Why Did I Fire My Real Estate Agent?

Why Did I Fire My Real Estate Agent?

I could have softened up the title a little bit if I wanted to.

“Why did you switch Realtors?

“Why do people move on to different agents?”

“What did your previous agent lack that you’re hoping to gain elsewhere?”

And so on.

But the word “fired” tells you what’s really going on here, even if people rarely use the term in real life.  There are many, many ways to avoid the word if you want to.

Terminated, dismissed, replaced, relieved of duties, sacked, axed.  How about “the victim of redundancy?”  That’s a good one.

“Fired” is a hard word.

Many of us have never been fired or fired anybody, but I’ve been on both sides.

The first time I fired somebody, I swear I had a panic attack mid-firing.  I could barely get the words out, and as much as I needed to get this done, it just seemed never-ending.  That surprises people.  Many around me think I’m this cold-blooded killer.  Chris likes to joke that I’m a sociopath.  In reality, the character you play in the line of duty isn’t always who you are at heart.

I’ve been fired as well.

I was “let go” from my job at East Side Mario’s in the summer of 2000.  I wasn’t the right fit, and I knew that.  The manager there wanted people that bowed down to him, didn’t ask questions, and didn’t express independent thought.  Suffice it to say, I wore out my welcome pretty quickly.

Nowadays, firing people is very difficult.  You need more than just cause.  You need a sustained pattern of behaviour, documented, and unquestioned.  I have friends in the public sector that say their colleagues could never be fired.  No matter what.  And that, folks, is a topic for another day…

When it comes to real estate agents, they’re hired and fired with regularity.

And because of the nature of the relationship, the “firing” is rarely Trump-esque.

Ghosting is a popular way for many real estate buyers to ditch an agent they’re speaking to, but for those that are actively working with an agent (whether under contract or not), making the switch to another agent can be difficult for some, whereas it’s borderline euphoric for others.

A lot of my business is what I call “second-hand.”  Many of my clients come to me from other agents, either agents they had worked with on their previous transaction but didn’t want to return to, or agents they were literally working with last week.

If there’s an opportunity during the initial conversation, I usually ask, “What went wrong in your previous search?”

It’s a nice way of asking, “Why aren’t you working with your previous agent,” although sometimes I’ll be more direct.

I ask, not because I’m looking to gossip, but rather because I want to know where the other agent went wrong, or what the buyer is looking for in an agent.

So let me outline the ten most common “reasons” why buyers move on from their current agents, as explained to me by a long, long list of clients who had worked with an agent or agent(s) previously…

1) My agent is unresponsive

This is the most common problem between buyers and their agents and it can take many forms.

This can also feed into the other reasons below, but for the most part, I find that buyers expect to have a certain relationship with their agent, right or wrong.  When buyers aren’t feeling the relationship is running efficiently, they start to look elsewhere.

Every agent runs his or her business differently.

Personally, I rarely leave unanswered emails in my inbox at night.  I like to have every email answered before the day turns anew.

But that’s me.  Some agents go days, or even weeks before they return emails.

Every buyer is going to have a certain expectation, as I said: right or wrong.  Expected response times vary from person to person.

But there are agents out there that literally won’t return a phone call or an email for days on end.  And not just once, but rather as a pattern of behaviour.

I have clients who told me, “My last agent would respond to a Thursday/Friday email the following Monday, and by then, we’d already seen the houses we wanted to see at the weekend open house, answered all our own questions, and made decisions without him.”

Some buyers are passive in their search and this response time could work for that agent, but it shouldn’t.  Not in Toronto.  Not in 2022.  The market is just far too busy for an agent to let four days lapse before responding.

Other agents are too “big time” to respond.

A client told me recently, “We could never get through to our previous agent.  Every time we called or emailed, her assistant would answer.  Sometimes the assistant would email us directly from her own account, and other times she would email posing as our agent.  But we rarely interacted with our agent, so she ceased to be our agent.”

This is common with “name” agents who are more of a brand or a brokerage than an actual agent on the ground.  And again, to each, their own.  Sometimes, a brand sells.  On the list side, I’m more okay with the idea of a “name” agent on a sign and a bunch of elves behind the scenes doing the actual work.  But for a first-time buyer in Toronto, it’s not possible for them to get the warm-and-fuzzies in this market when their agent doesn’t respond.

2) My agent doesn’t send me any listings.

A client told me once, “My previous agent’s strategy was for us to browse Realtor.ca and send him listings we wanted to see.”

Now, I’ll admit: my clients are all on HouseSigma and Realtor.ca, so it’s not unusual for them to email me a listing.

