How to Change Real Estate Agents

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By Jessica Johansen Updated April 11, 2024


When you’re buying or selling a home, it’s important to work with an agent you can depend on. If your agent isn’t a good fit, it’s possible to switch to someone else.

At some point during the partnership, the agent will ask you to sign a contract to continue working with them. If you haven’t signed a contract, you’re free to find another agent at any time. If you’ve signed a contract, it might be more difficult to switch agents. You could have to break a contract, which can have negative consequences such as cancellation fees.

However, with the right approach, you and your agent may be able to reach an agreement about dissolving the contract. Knowing proper etiquette in this situation can help you negotiate and end the partnership on a positive note.

If you need to find a trustworthy agent, here's how you can find the right agent.


Can I switch agents?

In most cases, you can change real estate agents if you’re not happy with their services. If you haven’t signed a buyer’s agent agreement or listing agreement yet, you’re free to switch right away.

However, if you’ve signed a contract, changing to another agent might require a few extra steps. Your best option would be to ask the broker to refer you to another agent within the brokerage. This way, you probably won’t have to break your contract, and you can most likely find someone better suited to your needs.

If you want to change brokerages, you might have to pay a cancellation fee for terminating a listing agreement or buyer's agency contract.

Generally speaking, buyers have more freedom to change agents. A buyer's agent might show a buyer a few properties before asking them to sign an agreement. If you don’t click with an agent during this time, you can simply thank them and find a buyer's agent who's a better fit.

Sellers, on the other hand, can sometimes feel rushed into signing an agreement. Listing agents have to do a lot of work to get your house ready to sell, so they want to make sure they’ll get reimbursed for their services. A few responsibilities of listing agents include:

  • Photographing the property
  • Staging the home
  • Gathering marketing materials (yard signs, online marketing, etc.)
  • Scheduling open houses and showings

If you want to change agents after signing a contract, look for these sections in the document:

  • Early termination: This clause describes situations where the agent or the seller can choose to back out of a contract. If you don’t believe the agent is fulfilling their job responsibilities, for example, you can cancel the partnership during the time period specified in the contract.
  • Early cancellation fee: This is the cost of breaking the contract with an agent.
  • Duties: Duties outline the responsibilities of the real estate agent. If the agent doesn’t meet these standards, you can point to these as reasons to terminate the contract.
  • Safety/protection: This clause aims to protect agents after a contract expires. For example, if you wait to sell your home until the contract expires, the agent who found the buyer would still need to be paid commission.

Reviewing these items should help you determine when you can back out of a contract and what the possible consequences might be. In some cases, early termination can still require you to pay real estate commission to the agent.

In the worst case scenario, improperly switching agents can force you to pay commission to both agents you work with.

Common reasons to fire an agent

Poor communication is the most common reason for buyers and sellers to switch agents. It’s crucial to be informed about the agent’s progress, so long periods of unresponsiveness and vague answers to questions can be red flags to look out for in your real estate agent.

Other signs that your agent isn’t a good fit include:

  • Poor communication skills
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Not scheduling showings or property tours
  • A lack of timely progress
  • Limited availability
  • Little knowledge about the local area
  • Pushiness/overly aggressive sales pitches
  • General feelings of distrust
  • Just not "clicking" with them personally

However, if your agent has been working diligently and you just don’t personally like them, it will be harder to back out of an agreement.

Changing agents for buyers

Choosing a different agent is pretty straightforward for buyers. If you haven’t signed a contract yet, politely inform the agent that you’ve decided to go with someone else.

Most agents won’t require buyers to sign an agreement until they have shown them a few properties. Exclusive contracts are the most common types of contracts, but the terms can vary from 30 days to a year or more. During this time period, the buyer agrees to work with one specific agent as long as they fulfill all of their responsibilities.

In the future, discuss the conditions of terminating a contract early before you sign a contract. Then you and the agent will be on the same page from the beginning of the partnership.

» MORE: Buyer Agency Agreements: Read This Before You Sign!

