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How to Break Up With Your Realtor: Legal and Practical Tips

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If your real estate agent just isn’t getting the job done, you may be wondering how you can get out of this situation and find someone who suits your needs better. The good news is that this is typically very easy to do. Things will only get messy if you’ve signed an exclusivity agreement and the agent doesn’t want to let you out of it, which is exceptionally rare. Luckily, we’ve got help for you in that case, too. In this article, we’ll show you how to break up with your realtor in an amicable and reasonable way so that everyone gets what they want.

Things You Should Know

  • Break up with your realtor as early as you can before they do a ton of unpaid work.
  • If you have no exclusivity offer, you can break up with the realtor as you please.
  • If you signed an exclusivity offer, talk to your agent about letting you out of it early.

Steps

Walk away if there’s no contract.

  1. If you haven’t signed an exclusivity agreement, you’re in the clear. If you haven’t signed any contracts or agreements and you and the real estate agent have just been working together on a verbal agreement, you’re under no obligation to stick with them. Feel free to break up with them. You won’t face any legal consequences.[1]
    • Just call, text, or email them something like, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to put a pause on buying a home right now,” or, “I hate to do this, but my partner and I decided to work with another real estate agent.”
    • Let the agent know you’re going another route as soon as you possibly can. Agent work is time intensive, and it’s a little unfair to take your time breaking the bad news.

Expect to pay if you’re selling.

  1. Selling a home involves more work upfront, so you’ll likely pay. It’s a lot easier to break up with an agent when you’re a buyer. If you already started working with a seller’s agent, they may have staged your home, crafted a listing, and scheduled open houses. As such, there is usually a penalty written into your contract. Read through your contract to see what you’ll need to spend to get rid of them.[2]
    Break Up with a Realtor Step 2.jpg
    • Depending on where you live and what your contract says, you may need to pay the seller’s agent you’re breaking up with a 1-2% commission of the sale price or a flat fee.

Look for a cancellation clause in the agreement.

  1. If you’ve signed an exclusivity agreement, look for an opt-out clause. If you remember signing something before you started the home buying or selling process, you probably signed a buyer or seller exclusivity agreement. This document is (usually) legally binding and makes it difficult to switch agents. Read the agreement thoroughly to see if there is an opt-out or cancellation clause.[3]
    Break Up with a Realtor Step 3.jpg
    • There may be a clause that says you can break up if your realtor doesn’t fulfill your needs, or if you haven’t found a home you like in a certain number of months.

Ask your agent to cancel the exclusivity agreement.

  1. Most agents will tear up an exclusivity contract if you ask nicely. In the real estate game, an agent’s reputation is everything. As such, agents tend to avoid holding contracts over a client’s head, since the blowback from you making a fuss about it can be incredibly damaging. Email or call the agent and politely request that they release you from the contract.[4] You might say:
    Break Up with a Realtor Step 4.jpg
    • “I’ve really enjoyed viewing properties with you, but after careful consideration, my partner and I have decided to put the home buying on pause.”
    • “Unfortunately, with our work schedules, we’re looking for someone who will be able to set up showings in the evening. We’re going to need to find a new agent.”
    • “I’ve loved working with you, but I’m going in a different direction.”

Apologize for taking their time.

  1. Your realtor did work for you, so acknowledge their effort. There’s a lot of unseen effort that goes on behind the scenes when a real estate agent starts working with a client, so thank them for all of their work. This is especially important if you’re asking to get out of a contract, since a little humility and appreciation may tip things in your favor.[5] You could say:
    Break Up with a Realtor Step 5.jpg
    • “I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me. I know we asked a lot of you and it did not go unnoticed.”
    • “We’re deeply indebted to you for all of the work you’ve done. I’m really sorry things didn’t work out.”
    • “I’m sorry we’re putting the search on pause. It just isn’t the right time for us. I do really appreciate everything you’ve done for us, and I apologize for putting you out.”

Be honest, but professional.

  1. Your agent may want to know what went wrong, so be genuine. Why you’re breaking up with your agent may be really important to them. If there’s something they’ve done wrong, knowing about it may help them improve in the future. If they ask you why you’re going with someone else or trying to get out of the contract, politely explain what went wrong in the kindest way possible. Only do this if they ask, though.[6] You might explain:
    Break Up with a Realtor Step 6.jpg
    • “We really liked looking at properties with you, but it always felt like we were late to the party when it came to putting bids in. My partner and I want to move quickly.”
    • “It’s honestly just a scheduling thing. I know you’re super busy in the morning but that’s the only time I can go to look at properties.”
    • “You didn’t do anything wrong. You were excellent. We’re just putting a hold on the home selling since our moving plans fell through.”

