Home Buying in 07030>Question Details

Mark, Real Estate Pro in 07030

Can you 'fire' your buyer's agent?

Asked by Mark, 07030 Wed Mar 18, 2009

Let's assume I used to work with a buyer's agent (no contract signed), but I'm so dissatisfied with this person (because this person has been misinforming both potential sellers and us as buyers) that I do not want to work with this person any more. It is not an issue telling the agent goodbye, but I wonder if this person will still receive their commission if I decide to purchase a property they have showed me, even although they did a bad job. Is there any way I can involve a new buyer's agent; someone I can trust, who can do a reliable job and actually deserves the commission?

Thanks.

Help the community by answering this question:

Answers

20
Hi Mark,

Regardless of any longwinded (to the point of unreadability) commentary to the contrary notwithstanding, dual agency is a horrific deal for you or any other buyer. Google "dual agency" and do your own independent research. It would seem that even without any real estate knowledge at all, common sense would dictate that you do not want one agent representing both sides of a real estate transaction. Yes, even if the state allows it. Yes, even if there is a form you can sign to permit it.

At this point, I think you will notice that the only parties who defend dual agency are antique agents who are used to double dipping and indeed almost worship a deal where they can double end the commission.

The fact that anachronistic agents defend it is preposterous, but makes no difference whatsoever. Research it, ask your attorney about it, then simply AVOID IT. Get your own competent buyers agent and proceed with your purchase.

Please review this article that appeared in the New York Times last week. It illustrates some of the concerns:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/realestate/15lizone.html?_…

Again, to you and all other buyers: Research it, ask your real estate attorney about it, think about it for 30 seconds in terms of common sense, then DO NOT CONSENT TO IT. Use your own agent to represent your interests with UNDIVIDED LOYALTY and UNCOMPROMISED ADVOCACY.

This is 2009, not 1970. There is no longer any excuse to make this mistake. If you like a property, do not call the listing agent. Have your own agent show you the home and get you the information you need to obtain the home at the lowest possible price and at the best terms to you the buyer.

Good luck!

-Marc
Marc Paolella
Relocation Director
Member, Worldwide ERC
Licensed Realtor NJ
Licensed Appraiser NJ & NY
Century 21 Joe Tekula Realtors
Agent of the Year 2008
Owner: Sands Appraisal Service, Inc.
Phone (direct): (973) 584-4235
web: http://www.marcpaolella.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 19, 2009
Mark,

You owe it to the public to report what happened to the broker and to the Real Estate Commission. She is just going to victimize other buyers and sellers if you don't.

She only caused you inconvenience and angst, which is bad enough. Changing contracts is fraud and she might cause someone else to be sued.

You really have to report her. It's not about feelings anymore, it's about protecting someone else from becoming a victim.

You should also NOT use the listing agent to pursue this property. You do not want a dual agency where the listing agent attempts to represent both sides of the transaction, which really CANNOT be done ethically.

Find another (competent and experienced) agent who will make a new and lower offer on the property in question. It sounds like the sellers are in the mood to sell. The market has dropped since you made your original offer, and that will be the justification for your new lower offer.

Your new and competent agent should contact the broker of your old and incompetent agent and work out a deal to solve the commission problem. That part is a bit of a mess, but is really no longer your problem. Whether the old and incompetent agent gets any money is no longer the issue. She should be reported to the Real Estate Commission so she can no longer victimize others.

Good luck!

-Marc
Marc Paolella
Relocation Director
Member, Worldwide ERC
Licensed Realtor NJ
Licensed Appraiser NJ & NY
Century 21 Joe Tekula Realtors
Agent of the Year 2008
Owner: Sands Appraisal Service, Inc.
Phone (direct): (973) 584-4235
web: http://www.marcpaolella.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
Only in California can you fire an agent, and in Maryland they just steal each others clients. However, here in the great state of NJ real, estate agents have great respect for each other and strongly believe in following the "procurring cause" to resolve commission payment and unabashed loyalty from our clients. Good question, Mark. I will be smiling all night just thinking about it.
Web Reference: http://GregoryBain.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
Another voice in the wind. Write a letter to the Broker of Record and explain the situation. And walk away.... It is agents such as the one you described who give this business a bad name.
Web Reference: http://jonathancitron.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 19, 2009
Now that I have a little more information I too will chime in again. In this case I would send a letter to the agent and the broker officially firing her and stating the reasons. While some brokers in town won't do much it will protect you and your new agent. After that I would interview a few agents, let them know what is going on, view the home again, and place a new offer. Both your agent and the seller's agent must present all offers exactly as written, no exceptions. Changing the terms of an offer after being signed, and without your consent is not not only unethical but could even be fraudulent.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 19, 2009
Hello Mark,

No contract = no commitment, so go ahead and and "fire" him. He would not be entitled to any commission if he has no buyer/broker contract with you. Find a new agent, have them show you the home, then write up your offer.