Changing agents for sellers

Switching listing agents can be a bit more difficult for sellers. Several expenses go into marketing a home, which agents generally cover out of their own pocket. To make sure sellers are serious about their decision, most listing agents require sellers to sign a contract earlier in the process compared to buyers.

Real estate agents make a living off of realtor commission, so they want to make sure sellers are serious about listing their homes before they invest their own time and money into the property. If you don’t sign a contract, the listing agent won’t prioritize your home because they don’t know if they’ll earn commission after closing.

Exclusive contracts are the most common type of agreements, but sellers may come across these other kinds of contracts:

  • Exclusive right to sell: The seller agrees to pay a commission whether the home is sold by their agent, by themselves, or anyone else. In other words, if your own efforts led someone to buy your property, you’d still have to pay the agent.
  • Exclusive agency: With this agreement, you’re able to work with agents within the same brokerage, or you can choose to sell on your own. If you end up selling your property yourself, you won’t have to pay commission.
  • Open listing: This is the rarest and least restrictive type of contract. You’re free to work with whomever you like, and whoever makes the sale will receive commission.

Since agents pay out of pocket for marketing services, it’s best to let them know as soon as possible if you want to work with someone else. If an agent has invested a lot of their own time and money to help your sale, they’ll be more reluctant to terminate the contract.

Also, remember that most real estate items are negotiable. If your agent has already completed a lot of work for you, you could offer to repay them for the services they have provided to end the partnership on a positive note.

» MORE: 11 Questions You Should Ask a Listing Agent

How do you cancel an exclusive agreement?

If you've already signed an exclusive contract with a buyer’s agent or listing agent, it’s important to review the terms and bring these up with your agent. You’ll need to discuss breaking the contract early or simply wait for the agreement to expire.

If you need a new agent who can help you find a home on a tight schedule, for example, you might need to have a conversation with your current agent and explain why the partnership isn’t working out. Having an honest conversation with your agent about your needs may be enough to convince them to terminate the agreement. If the agent refuses to let you out of the contract, your next best option is to contact the agent’s broker.

It’s in a broker’s best interest to match you with another agent if you’re unhappy with your current agent. Switching agents within the same brokerage means you won’t have to break your contract and the broker won’t lose your business. Furthermore, this helps the broker maintain a positive reputation.

In the rare case that a broker refuses to terminate the contract, you should consult a real estate attorney. Just be sure to let the broker know you intend to get legal assistance to help you get out of the contract. Facing possible legal trouble will convince most agencies to dissolve the contract.

» LEARN: What Is an Exclusive Contract?

Break-up etiquette

Telling an agent you’d rather work with someone else can be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Agents want to avoid negative reviews from unsatisfied customers, so most will cancel a contract if you ask. However, depending on what stage you’re at in the process, you might still have to pay a cancellation fee.

The cancellation fee generally reimburses agents for their time marketing your house or helping you find properties. If it’s still fairly early in the contract term, you might be able to avoid paying this fine by politely explaining your situation to your agent.

Regardless of why you’d like to change agents, use these tips to help the process go as smoothly as possible:

  • Bring up your concerns sooner rather than later. The longer you wait to break the news to the agent, the more time they’ll spend working to help you find or sell a home. If the agent has already spent weeks doing work for you, they might be more reluctant to dissolve the contract.
  • Show appreciation for the work the agent has already done for you.
  • If the agent tries to push you into keeping the contract, stay firm about your decision.

If an agent refuses to let you out of a contract, it might be best to wait until the contract expires, unless you need to sell your home quickly. In this case, you might want to consult an attorney to review your contract and discuss your options.

How to find the right agent for you

Whether you’re buying or selling, the qualities of a great real estate agent remain the same. Before you sign an agreement, find a real estate agent who meets the following criteria:

  • They’re proactive communicators.
  • They know the local area thoroughly.
  • Past clients review them positively.
  • They work as an agent full time. Part-time agents often have less experience and limited availability.
  • They have a network of trusted professionals who can help in the buying or selling process. These local professionals could include home inspectors, painters, photographers, and landscapers.

If you want to find the best agents in your area, a free service like Clever Real Estate can help by connecting you with experienced agents from top brokerages.

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