Couple arguingThe relationship with your real estate agent — whether buying or selling a home — is more complicated than most business relationships. For starters, it’s rare that one of your employees, your boss or a business associate would come into your kitchen to talk shop. Also, a real estate agent comes in and out of your life at an emotional and vulnerable time — one of transition and change. It’s a very different relationship on many levels.

But sometimes the relationship just doesn’t seem to be working out as you expected. Maybe the agent is too slow, not available as you much as you’d like, or is too pushy. It could be that you and your agent just aren’t a good match.

For whatever reason, there may come a time to call it quits. Can you “break up” with your agent? And if so, how?

Buyers: Take the high road

Real estate agents rarely require buyers to sign a written agreement. Usually, you, as the buyer, simply work in “good faith.” This handshake agreement means you agree to work exclusively with the agent. You should never engage more than one real estate agent.

And that’s fair. Agents often work long hours for buyers with no real guarantee of a payoff since they only get paid (by the seller) when a buyer buys. In some situations, a buyer may tell an agent, after months of working together, that they’ve decided to rent or move to a different town. It’s part of the job description.

When working with an agent, start slowly if you can to get a better feel for the agent and the home buying process. The further down the road you go with an agent, the more awkward and difficult it is to end the relationship.

If you’ve worked with an agent for some time but things aren’t going well, have a heart-to-heart talk. Take the high road. Give the agent constructive feedback about what’s not working for you. When possible, give your agent a chance to reverse course. If they still aren’t performing, tell the agent you have to move on.

Sellers: Ask for a “divorce”

Breaking up with an agent may not be so easy for sellers because they are contractually connected via a listing agreement. They are obligated to work with their agent’s company throughout the term of the agreement. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to have the property publicly listed the whole time, but that they can’t work with anyone else during that term.

If things aren’t going well early on, voice your concerns to your agent. If it’s not working out or isn’t a good fit, a good agent will simply let you out of the agreement. But sometimes, being “divorced” will infuriate a real estate agent and they may hold you through the term.

A seller can always wait it out and refuse to show the home or entertain offers. But, that doesn’t do anyone any good. It is negative energy and not good for the agent’s reputation. If this happens, call the agent’s company (the real estate brokerage firm).

Let the manager know how your agent responded and ask to be released from the agreement. Most brokerage firms will want to keep a good reputation, so they’ll try to find another agent in the office that would be a better fit or perhaps release you from the listing agreement.

Avoiding the break up

The best way to avoid the real estate agent “break up” is to do your homework up front. Begin slowly and keep your distance at first. While you may be excited to enter this next stage of life, it’s prudent to tread cautiously. Don’t engage a buyer’s or seller’s agent without first getting referrals, vetting candidates and having a few preliminary discussions.


Brendon DeSimone is a Realtor, a nationally recognized real estate expert and author of the book “Next Generation Real Estate.” His practical advice is regularly sought out by print, online and television media outlets including FOX News, CNBC, USA Today, Bloomberg, FOX Business and Forbes. An active investor himself, Brendon owns real estate around the U.S. and abroad and is licensed to sell in California and New York. Consumers often call on Brendon for advice and to help them find a real estate agent. You can follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

About the Author

Brendon DeSimone is the author of "Next Generation Real Estate: New Rules for Smarter Home Buying & Faster Selling," the go-to insider’s guide for navigating and better understanding the complex and ever-evolving world of buying and selling a home. DeSimone is the founder and principal of DeSimone & Co, an independent NYC real estate brokerage providing individualized services and a fresh, hands-on approach. Bringing more than a decade of residential real estate experience, DeSimone is a recognized national real estate expert and has appeared on top media outlets including CNBC, Good Morning America, HGTV, FOX News, Bloomberg and FOX Business. Consumers often call on Brendon for advice and to help them find a real estate agent. You can follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

  • Andrew Fortune

    Around half of the buyers I meet through my website have already worked with other agents, but moved on because they didn’t feel comfortable.

  • Khayyam Jones

    Before deciding to work with an agent you should talk to and interview at least 3 different agents. Get a feel for what the agent plans to do for you and what they expect from you in return. After talking to at least 3 agents you’ll have a good idea which agent is the best for you and what you can realistically expect the agent to do for you. But once you make your decision you need to stick with that agent. The advice about talking to your agent in this article is absolutely correct. And if you’ve done your homework up front then the heart to heart talk is much more effective and you’ll both have more realistic expectations of each other.

  • Brendon DeSimone

    couldn’t have said it better myself Khayyam. Good feedback…thanks

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