Good luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 19, 2009
Mark: Since you have clarified things a bit and you've received other comment, I'd like to chime in yet again. I believe that my original advice was correct but I’d like to add a little nuance to it.

To begin with, the behavior that you describe is beyond ANY bounds of reasonable professional service. While your wife seems to be a nice person, "punishment" is not an issue here, in my opinion. Technically, you have (or had) a relationship, not with Ms. Acid Agent but with her brokerage. If you are dissatisfied, that's whom you should address about the problems. The agency cannot render better service if they don't know what's going on. As far as "punishment" goes, we have recently forbidden public agent flogging, although some of our clients are disappointed with that. An agent is not an employee and can't be "fired." They can be asked to take their silly attitude down the road to another agency. There are plenty of them in this area and a new one pops up every day. There is also no prison term nor any monetary fines involved if that is as far as it goes.

As far as notifying the Real Estate Commission, you may have cause and in that case, there would be real punishment, equitably administered by this state agency. The problem is that you would have to involve yourself with that whole mess, provide proofs etc. etc. Since you have not been defrauded and have not lost any money in the deal, it may be more trouble than it’s worth. I’m sure that Ms. Acid Agent’s attitude will soon catch up to her and that’s why I strongly suggest that getting in touch with her Broker Manager is in order.

I would take issue with Mr. Paollela several respects. The gentleman has many opinions that I would typify as "Idée Fixe." He is not reasonable about them. One of his “Hobby Horses” is Buyer Agency versus Dual Agency and even with the concept of the buyer working with the Seller's Agent. In the fist place, except in his own little world, these forms of relationship are not illegal, since they are specifically allowed by the State of New Jersey (See the Consumer Information Statement (CIS) that NJ mandates we give every person we work with on first meeting.) You should also note that these other forms of working are not proscribed in the Realtor's code of ethics.

In fact, Mr. Paollela seems to have missed the fact that the agent who has caused you all this grief was acting as a BUYER’S AGENT! The answer then, at least in the opinion of the majority of Realtors, is that you should be informed as to the limits of service we can provide under the regulations of the state (The CIS) and that, working with a CONSCIENTIOUS agent, you will get fair and efficient service, leading to a successful real estate transaction and the agent's ability to collect fair compensation for their efforts.

Mr. Paollela has also suggested that your new agent should contact the old agency and “work out a deal.” This may be expedient and get the job done with minimum fuss. It is not absolutely necessary because, simply, you can dismiss an agent for cause. The only problem is that a second agent might be leery of any fight that might be initiated by the first agency, reasonable or not. So, from a practical point of view, that may be advisable but it is not a necessity.

Yes, I know that, when money is involved, the temptation to gain more at unfair advantage exists (witness Enron, Bernie Madoff, AIG bonuses and Avenue "E" lobbyists.) Nevertheless, people in general and most agents (being real people themselves, despite some nasty and ill founded attitudes held by some members of the general public) try their best to render good and ethical service, no matter what form of agency is in play.


I really hope that you get the home you want and at a price that is reasonable in today’s market. While Mr. Paollela’s advice is that you can make a lower offer, based on market trends, in point of fact, neither he nor any one reading this thread has a clue about where the price was before, in comparison to today’s prices, nor can we judge the seller’s attitude toward the sale of his property. You may find that, in order to get this particular property, you will have to come up to the seller’s minimally acceptable price, market conditions or not. Not all sellers are reasonable and if you can afford it and the deal gets you the property that you want at a price you are willing and able to pay, well and good. If not, the market is ever-changing and you may even (and probably will) find the house that becomes the home that you have so long desired, elsewhere.

Best of Luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 19, 2009
Hi Mark, I agree with Mark that the conduct you have described should be reported to the agent's broker. Her job is to work in your best interests and you've convinced me that she is falling short. Your agent should not be impeding your effort to buy this home.

Good luck to you and....

Best,
Jeannie Feenick
Search and connect at http://www.feenick.com
Web Reference: http://www.feenick.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
Wow; I got a lot of responses which I absolutely appreciate!

No, I never signed a buyers agreement; she is someone my wife knows from the dog park so we decided to use this person to 'show us around'.

We did make a formal offer on this property in December, which got rejected by the sellers. One of the reasons why it got rejected is because our 'agent' never voiced our true intentions to the sellers. In fact, our agent changed the conditions we had put in writing in our offer without telling us! On top of that, the agent blamed me for not 'misunderstanding'. Excuse me, but an offer is an offer and if you want to change it, shouldn't you at least consult with me, as a buyer?

