emerge from a comment like that with integrity intact. The agent is also unlikely to change.

However, if you can make a difference in the way the agent communicates with others in the future, you might say, "I would rather hear that you don't know the answer and will get it than for you to tell me something that is untrue."

Most of the time, the reason you want to change agents might be that you believe another agent will do a better job, for whatever reason. Maybe you feel a loyalty to a family member or coworker who recommended another agent? You don't need to give a specific reason to the agent about why you are switching. You can simply thank the agent for his or her time and say you have chosen a different agent.

It is important that you let the agent know you no longer want to work that agent, but you are under no obligation to rattle off a hit list of reasons. If you really can't handle telling your present agent goodbye, ask your new agent to do it. Most will happily oblige.

Sometimes an agent won't want to let you go. The agent has no choice if you have not signed a contract, but it doesn't mean the agent will back off gracefully. Some agents are very desperate for business and some have learned that if they plead and get down on bended knee, clients will change their minds about switching agents.

If you encounter this type of agent, continue to repeat yourself. Don't deviate from your rehearsed response and don't back down. You can say: "We appreciate everything you have done, but it's time for us to move on."

My personal belief is if a buyer's agent can't handle rejection, the agent does not belong in the real estate business.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.