November 16, 2016
USA Today quoted me in How (And When) To Fire Your Real Estate Agent. It opens,
Breaking up is hard to do. Add a house and tens of thousands of dollars into the mix, and it can get downright ugly.
Unlike romantic entanglements, though, breaking up with your real estate agent as a seller if you’re not getting the service or the results promised doesn’t have to be dramatic. Here’s what you can do early on to minimize the damage — and how to handle the situation if, alas, you do come to irreconcilable differences.
When you first enlist an agent
Review your contract closely. Many real estate agents require their clients to sign an exclusive representation agreement, which is essentially an employment contract, says Brian Pendergraft, a real estate attorney in Greenbelt, Md. These contracts spell out how the client and real estate agent will each uphold their end of the deal, and they tend to be worded to protect the agent’s interests, says David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn, New York.
As a seller, you’ll want to ensure the contract covers your rights, too. This includes outlining exactly how your agent will market your home, and a plan to generate enough showings within a set timeframe so that you’ll have a legal leg to stand on for early termination, Reiss says.
Understand your options for termination from the get-go. There are a few ways to call it quits with your agent, but the win-win situation is a no-penalty termination in which neither party is penalized if the relationship ends prematurely, says Bruce Ailion, a Realtor and attorney in Atlanta. Include this detail in your contract.
If things go sour
Consider what constitutes a fireable offense. If you’re upset with your agent about sales strategy, lack of communication or poor service, those are issues that are unlikely to be resolved easily, Ailion says. Or perhaps you’re worried that your agent is in murky legal waters, such as refusing to show your home to people from certain protected groups or failing to share a property disclosure with buyers. Report these issues immediately to the agent’s broker of record, who is responsible for the real estate agents in a brokerage, Ailion says.
Put it in writing. If your agreement is in writing, you have to get out of it in writing even if there’s no specific expiration date, Pendergraft says. Write a letter or email to your agent requesting to part ways. If you get no response, hire an attorney to write a demand letter for you, Pendergraft says. This shows you mean business — at a fraction of the cost to take the issue to court.| Permalink