Can I Fire My Real Estate Agent? How To Fire An Ineffective Agent

by | Feb 5, 2024

The clock is ticking, and you feel like your current real estate agent isn’t getting the job done. Working with the wrong agent can seriously hamper your plans, whether you’re a buyer or seller.

You’re here because you want to know two things:

    1. Can I legally fire my agent and get out of our listing agreement?
    2. If so, how do I go about doing it professionally and quickly?

It’s never convenient to fire your real estate agent and start over. Especially if they put in work in the early stages. But the clock is ticking, and you need a home/need your home sold. This is the biggest financial transaction you’ll make, so there’s no room for error.

Key Takeaways:

    • It’s easier for buyers to fire their agents because most agreements aren’t signed until you submit offers or at closing.
    • You can fire your buyer or seller agent at any time. However, depending on how far along in the process you are, you may still owe them commissions after closing.
    • Do your due diligence and ensure you agree to every part of your listing or buyer-broker agreement.

Buyers: Can You Fire Your Realtor

It’s easier for buyers to let go of an agent. This is because most buyer’s agents work on handshake agreements instead of contracts. They won’t introduce a contract until you make your first formal offer. This makes it simpler to fire your realtor, although you should still go about it professionally.

Many realtors don’t use buyer agreements because they feel too transactional and forceful. Instead, they’d rather their work ethic and ability be the reason you choose to work with them. Of course, if that’s not the case, then you can find someone else. If you sign a buyer-broker agreement in the early stages but buy a property with another realtor, you may owe the original realtor and/or brokerage their commission. 

Sellers: Can You Fire Your Realtor?

It’s harder for sellers to fire their agents because they will ask them to sign a listing agreement when they decide to work together. This protects their time and money investment in marketing, listing, and showing the property. 

Once you sign a buyer-agent agreement, the contract is legally binding. You can only terminate it if both parties agree. The agreement may include caveats about compensating the agent and/or brokerage whether they sell the property. Your listing agent should spell out every part of the contract before you sign.

The contract will include a date when they can represent you while selling the property. To cancel the contract, you have to prove that the agent wasn’t upholding their end of the contract and/or the listing agreement has to agree to cancel it.

If you fire your realtor and will owe them a commission when you sell, other agents may hesitate to take you on as a client.

Know that the office manager or broker holds the listing, not the realtor. If you’re unhappy with the realtor, ask the brokerage to assign you a different realtor. Most brokerages won’t let you out of a contract.

How Long Are Listing (Buyer-Broker) Agreements?

The average listing agreement will last for six months. They can be as short as 30 days and legally no longer than a year in California.

Typically, the agreement will last for six months. However, some agents will request a full one-year agreement, while others will agree on a 30-day agreement. This is generally a negotiable term, so just talk it over with your agent if you have concerns about the proposed length of your buyer-broker agreement.

Cancellation Clauses

Sometimes the relationship with your realtor won’t go as planned. And you’ll want to terminate the listing agreement. The best time to talk about canceling a listing agreement is before you sign.

Ask your agent about their policy on releasing you if you’re unhappy. Most listing agreements range from 60 days to a year. The length is negotiable and should coincide with how long other homes in your area took to sell. Also, ask if you’ll owe commissions or any fees if you cancel. The answer may be yes, depending on how far you are into the contract.

What A Realtor Should Deliver

Why work with an agent that isn’t out for your best interests or doesn’t know what they’re doing? Some realtors are lazy. Statistically, 75% of buyers and sellers go with the first agent they meet. To make sure you work with the right agent, you need to do your research and interview multiple agents.

Some are inexperienced. Some are too hands-off for inexperienced homebuyers who need a little handholding. To that last point, if that’s you, then you must find a realtor to match your needs.

Buyers Agent

Your buyer should find you homes within your price range and specificitons. If they’re active in the market, they should find properties before they pop up on Zillow. If you like a house they share, they can go the extra mile by showing you comps for what other homes in the area sold for.