But in other cases, and specifically the one I just mentioned, some agents make it their business model to sit back and wait for their clients to say, “We want to see this,” and that’s just not the way it’s supposed to work.

One of the values of an agent is finding properties that would interest the buyer.  Not only that, the agent works, presumably, day-and-night in the field, and should be familiar with everything that’s available.  If the agent isn’t sending his or her client listings, then what is that agent actually doing?

3) My agent sends me too many listings.

On the flip side, I’ve seen buyers who are inundated with listings every day!

Imagine you’re looking for a 1-bedroom condo downtown, and every morning, you wake up to an email with 87 new listings.

This is very common for first-time condo buyers and it’s overwhelming, exhausting, and demoralizing.

I’ve always prided myself on being selective.  If there are 87 new listings for 1-bedroom units in C01 and C08, that means there’s maybe four that I want to present to my clients.  I have an opinion, in case you didn’t notice.  But I have a value too, and that means sifting through the rubble to find the real estate that I want to sell, that I want my clients to buy, and that I want to watch them grow in.

I’ve also heard from buyers who say that they told their agent, “We want a 3-bedroom house in Riverdale,” but some MLS auto-search-email campaign emails them every house on the east side, every morning.

The problem there can be that the agent casts the net too wide, or that the agent doesn’t know how to use the search function, or that the agent doesn’t actually know the borders of Riverdale.  But all three problems are reasons why the search isn’t working efficiently, and I’ve had a lot of buyers come to me and say, “We don’t want a daily dump of MLS to sort through ourselves.  We want you to find us what we’re actually looking for!”

4) My agent always tells me to go to the open house on the weekend.

This is so common, it’s not even funny.

I had clients early on this year that told me their agent was part-time, he never responded to their emails in a reasonable time, and when they emailed him about a property he would say, “Go check it out at the open house on the weekend.”

They grew really tired of this, missed a ton of opportunities, and eventually found my blog and called me.

Ironically, their previous agent happened to work for my brokerage.

Oh well!  It’s a tough business, especially for agents that think they can do this part-time.  More on that later…

A lot of my clients will tell me, “Hey, don’t worry about taking us through, we’ll just check it out on the weekend,” but I don’t like that.  I recognize that they’re trying to do me a favour, if I’m actually working for them, then I need to be at the house with them.  Even when they say, “Check it out during the week, we’ll check it out on the weekend, and we’ll compare notes,” it still means that I’d be losing that connection.

Too many agents in this city use the open houses as a daycare for buyer-clients and I’ve witnessed this through our own open houses.

The funny thing is, we sold a few listings this year through open houses where buyers came through – saying they had an agent who sent them in person, then called us the next week and said, “Can we work with you?”  We’re certainly not looking to step on any toes, but if this happens, and the clients are asking to use our services, then who are we to say ‘no’?

5) My agent doesn’t listen.

This also takes many forms, and it intersects with many of the other points, but it’s very common for a second-hand buyer to sigh deeply and then say, “My agent just…….he just….didn’t listen.”

What that means is different to every buyer.  But it’s typically a culmination of frustration in different areas of the search.

I’ve heard buyers say that they had a firm maximum price point but that the agent kept sending them listings beyond that figure.

I’ve heard buyers say that they wanted to look at entry-level houses but that the agent kept pushing them into condos.

I’ve heard buyers say that they wanted a certain style of property; something unique, and the agent kept promoting cookie-cutter.

There’s no shortage of examples of how an agent doesn’t listen, but if one example is so egregious, or a bunch of different examples continue to pile up in a buyer’s search, it often results in the relationship breaking down and the buyer finding somebody else.

6) My agent kept pushing me into pre-construction.

This needs no explanation, right?

You sit down at a restaurant and order a pizza but the server brings you a pasta instead and says, “This is much better, trust me.”  Except in this analogy, you want to eat today and the pasta the server brings is uncooked and still in the package…

You know my thoughts on pre-construction so I don’t need to delve into this, however, the fact that the typical commission in resale is 2.5% and the typical commission in pre-construction is 4.0% should tell you all you need to know about why agents push resale buyers into pre-construction.

7) My agent doesn’t know anything.

This too doesn’t need much of an explanation, but rather it’s the stories I find amusing.

A client told me that he had one interaction with his previous agent, who was a friend from university who just got into the business.  He said every time he asked the agent a question, the agent said, “That’s interesting, let me get back to you on that.”  It was different variation of the same phrase every time.

“Great question.  Let me noodle on this.”

