How to Break Up with Your Real Estate Agent


Unless you’re an experienced investor with a portfolio of properties, you probably don’t know all the nitty gritty details of the real estate world. Luckily, real estate agents are there to guide regular folks through the whole process of buying and selling a home. Sometimes, though, things don’t work out and you find yourself in the awkward position of wanting to break up with your agent. If your place still hasn’t sold or if your dream home is still eluding you and you think your agent is to blame, read on.

To be clear, I’m not hating on real estate agents here. It takes two to tango in a client-agent relationship, and it’s important for you to both get in the right rhythm.

Laura McGurk, a licensed real estate agent with Century 21 Breeden Realtors in Columbus, Indiana, says that unrealistic expectations on the part of the buyer or seller are one of the biggest causes of strife. Combine that with miscommunication, and “It just can get really ugly really fast,” she says.

If you are thinking about cutting ties with an agent, McGurk recommends taking a moment to reevaluate your expectations, especially if you’re a buyer. “Are you asking for that needle in a haystack and then getting really angry when they don’t find it in a day? Are you texting and calling all hours of the night? Are you changing the parameters of what you want or when you need it?” If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, then know that in the “it’s not you, it’s me” conversation, it really is you.

But even if you are a model client, sometimes things can still go south with your real estate agent. If so, here are some ways to increase the staying power of your relationship.

Set a realistic timeline.

Whether you are ready to move as soon as possible or are willing to wait out the market to find your dream home, your agent needs to know your timeline. It never helps when one party is more eager than the other.

“Our first agent really stressed us out,” says Stephanie, a homeowner in Kinnelon, New Jersey. “We didn’t feel like we could say anything positive about a house she’d shown us without being pressured [to make an offer]. But when we started looking again with someone chill, it was great. We loved every minute of it because we could give honest feedback and take our time thinking over what we’d seen.” 

Stephanie says the house they wound up buying was one that their new agent found and “just brought us by on a whim,” she explains. “We made an offer on the spot,” she says.

Find an agent with the right kind of expertise.

Not every real estate transaction is the same. If yours falls outside of the realm of your agent’s expertise, you might wind up disappointed.

At the end of 2010, Tara and her husband were looking to sell their Maine home during the holidays and in the midst of a housing crash. In the year that their home was listed, only three people looked at it. Tara says her agent, “never had any advice or suggestions, and he never seemed to really push it.” They decided to regroup and took the home off the market for two weeks. In that time, they were approached by another agent, this time one who specialized in short sales. 

“[Our new agent] maintained constant contact with us and hustled,” Tara says. “The home sold in a matter of weeks.”

Make sure your communication styles match.

Are you a texter or a talker? McGurk says no matter your preference, it’s important to get on the same page as your agent. That includes during what hours those texts and calls are sent. If you’re an early riser and decide to text your agent, you need to be OK with not hearing a response until they start work for the day. On the flip side, an agent who is used to talking on the phone might have to switch gears to texting or email if their clients are hard to reach during the day. Be clear on how you want to touch base with your agent and you could avoid trouble.

Dish the bad news directly.

While the client-agent relationship is all about business, just like in a romantic relationship, it’s always best to be straightforward. So if you have decided to cut ties, it’s best to take the mature route with your breakup conversation.

Agents want to hear it straight, says McGurk. “It stings, obviously, if someone’s going to break up with us, but there’s really nothing worse than hearing it from a third party that your client has moved on and is using another agent now.”