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10 reasons to fire your real estate agent

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Having to terminate a contract or let go of a paid professional is never a pleasant experience — and that’s particularly true when it comes to the person tasked with selling (or finding) your home.

While there are sellers and buyers with unrealistic expectations, there are also situations where the real estate agent is to blame for the breakdown of this fiduciary relationship. So, how do you know when to fire your agent?

Here are 10 of the most common reasons why agents get fired as well as the warning signs you should look for to help you avoid hiring a less-than-competent agent in the first place. (Plus, find out how to find the best agent right from the get-go.)

#1: Never available when you need him/her

With all the technology available today, there are really no valid excuses for an agent not to stay in touch with you. This is particularly true when it comes to preparing and negotiating an offer. Most real estate transactions demand a lot of back and forth negotiating, and more than just common courtesy, being readily available as an agent is imperative. Even one missed call can mean a difference of thousands of dollars for you, as the client, whether you’re buying or selling.

That’s why it’s vital for your agent to be easily reachable by phone, responsive to emails, and able to respond quickly in person for showings or meetings — and this is particularly true when negotiations on a property are underway.

Now, if your agent seems to feel that this might be a good time for a vacation, even for a day or two, and they don’t have a good stand-in that is willing and able then it’s a strong signal that this agent doesn’t place a priority on your needs and their job.

#2: Takes on too much decision-making authority

As a client, you need to be up-front and specific regarding your wishes in this regard, or risk having the agent make decisions without first consulting you. Clear communication can help you to avoid having to find another agent, one who can do a better job of clarifying and respecting these limits.

Additionally, there are cases where an agent who hasn’t invested the time to learn what their client wants or expects will end up doing something completely wrong, another situation that can lead to misunderstanding and a breakdown of the realtor-client relationship.
To avoid having this happen to you, make sure you are clear about your expectations right from the initial meeting. Be clear as to what you expect them to do, how much authorization they have to act on your behalf, and any actions or decisions you are not comfortable with delegating to them. This kind of open communication goes a long way towards ensuring a smooth experience and a successful outcome.

#3: Terrible negotiating skills

The number one skill you should probably look for in an agent is an exceptional ability to negotiate. A good agent knows when to make a call, what to say and how to convince the other party that they are getting exactly what they want (even though that may not be entirely the case). If you don’t have complete faith in your agent’s ability to be as tough (or as charming) as necessary to get the results you need, you may want to conclude the partnership right then and there.

The best agents will be clearly willing to invest the time and effort to secure the outcome you are looking for. This does not necessarily mean sealing the deal as fast as possible, either, as sometimes waiting longer can produce a better result for everyone involved.

#4: Trouble finding suitable buyers/properties

There’s nothing worse for you as a client than the sense that an unreasonable amount of valuable time is slipping by with no progress being made towards a deal. This is particularly frustrating where the value of your property is dropping, and your money is simply not being put to work in the most productive way possible.

If you are like most people with a property listed for sale, you will be keeping an eye on activity in the local market. If it soon becomes clear that other properties are moving while yours is not, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart talk with your agent to see if they are doing all that they can.

Your agent should know exactly what to do to give your property the exposure it needs. A yard sign is rarely enough to attract buyers, so additional measures will also have to be employed to draw in as many potential prospects as possible. A good agent will be able to present your property in the most attractive light, stimulating competition that should result in a better selling price.

#5: Terrible at explaining important paperwork

Agents need to have a thorough understanding of the extensive paperwork involved to make sure it is completed properly and in a timely matter. They should assume that you, as someone who is not a real estate specialist, most likely do not have an in-depth understanding of the ins and outs of deeds, liens, mortgages or easements. More than understanding themselves, a great agent also knows how to convey to you as the client exactly why the documents are needed and be able to assist you to fill them in properly.

An agent that doesn’t seem to know what documents to fill in for which situation does not likely have the level of experience to handle the complexities of your transaction. If you have doubts, it’s best to heed your instincts and find another, more knowledgeable agent to finish the job.

#6: Lacklustre marketing skills

If the agent doesn’t use the marketing tools available to them to spread the word about your property, there’s a good chance they are lacking the motivation and work ethic needed to sell it. A good agent should have no problem with doing as much marketing as needed to promote the property by, for example, publishing the property in an online ad or listing. By contrast, a GREAT agent will publish it on multiple channels — including MLS, websites, social media pages, newspapers, flyers, and brochures.

Agents should also have a thorough understanding of marketing tactics and strategies. The success of a sale could come down to choosing the right photo and crafting the right property description that will entice buyers to open the listing. It’s a given that every top tier agent with multiple recommendations also knows a thing or two about marketing psychology.

#7: Not being honest

Lying is never a good option, especially not when something as delicate as the sale or purchase of your home is at stake, not to mention the money involved. There are some agents that promise too much to their clients, being completely aware all along that they can’t and won’t be able to deliver. This is another red flag to avoid, as chances are that you’ll end up being disappointed or, even worse, losing out on thousands of dollars.

In fact, along with negotiating skills, honesty ranks right at the top of the list of qualities that you need to know without a doubt that your agent possesses. They should be up-front about telling you when they are not sure about something or don’t feel confident in their ability to negotiate for the price you expect. This kind of agent will clearly be far more interested in helping you to achieve your goals than in making themselves look good along the way.

#8: Prone to misconduct

Any form of misconduct — yelling, using profanities, causing scandals or just being generally disrespectful — should be grounds for immediate dismissal, and behaviour you may want to consider reporting to the local authority responsible for governing such conduct.
There are countless agents who have the high moral standards, ethics and education that the profession demands, so there is no need to settle for one who has no concept or appreciation of the trust invested in them.

#9: Has a “me first” attitude

Everything your agent does should be carried out with your best interests at heart. Any agent who, you sense, is putting their own priorities or profits first is not worthy of your trust, time or money.

You should feel confident that your realtor is working to protect and advance your interests at all times. Anything less, and you should not hesitate to end the arrangement and to let them know why you are doing so. They are there to act on your behalf, and any decision they make on your behalf should be approached with your satisfaction top of mind.

#10: Constant lack of communication

Almost every situation that leads to a problem and results in a firing is the direct result of poor communication. Of course, there are a lot of decisions that the agent has to make on their own, some of which you as the client might not understand, but there’s no problem that can’t be resolved by talking. That’s why it’s so important for all parties to maintain good communication from start to finish throughout the whole transaction.

Your agent should discuss everything with you upfront to avoid any risk of misunderstanding and ensure that both parties know exactly what to expect from each other.

Additionally, an agent should take the time to update you weekly (or even more often) about what’s going on with the sale of your property (or with the search for the right property), so you won’t have any reason to feel uncertain or worried.

The process of selling and buying a property can take months, so frequent updates are a must in order for you to have the peace of mind you deserve. After all, you need to have complete confidence that your agent is equally invested, and a willing partner in helping you to find or sell your property.

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Mustafa Abbasi

Mustafa Abbasi is the President of Zolo Realty and the broker of record in Ontario. He is passionate about customer service and consumer experience.