Get it in writing that you’re parting ways.

  1. If they agree to let you out of a contract, confirm it via email. Alternatively, you might send them a text to confirm it, or ask for a written addendum to the contract. So long as you get some kind of receipt proving that your agent is okay with letting you out of the exclusivity agreement, you’re in the clear.[7]
    Break Up with a Realtor Step 7.jpg
    • Make sure they agree to a statement like, “I just want to confirm you won’t enforce our exclusivity agreement.”
    • If you don’t get proof they released you from the contract, you may end up running into legal trouble. The point of an exclusivity agreement is that it’s legally binding to only work with that agent, so it’s key you get proof they’re okay with it.

Give them a thank you gift if they let you out of the contract.

  1. Your ex-realtor isn’t getting paid, so get them something tangible. Real estate agents work entirely on commission, so they’re not getting anything for the work they’ve done for you. As a small token of appreciation, gift the agent something tangible to demonstrate that you’re thankful for them.[8] You could buy them:
    Break Up with a Realtor Step 8.jpg
    • A bottle of wine if they’ve mentioned a love of vino.
    • A gift card to a local restaurant that’s universally loved.
    • A bath bomb, massage gun, or fancy soap set so they can engage in some self-care.

Talk to your agent’s boss if they won’t let you out of the contract.

  1. If they won’t let you out of the contract, consult their manager. Agents typically work under the umbrella of a real estate franchise office, like Keller Williams, Caldwell, or Compass. If the agent won’t let you out of the exclusivity offer, call their main office and ask to speak to whoever is in charge. Ask them if there is anything they can do to let you out of the contract. They may be able to force your agent’s hand and let you out.[9]
    Break Up with a Realtor Step 9.jpg
    • If the real estate firm thinks you’re going to make a fuss, leave bad reviews, or pursue legal action, they’re probably going to push your agent to drop you without putting up a fight.

Switch to another agent at the same firm.

  1. You can often swap agents at the same firm without violating the contract. There is usually a clause in buyer and seller exclusivity agreements that you can switch to a different real estate agent so long as they’re working with the same firm. If you have a similar clause in your contract, reach out to the main office and explain that you’d like to switch agents.[10]
    Break Up with a Realtor Step 10.jpg
    • This is a little bit of a sneaky move, but if your real estate agent isn’t letting you out of the contract and they aren’t trying to meet you halfway, it’s fine to go over their head.

Get advice from a real estate attorney.

  1. A lawyer will break down the ramifications of breaking the contract. If you just can’t find a way out of the exclusivity agreement and you’re thinking about breaking the contract anyway, talk to a real estate attorney. They’ll be able to advise you on what your options are, since there are a lot of local and state laws that likely influence what you can do.[11]
    Break Up with a Realtor Step 11.jpg
    • Most of the time, agents won’t pursue any legal action when people break exclusivity deals. However, it’s certainly possible that your agent ends up suing you. Talking to a lawyer will clarify just how risky this move might be for you.

Wait for the contract to expire if all else fails.

  1. This may be your only option if the contract is airtight and they’re stubborn. Buyer and seller exclusivity agreements have expiration dates—usually 3, 6, or 12 months from the start date. If there’s a serious risk that you’ll face legal consequences, you don’t want to pay a termination fee, and the agent won’t let you out of the contract, you’ll have to wait them out. Once the contract ends, you’re free to hunt for a new realtor.[12]
    Break Up with a Realtor Step 12.jpg
    • If you’re in a rush to buy or sell a home, you may be better off just working with the agent you’re under contract with.

Look for a new realtor who suits your needs.

  1. Reach out to new potential realtors and find someone who works. Reach out to trusted friends and family members to find a reputable realtor. Alternatively, look online and scan reviews to see if potential realtors might work for you. Meet with your top 3-4 picks over coffee or on the phone and just talk to them to see if the vibe is right before making your final decision.[13]
    Break Up with a Realtor Step 13.jpg
    • Look for someone who is highly responsive and doesn’t leave your calls unanswered. In a hot market, you have to move quickly!
    • You should like and trust your realtor. If someone gives you questionable energy or you’re uncomfortable around them, move on.
    • Ask potential realtors how many deals they did last year. Ideally, you can find someone who did more than 2-3 deals, but not so many that they’re probably swimming in work right now.
    • If you’re unfamiliar with the area, you’re best off working with a local who has been in the game in that city or area for a long time.

References

Source: Wiki How