So a couple of weeks back the agent contacted us again asking if we were still interested in this property for the price we originally placed an offer for. My wife and I came back a couple of days later that we were not sure, but willing to talk if the seller was negotiable. Her response to us was "Best of luck to the both of you". My wife and I were thinking what to do with THAT response. So we contacted the seller's agent directly and apparently our agent told her 'we were not interested', while the selling agent told me there is definitely room for negotiation.

So our former agent is not only providing misinformation, but also changing contracts and on top of that all is our fault. Now you understand why
a. I don't want to work with this person anymore
b. I really don't think this person deserve a single Dollar of commission based on her unprofessional and obnoxious approach

I am actually leaning towards calling the broker, but my wife feels that might be too much of a 'punishment'. Not only will the agent lose the commission (if all works out), but the broker also learns about the agent's practices.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
In Georgia, we work under Buyer Brokerage Agreements before we start working with a Buyer. In that agreement, there is a clause that says the Buyer or the Buyer Agent can terminate that agreement at anytime in writing.There is other language that basically sasy If the Buyer Agent showed a client a property during the time that agreement was in efffect, and the client buys that home shown through another agent, that client is responsible for that Buyer Agent's commission. Every situation is different, but that is the general rule of thumb but always check with your attorney. Hope this helps!

http://www.danielleyouragent.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
Mark,
Make sure you disclose the prior relationship to any new agent you use. Sometimes chemistry is just not "as advertised". Don't want to get into skill level but when an agent obligates to you as a buyer you may definitely expect a professional discreet demeanor.
Again, just convey to all parties what you are doing.
I trust this helps,
Jeff
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
Mark: If you have no contract with an agent, you do not have to pay him. However, if you try to use a second agent in place of the first one, you will have to inform the second one that an earlier relationship existed. The second agent may steer clear of a potential conflict or may ask that you sign a contract whereby you will pay the second agent a commission, unless the seller’s agent does share commission with the second agent.

The seller's agent will not "lose my license" under any circumstances. State licensure does not get involved in commission amounts. The anti-monopoly laws do and the Realtor organization (private and professional) does.

You have an implied contract with the first agent you used and assuming that agent is diligent, he or she can expect to continue to represent you. Actually, of course, your contract is not with the individual but with the agency. Therefore, in my opinion, what you should do is write to the agency's manager and dismiss them, stating the cause. The general "rules" of determining who has earned a commission do state that dismissal is a good reason not to have any claim on a commission.

If you keep a copy of the dismissal letter and disclose the situation to the replacement agency (or, if you work out an acceptable arrangement to use a different agent at the original firm) you should have no trouble in finding someone to work with you,

If you get the manager at the first agency to intervene and delegate an agent acceptable to you to finish the deal, then you don't even have to worry about the commission at all because it will go the agency that you have had all along and how they divvy it up is not really your business, even if you have strong personal opinions.

In the real estate business, an agent is a servant and that servant either obeys commands or can be dismissed, just as any other servant can. Failing to perform as contracted is good cause for such a dismissal
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
There are a lot of bad agents out there so it really is important to get referrals and interview a few agents to make sure you are compatible. As an agent I will say I cringe when I know I'll have certain agents on the other side of a deal. Unfortunately, in this case it's starting to sound like it's a little late not to pay this agent. If you have already put in an offer through your old agent you are in much more of a gray area. It really starts getting tricky once you are actually involved in a transaction. It's hard to say what you can do without knowing how far into the deal you are.

As far as the first agent getting a commission. If they found you the place and you put an offer in through them, they have already done a good portion of their job. While a good agent can usually find you a place very quickly if they listen to you, not to give this agent a commission at this point is both legally and ethically questionable depending on the circumstances. If you are in attorney review and/or have an offer in I would talk to your attorney about switching agents.

You say there is no contract, do you mean a buyer agency agreement, or a sales contract? The sales contract spells out everyone's commission, so if you have made it that far, your existing agent is getting paid through that contact.

As far as the seller's agent being your agent that is impossible. The seller's agent has a signed contract with the seller. They are the seller's agent. I'm not saying they couldn't work with you or that they would do anything unethical but their legal and fiduciary responsibility is to the seller. They would have to disclose anything you say to them, but could not legally disclose anything to you.

Andres Garcia
Sales Associate
RE/MAX Gold Coast Realty
56 Newark Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030
Direct: 201 795-5200 x340
Office: 201 795-0100
Fax: 201 795-1245
andres@milesquarerealty.com
http://www.milesquarerealty.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
I don't think the sellers agent is the one to answer this question. Put in writing the problems, and be specific, you have with the old agent, then send it to the agent and his/her broker. I would also include each of the steps you made with this agent and include the problems that you've encountered. Also send a copy of the letter you send to your agent to the agent's local board of REALTORS. If a dispute arises, the first step in the hearing process will be at the local Board of REALTORS.