A buyer agent should do three things for their client:

    1. Find properties in their desired area and tour them within 48 hours while pointing out both negatives and positives. Positives help you find your home faster, negatives help you negotiate at closing.
    2. Help them navigate the cacophony of people they need to work with to close a real estate transaction—local lenders, inspectors, brokers, title companies, etc.
    3. Put their best foot forward at the negotiation table to get the buyer the best deal possible.

Pulling this off takes responsiveness, professionalism, and work ethic. When an average realtor just gives their client access to the MLS, an exceptional goes out of their way to find properties outside the normal channels. They reply to your texts and calls within a few hours/minutes. And answer your questions at great length with no hesitation.

Sellers Agent

You’re closing on a new home, meaning you need a pit bull realtor to help sell your current home at the highest price AND fast.

First, they should present you with comps, recommendations, and strategies. If you like their strategy, then hire them. They should start hinging their fancy sign, listing on the MLS, and marketing your property. This means sharing it on social media, hiring a professional photographer, and coordinating the presentation of your home. Should you power wash the exterior and/or deep clean the kitchen?

Signs You Should Fire Your Realtor

They Lack Proper Communication

There are two ways communication can break your relationship. #1, they don’t get back to you in a timely manner. A realtor should get back to a client within 1-2 hours if they’re not sleeping or with another client. Real estate moves fast, so hours and sometimes minutes could be the difference between getting what you want and not.

The second way is if they sugarcoat the details and only tell you what they think you want to hear. They should be comfortable telling you uncomfortable news. If your agent can’t do these two things, there’s always another who will.

They’re Unprofessional

The bare minimum for a realtor is showing up on time prepared to show homes, discuss details, and connect you with the necessary people to move the process forward.

Fraudulent Or Unethical

Do you suspect that your previous real estate agent has behaved unethically? You can lodge a complaint with your state’s real estate commission. You’ll need substantial proof for them to initiate a formal inquiry.

Poor Negotiation Skills

A good realtor can save or make you thousands of dollars in negotiations. So having an agent that’s a good negotiator is one of their biggest value adds. Some realtors are poor negotiators because they lack the skills or don’t want to rock the boat. Other realtors make poor market assessments, for example, believing it’s more of a seller’s market than it is. Lastly, and most insidiously, some realtors want an easy commission.

Limited Experience Or Network

The help of an experienced realtor is invaluable in speeding up the real estate transaction. Their experience, connections, and time could be the difference between buying the house of your dreams and spending another year waiting. As a seller, the benefits are immeasurable, too. For example, an experienced lender will know lenders who can get the job done without headaches.

If you’re considering working with a newer agent, understand that all realtors start somewhere. A new agent may not have any solo deals under their belt, but they should have experience working under an agent who brought them along for the process.

Dual Agent

Never use the same agent as the seller or buyer. This is called dual agency, and it’s illegal in some states. In our opinion, it should be illegal in every state. You will get taken advantage of as a buyer because it’s in the agent’s interest to sell for as high as possible.

Before Firing Your Agent

You should think twice before firing your agent. Bringing the issue up with them can allow you to realign expectations, resolve communication issues, and agree on better terms. Be specific about your expectations and where they fell short. Good agents want to do right by their clients, so allow them to do that. Staying with them will be much easier than finding a new buyer or seller agent if they’re worth their salt.

Closing Thoughts

You want to ensure you’ve hired the right agent to represent you as a buyer or seller. Do your due diligence so you don’t have to cancel contracts and find another realtor. It’s hard to cancel contracts, especially as a seller. Most realtors don’t believe in buyer-broker agreements in the early stages. However, almost every agent will require listing agreements once you start working with them.

Pro Tip: Attend the inspection to ensure the inspector does a thorough job. It should last 2-3 hours. Tell the inspector your plans for the property (move-in ready vs. fixer-upper) and read the full report. 

Massachusetts-Specific Home Requirements

  • Title 5 Inspection: Massachusetts requires a Title 5 inspection for properties with private septic systems. This inspection ensures the septic system meets state environmental standards and must be done before selling a property, expanding its footprint, or building additional bedrooms.
  • Lead Paint Law: Massachusetts requires homes built before 1978 to be inspected for lead paint. If lead is found, it must be disclosed, and landlords must remove or cover lead paint hazards if a child under six resides in the property.
  • Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detector: Before a property can be sold, it must pass an inspection to ensure compliance with Massachusetts’ smoke and carbon monoxide detector regulations. Certificates from local fire departments are required at closing.
  • Transfer Tax (Stamp Tax): Massachusetts imposes a real estate transfer tax on property sales, commonly known as a stamp tax. The tax rate is $2.28 per $500 of the purchase price, paid by the seller at closing.