“Solid point there.  Allow me to come back to you with all the facts.”

And so on.

My client told me, “If this guy was just going to head home and Google my questions, then what good was he?”

Everybody has to start somewhere, and there was a time when I knew absolutely nothing at all.

But that doesn’t mean you want to work with the agent who knows less than your handy-dandy friend, or your buddy who watches HGTV real estate shows like it’s his job…

8) My agent pushed me off to a junior agent.

I’m running the risk of sounding hypocritical here, since I have a team.  But my team is actually a team…

Most real estate “teams” are anything but.  They’re a collection of agents who trade under a senior agent; like a mini-brokerage.  The agents don’t interact.  They often don’t get along.  They run separate businesses.

I run a true team and we actually work together.  It makes us more efficient and we can play to our strengths.

I have a rule which I follow religiously in that I don’t take on a buyer-client unless I can dedicate as much time to them as I would for any client, in any market cycle.  When we get typical move-up buyers, ie. those own a condo and want to buy a house, I often ask Chris Cansick to work with us on the purchase so I can handle the sale.

This isn’t “pushing somebody off to a junior agent.”  Chris is anything but.  He’s a top agent.  He’s worked with me for nearly a decade.  He’s my right arm sometimes.  But we truly work together to get the clients from A to B.

The same can’t be said of many agents out there who farm out leads.

A client of mine who I recently sold a house to said about her old agent, “We tried working with him but it wasn’t long before he pushed her off to a junior agent.  Some girl who didn’t know anything.  Then we found out that she worked at CIBC and she just sort of worked in real estate on the side, working his leads.”

That is being “pushed off to a junior agent,” and it’s being treated like a number.  Like a percentage of a cheque.  And buyers hate that.

9) My agent screwed up on an offer night.

This is so common, it’s almost automatic for any buyers that are looking to switch agents and have made an offer.

Their reasons for why their previous agent “screwed up” always differ.

Some say the agent pushed them too hard.

Some say the agent didn’t push them enough.

Many say that they were missing a key piece of information that they later learned, and which would have helped them make a better decision.

On an offer night, communication is key.  If my clients want to walk away, I will run them through different scenarios.  “So your bid is $1,050,000.  And you don’t want to move up.  So if this sells for $1,055,000, you’ll tell me tomorrow that you’re fine not having gone up to $1,060,000?”  If they say “yes,” then we walk.  Easy.  But many agents freeze up on an offer night, and without talking things through, communicating, and examining all the angles, the buyers often wake up the next morning feeling frustrated and regretful.

I’ve heard crazy things.  Things you couldn’t believe.

Some buyers have told me that their agent didn’t tell them there was more than one offer on a property, and that’s inexcusable.

I had a buyer once tell me that her agent didn’t know what time offers were and they didn’t get a chance to submit.

You can’t make this stuff up.  Seriously.

10) I found out my agent is actually part-time.

This is a tough one!

Some buyers simply can’t get over the fact that they were duped, but most everybody recognizes that part-time agents just aren’t who they want advising them on the largest purchase of their lives.

A friend of a friend, of a colleague, of a person, told me that she took an Uber last week and the driver handed her a business card.  He or she was a real estate agent.  And this hit close to home because he or she worked out of one of my brokerage’s other offices.

Hey, I’m not knocking it.  Ain’t no shame in it.  And good on this person for making ends meet rather than sticking his or her hand out to the government and saying, “I can’t make a living.”

But who’s going to trust the Uber-driving-agent to guide them on their home purchase?

I have a ton of these stories.

About ten or twelve years ago, I went out for dinner with some colleagues and the restaurant had a seafood theme.  Who did we see shucking oysters?  Somebody that worked for our company.  (Aaaaawk-waaard).  It wasn’t long before he was fully out of the business.

This isn’t intended to sound mean; it’s intended to sound honest.

And while there’s always the one or two percent of people that believe all agents are the same, none of them have any value, and that Realtors are all scummy pieces of shit, the rest of you would probably rather hire a true professional who’s the best at what they do, in any field, rather than wait for your real estate agent, accountant, or heart surgeon to finish his shift at the local Bowlerama.

I recognize that this could serve a jumping off point for agent-bashing but I don’t really care.

I think it’s helpful and relateable, and since I know most people find my blog through Google, somebody, somewhere, is reading this in the year 2025, having been miserable with their agent, and looking to Google for answers on how to proceed.

As I said at the onset, I consider myself an expert in this subject matter because so many people come to me after having worked with an agent previously.

For those that have never experienced anything on the list above, keep your agent forever! 🙂

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