Keep any emails and outline the problems you had with this agent.

Give a copy of the letter to your new agent and move forward.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
The answer is Yes to all you questions.

You can fire your agent. He can make a procuring cause arguement for commission (though depending on his brokers policies if they pursue it then it is probable the broker will get the full commission and not the agent). You can get another agent to write the offer.

The right way to fire the agent is to notify him in writing or e-mail before you write the offer his services are no longer required and detail the specifics. (Not listening, not responding in a timely manner, "closing" without performing a professional level of due diligence, I don't know, just make sure it's the truth). There are many different types of personalities, this happens all the time.

Then write your offer with someone you trust. There are risks which will create unnecessary headaches. Don't have your agent brother write the offer, don't let the listing agent write the offer, don't let an agent in a different Realtor association write the offer. These are jsut a few examples of scenarios that shed's doubt on ones credibility.

Reasonable alternatives include going to the agents broker and ask him to write the offer or have him assign an agent at that office you do like.
Web Reference: http://bob2sell.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
Thanks all for the information...

For me it's really about that I don't think the 'old' agent should get a cent for the mess this person made; and on the other hand I think the new agent should be able to receive their share for helping me throughout the process. The bottom line is that it shouldn't affect me personally, but sometimes there is also something as ethically correct.

On a side note: the seller's agent claims there is "no way" to not pay commission to the original agent. She offered to be my agent (for the purchase) as well, so I don't have to deal with my original agent, but she says she has to pay the seller part of the commission to the original agent, or "she could lose her license". Does that makes sense or is this a sneaky way of her getting all the commission?

Sometimes I wish the real estate market is more transparent... But I'm grateful for forums like these where I can get straight and honest answers!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
I agree with Marc. You can work with whomever you want. You need to feel comfortable with, and most importantly, trust your agent.

If you end up buying a place that you were originally shown by your current agent your previous agent can try and go after your new agent for the commission. While I'll briefly explain why, it's really none of your concern, just let the new agent know the full situation.

Your old agent can argue that they were the 'procuring cause' of the sale. Procuring cause basically states that the commission is due to whomever caused the transaction. Typically whomever introduced you to the property. Many home buyers may not realize that they can cause issues between agents by, failing to formally end a working relationship with another agent, requesting information about a property through an agent's Web site, or even signing in at an open house without disclosing you are working with an agent.

This is really something for the agents to work out though. If you want to find a new agent I would recommend asking friends for referrals and going out and talking to a few agents. Just be sure to let your new agent know what the situation is so they can decide how to address it. Really the only way it might become an issue for the agents though is if it's a home you've already seen.

Thanks for thinking of the new agent and good luck with your search.

Andres Garcia
Sales Associate
RE/MAX Gold Coast Realty
56 Newark Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030
Direct: 201 795-5200 x340
Office: 201 795-0100
Fax: 201 795-1245
andres@milesquarerealty.com
http://www.milesquarerealty.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
You have no obligation to continue with this agent but the commission is another issue. The classic definition of procuring cause is an unbroken chain of events leading to a contract. You may want to write or email the agent (so there is a clear trail of communication) and let them know you were not pleased with their services and that you believe you were misinformed. There would serve as notice to break the chain of events since you suspect you weren't being properly represented. Then you would be able to proceed with another agent. I would strongly recommend you tell your new agent all that happened and have them get their broker involved. They should be protected but truthfully, if they are in front of an arbitration panel anything could happen. The key is to disclose and document.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
Marc,

But who will get the commission? The new agent or the original 'fired' agent who originally showed the condo?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
Of course, there is nothing in writing and you can select whoever you like to represent you. Just inform the new agent so he can go in with his eyes open. Some agents might negotiate a deal with the old agent in the form of a referral fee. Others might just ignore him and let the chips fall where they may as far as procuring cause.

The bottom line for you is you can work with whomever you want. Period.

-Marc

Marc Paolella
Relocation Director
Member, Worldwide ERC
Licensed Realtor NJ
Licensed Appraiser NJ & NY
Century 21 Joe Tekula Realtors
Agent of the Year 2008
Owner: Sands Appraisal Service, Inc.
Phone (direct): (973) 584-4235
web: http://www.marcpaolella.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 18, 2009
Search Advice
Ask our community a question
Email me when…

Learn more

Copyright © 2015 Trulia, Inc. All rights reserved.   |  
Have a question? Visit our Help Center to find the answer