Having a qualified and dedicated real estate agent by your side can be invaluable during the homebuying process. Conversely, an agent who’s stubborn and unprofessional can cause problems and make it difficult to negotiate deals. There’s a lot of time and money at stake, so if you’re unsatisfied with their performance, it may be time to pull the plug on your partnership and find a new agent.

Even if you were diligent and asked all the right questions before hiring a real estate agent, it’s still possible that they aren’t a good fit in the long run. If this is the case, then it’s important to know when you can fire them, how to do it, and how to find a new real estate agent who can help you more effectively.

Key Takeaways:


When Can You Fire Your Real Estate Agent?

Technically, you can fire your real estate agent at any point in the homebuying process — but you’ll likely owe them a commission and fees if you wait too long.

When you hire a real estate agent, you may have to sign a buyer-broker agreement, which is a contract that outlines the expectations of the working partnership between you and your agent. If this contract wasn’t required by your agent, then you may fire them at any time without penalty.

However, if you signed a buyer-broker agreement, then the contract is legally binding and can be terminated only if both sides agree, or if there’s a breach of the contract’s conditions. If you’re thinking about firing your real estate agent, then it’s important to consider whether the financial consequences and the time it will take to find a new agent are worth it.

If your agent has already helped you find a home, then they likely are entitled to a commission. One option to find a new agent at this stage could be to talk with the agent’s broker and see if another agent in the brokerage can take over the rest of the home purchase without you having to fully pay your original agent’s commission.

When Can’t You Fire Your Real Estate Agent?

The further along you are in the homebuying process, the harder it is to fire your agent. That’s why it’s generally better to fire them as soon as possible if you’re sure they aren’t the right fit.

“If you’re already ‘under contract’ and headed toward the closing table, it’s possible you’d owe the agent their commission in full if you terminate with them prior to closing,” says Shelby Johnson, CEO of Five Pillars at eXp Realty in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “Real estate agents are only paid if and when a transaction closes, so if you drag your feet breaking up with them, they’re putting in hours and hours of work that they’ll never get paid for.”

Make sure you understand what you’ve signed prior to acting. Even if you didn’t sign a buyer-broker contract, you may still owe fees or commissions for ending the partnership. Most agents include safety protection clauses in their contracts to protect against clients firing them after they’ve secured homes for their clients.

Of course, if you’re willing to pay the fees and commissions, you can fire your real estate agent whenever you want.

9 Reasons To Fire Your Real Estate Agent

Issues with a real estate agent can range from poor communication to practices that are illegal and should be reported. Here are some reasons why you might decide to fire your real estate agent.

1. They are a poor communicator

Poor communication is one of the most common reasons why real estate agents get fired by clients. An agent who’s bad at communication may forget to tell you about paperwork you need to submit, not answer phone calls, or make decisions without your input.

According to Johnson, it’s a telltale sign to fire an agent if a homebuyer doesn’t understand what to expect throughout the process.

“Red flags are when a real estate agent can’t manage expectations and aren’t proactive about their communication,” Johnson says.

2. They lack relevant experience

While real estate agents usually understand their local markets, they may lack experience with helping buyers close on specific types of homes. For instance, an agent may have lots of experience with single-family homes, but you’re interested in a condo. There also are agents who specialize in helping only certain types of homebuyers, such as seniors or military families using Veterans Affairs loans.

3. They are unprofessional

Your real estate agent represents you, so you want to trust that they will demonstrate professionalism during one of the most important purchases you’ll ever make. This is especially true during negotiations, where sellers will want reassurance that you’re taking this emotional transaction seriously.

Some signs of unprofessionalism include an agent not following through on their promises, making inappropriate comments, and appearing to care more about their commission than what’s best for you.

4. They are a poor negotiator

Try to gauge your real estate agent’s negotiation skills early, because many important discussions happen toward the end of the homebuying process — when it may be too late to fire them without financial repercussions.

Negotiation skills are important when you make an offer or a counteroffer. If you enter a bidding war in a competitive market, you’ll want to be confident that your agent will negotiate a favorable purchase price without losing the seller’s interest.

Even after your offer has been accepted, there may still be negotiations. If a home inspection reveals major issues with the home and you have a home inspection contingency, your agent should be able to renegotiate the purchase price or get the seller to compensate for the repair costs.

A sign that your agent is a poor negotiator is having a record of closing deals above list price.

5. They are unethical

Real estate agents are supposed to work in your best interest — not their own or someone else’s.

The National Association of Realtors outlines the code of ethics that Realtors must abide by when working with clients. It includes not misleading clients, and keeping documents current and confidential. Agents don’t need to adhere to NAR’s code of ethics if they aren’t Realtors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it as a guideline.

6. You spot signs of steering

Steering is when a real estate agent guides you toward a specific neighborhood based on a protected characteristic, such as your race or religion. This is a form of housing discrimination. It’s illegal, so if you spot signs of steering, you should fire your real estate agent and file a complaint.

7. They give poor advice

Bad advice can lead to expensive and time-wasting mistakes. With so much money on the line, you don’t want information that’s wrong or sugarcoated. A good agent should be able to help you understand the reality of the housing market and your personal situation, even if it’s hard to hear.

8. Their network and resources are limited

Real estate agents typically have a network of professionals and other resources to help clients, which can include listing agents for buyers who also want to sell their house, or qualified home inspectors. If your agent can’t make any recommendations and you’re stuck trying to find these professionals on your own, you may need to fire your agent.

