Breaking Up With Your Real Estate Agent

Some relationships just don't work out, including the one you have with your real estate professional. But how do you know when it's time to make a switch and how do you do that? Not knowing the answers to these questions leads many homeowners to grit their teeth and stay in what amounts to an unhappy business "marriage." Nothing can harm the chances of a quick and smooth real estate transaction faster than "bad blood" between the homeowner and the agent.

** The Family Friend Problem **

While it may make sense to work with a real estate professional who is a family friend, this may not actually be the case. You will run the risk of offending your friend at the onset by not engaging his services, but that can be ameliorated by a simple conversation. "I don't want a business problem to harm our friendship."

The conversation on the other end of the scenario is much harder and much less likely to have the desired effect. It is almost impossible to say to a friend, "Why in the heck hasn't our house sold? Do you have a clue what you're doing?" -- and not wind up with a very personal argument on your hands. Ask yourself in the beginning what means more to you, selling your house or keeping your friend.

** Make Sure You Understand the Situation **

If, however, you do find yourself in the situation of being at odds with your agent friend, make sure you really know what's going on before you start casting blame. Ask for a new market analysis on your home. Then, quietly ask two or three other real estate professionals to confidentially do the same thing.

Sit down by yourself with no outside influences and compare the multiple analyses. If the real estate market in your area is indeed in shambles, as is the case in much of the country at this time, the failure of your home to sell quickly is likely not your friend's fault. At that stage, it makes more sense, and is much more peaceful to say, "What can we do to make the house more marketable?" or "Is there another strategy we can try?"

** Breaking Up is Hard to Do **

If the time has come, however, to "split the blanket" there are proper steps that must be taken, some of which are actual legal requirements. If your agent has listed your home for sale, you most likely signed a contract involving factors like list price, commission, and marketing strategies. The contract carries with it a specified length of representation.

If the contract contains a clause allowing it to be broken in writing by either party, there is no issue. Be aware, however, that some amount of commission may still be owed to the agent if you do then sell your home within a given period. If the contract stipulates a specified period before which it may not be voided, you are bound to honor that date by virtue of having signed the document.

** Do Your Reading First **

Obviously the potential of having to terminate your professional relationship with your agent is something you should consider before you sign the contract. Don't ever be uncomfortable about asking questions. Before you sign anything ask, "How can this contract be broken?" Verify anything you are told by carefully reading the fine print yourself. Make notes in the margin. Do not rely on your memory, and make sure you have a copy of any and all documents you sign.

** Try to Avoid Personality Clashes **

Many acrimonious relationships with agents boil down to personality clashes. Most of us have a small, still inner sense that tells us pretty quickly if we're going to get along with someone. If you have any reservations or negative feelings about your agent's personality and demeanor, don't work with that person! You should always choose your Realtor carefully. This is a professional with whom you are going to be working closely -- possibly for several months. As petty as it sounds, if the person's voice drives you up the wall, get another agent. Better that than actually pushing someone off that wall in a fit of annoyance!

** Talk With Your Agent Before Deciding to Fire Him **

In the vast majority of cases an honest conversation can resolve most conflicts between sellers and agents. Lack of information and a failure to communicate usually lie at the heart of these professional problems. As a seller, you are nervous and anxious to get a buyer and get your money. This is especially true for homeowners who have already purchased a new residence and are responsible for two mortgages.

Impatience and frustration often masquerade as real "fixable" problems and let's face it, your agent is your most convenient scapegoat. Who else are you going to blame when the sale doesn't go exactly as you envisioned? However, for your own peace of mind, make sure there truly is a problem before you fire your agent. There's not a real estate professional working today who would not fix this current market if it were in their power to do so.

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