“How to fire a real estate agent” is one of the top five questions I receive from property buyers and sellers every year. It’s not a topic most people like to discuss, especially agents. But since it comes up a lot, let’s take a quick look at ways we can make the process as painless and productive as possible for both sides. Here are a few items to consider.
1. Is Your Agent Delivering On Promises? Assess your expectations versus your actual experience with the agent. It’s best to make this a brief written exercise. Here’s an example of an assessment conducted by a seller based on three primary expectations they considered when deciding to change agents after an initial six month listing period expired.
2. Is The Problem The Agent Or The Market? Determine if the agent is being asked to produce results not available under prevailing market conditions. Start with a market assessment, then compare goals and expectations to determine if they are within reach. Then answer two sticky questions: 1) are you willing, if necessary, to adjust your expectations to market conditions, 2) do you believe your agent can achieve the results the market appears capable of providing?
3. Should The Agent Be Given A “Billy Martin?” Billy Martin was manager of the New York Yankees baseball team five times. He was fired three or four times (accounts of how several of the separations occurred vary). Should you review expectations with your agent and give them another chance?
4. Once You Confirm Your Decision To Make A Change, Be Constructive. Provide feedback on the agent’s performance that will help them improve. This is a courtesy to both the agent and to the agent’s future clients.
5. Be Careful With Public Ratings. Some agents advertise their services on public information web sites (e.g. Yelp) where you can leave a rating of the agent’s performance. My preference is to keep the reason I’m firing someone between me, them and their supervisor (for agents, that would be their broker). It’s noble to warn the world when an agent is, in your opinion, sub-par. It can also lead to legal ramifications best explained by an attorney when you give them a low rating and they decide to fight it.
6. Cover Your Legal Bases – Follow The Contract. If you have a listing agreement or buyer’s representative agreement in place when you fire your agent, there are circumstances under which an agent could still be due a commission even if you conduct the transaction yourself or hire another agent. Have a qualified person review your contract to make sure the cancellation or expiration terminates any liability you may have.
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