9. They are a dual agent

A dual agent is a real estate agent who works for both the buyer and the seller. This is a problem because it’s difficult for an agent to represent your best interest if they also are representing the seller’s best interest. The seller pays a commission that’s a percentage of the home purchase price, so it benefits a dual agent to have the home sell for as high of a price as possible.

If you discover your real estate agent is a dual agent, then you might want to fire them or talk to their brokerage and ask for a different agent.

Step-by-Step Guide To Firing Your Real Estate Agent

If you’ve decided to move on from your real estate agent, here’s how to fire them legally and ethically.

1. Give your agent a warning

Before firing your real estate agent, speak with them and try to work out any problems. The issues you’re unhappy with could be a result of miscommunication. Ideally, your agent will take your feedback to heart and make improvements, so you won’t have to proceed with the following steps.

2. Look over the terms in your agreement

If a warning doesn’t work and you signed a buyer-broker agreement, it’s time to review your contract to refresh yourself on the consequences for terminating it. Things you want to look for are how long the contract lasts, whether there’s a safety protection clause, and any steps you need to take to fire your agent legally and ethically. Violating these terms may result in fees or commissions that need to be paid.

3. Try to resolve the issue with the broker

If you can’t fix the issue you have with your real estate agent, consider talking to the broker, who oversees the agent and typically has more real estate knowledge. You may need to do this if your agent doesn’t want to end your contract or is being unprofessional.

A broker might have the authority to end the buyer-broker agreement without the agent’s input or offer a new agent within the brokerage who you can hire. This helps you avoid the trouble of finding a new agent.

4. Talk to a lawyer

You may need to speak with a lawyer who specializes in real estate contracts if the agent and the broker refuse to end the buyer-broker agreement. Since this step escalates the situation, you’ll want to make sure that it’s necessary. Be prepared to provide documentation, including the buyer-broker agreement, inspection reports, and any written documentation pertaining to you and the agent’s partnership, such as emails or texts.

5. Terminate the contract

Before terminating the contract, it’s important to know this is a last resort. You also need to ensure that you’re firing your agent in an ethical manner. One way to do this is to speak with the broker and communicate your concerns directly and honestly.

“You’ll want to acknowledge the work the agent has put in so far and clearly state you’d like to end the agent-client relationship,” Johnson says. “It can even go as far as thanking them for their time and including a brief explanation as to why.”

It’s helpful to follow up in writing afterward so you have a paper trail that you’ve ended the partnership.

6. File a complaint

It could be necessary to file a complaint with the real estate commission in your state if you think your former real estate agent acted unethically. The commission may be able to facilitate a solution, but it typically just provides the next steps to investigate the issue. If there’s enough evidence, there may be a formal hearing that can result in the termination of the agent’s license. 

How To Hire a New Real Estate Agent

Finding a new real estate agent will be a similar process to when you hired your original agent — but now you have more homebuying experience and are more aware of your preferences in an agent.

 Here’s how to hire a new real estate agent:

  1. Shop for qualified real estate agents. Ask trusted family and friends for referrals or do your own research online.
  2. Evaluate your candidates. Consider why your last real estate agent wasn’t the best fit. You’ll want to think about what you were missing in your last partnership, such as experience with certain property types.
  3. Interview at least three agents. Interviews give you the chance to ask relevant questions, get personalized answers, and identify the best candidate for your situation.
  4. Watch for red flags. Many potential red flags look similar to the reasons you may want to fire a real estate agent. They include:
    • Unable to provide a list of referrals.
    • History of closing on deals above listing price.
    • Poor communication or not paying attention during the interview.
    • They’re a dual agent.
    • They have low client volume.
    • They don’t ask questions about your needs.
  5. Choose the right agent. Take some time to consider each agent’s qualifications and specialties, as well as your initial impressions, before making a final choice. If you’re wary about choosing the wrong agent again, consider hiring a Realtor who is committed to NAR’s code of ethics.
  6. Make the deal official. Once you’ve chosen your new real estate agent, you’ll sign a buyer-broker agreement formalizing your partnership.

FAQ: How To Fire Your Real Estate Agent

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about firing your real estate agent.

Can I report an unethical real estate agent?

Yes, you can report unethical real estate agents through your state’s real estate commission or through NAR. Make sure that your claim is legitimate, you have supporting evidence, and you follow the correct steps to filing a complaint.

What are some examples of unethical practices?

Some unethical practices from a real estate agent include intentionally misleading you for monetary gain and discriminating against you through practices like steering.

Is there a time limit to cancel a contract with a real estate agent?

You can cancel a contact with a real estate agent at any time, but the longer you wait, the more financial penalties will accrue and the more difficult it will be. You also need to follow state guidelines. For example, if you’re firing someone who is part of the Texas Association of Realtors, you must complete and sign a termination of buyer/tenant representation agreement.

The Bottom Line on Firing Your Real Estate Agent

Firing a real estate agent isn’t a step most homebuyers want to take, but it may be necessary if you feel they are hindering your ability to secure a home. If you’re thinking about firing your agent, it’s important not to wait too long — otherwise, it may be more difficult and cost you money. Although it may delay your homebuying journey, working with a new agent who prioritizes your best interest can be well worth it.