Step 8: Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance is mandatory if you have a mortgage and must be in place before closing. This insurance covers various risks, including damage from fire, theft, and natural disasters, as well as liability for accidents on your property.

Standard policies often include dwelling coverage, personal property coverage, liability protection, and additional living expenses if your home becomes uninhabitable.

There are different levels of coverage, such as:

  • HO-1: Basic policy covering specific perils.
  • HO-2: Broad policy covering more perils than HO-1.
  • HO-3: Special policy that covers all perils except those explicitly excluded.
  • HO-5: Comprehensive policy offering the most extensive coverage.
  • HO-6: Condo insurance.
  • HO-7: Mobile home insurance.
  • HO-8: Older home insurance.

By comparing different policies and providers, you can ensure you get the best protection for your new home.

Step 9: Closing And Walkthrough

The final walk-through typically occurs on the closing day to ensure the property is in the agreed-upon condition. During this inspection, confirm that all personal items have been removed unless specified otherwise in the contract, and check for any new damages. Conduct the walk-through during daylight hours for better visibility. 

Be thorough:

  • Flip all switches
  • Turn on faucets to check for leaks
  • Run all appliances
  • Test the garage door opener
  • Open and close all doors
  • Flush toilets
  • Run the garbage disposal and exhaust fans
  • Inspect ceilings, walls, and floors.
  • Test the heating and air conditioning systems.

At The Closing Table

You will review your Closing Disclosure form at closing, which you should receive three business days before closing. Compare it with your Loan Estimate to check for major changes or inconsistencies. Some fees are legally restricted from increasing by more than 10%.

Consider having a real estate attorney review these documents if desired.

On closing day, meet at the title company. Being on time is crucial, as appointments are often scheduled back-to-back. Bring your photo ID, a cashier’s check (if required), Closing Disclosure, and any other requested documents. 

During the closing, you will sign several key documents:

  • Closing Disclosure: Details all the costs and fees associated with your mortgage, received at least three business days before closing for review and comparison with your Loan Estimate.
  • Promissory Note: A legal document where you agree to repay the loan amount over a specified period, including the interest rate and payment schedule; your promise to pay back the loan.
  • Mortgage (or Deed of Trust): Secures the promissory note and gives the lender a claim against your home if you default on the loan; outlines the mortgage terms, including the loan amount, interest rate, and repayment terms.
  • Deed: Transfers property ownership from the seller to you; includes a property description and is signed by the seller.
  • Settlement Statement (HUD-1 or ALTA): Provides a detailed list of all costs associated with the home’s sale, including buyer and seller costs; reviewed and signed by both parties.
  • Affidavits: Various affidavits may be required, such as confirming your identity, stating the property will be your primary residence, or ensuring no undisclosed liens or judgments.
  • Title Documents: Ensure you receive clear title to the property; may include documents related to title insurance, which protects you and the lender against potential legal issues with the property’s title.
  • Initial Escrow Disclosure: This document outlines the escrow account details, including the amount you need to deposit and what it will cover (e.g., property taxes and insurance).
  • Loan Application: Review and sign a final version of your loan application to confirm that all information is accurate and up to date.
  • IRS Form W-9: Used to provide your taxpayer identification number to the lender for reporting interest paid on the mortgage.
  • Homeowners Insurance Verification: Proof that you have secured homeowners insurance for the property, typically required by the lender.

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Contact us below or call (978) 228-1068 to speak with us about selling your home fast.

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Elie Deglaoui - Author


Elie Deglaoui

Elie is our office admin who handles all our day-to-day tasks and makes sure we always stay on track. He brings his love of music and sports into the office everyday to always liven up the environment. His outgoing personality makes it easy and fun for him to talk to homeowners, homebuyers, and everyone in between.

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