It seems like I’ve done all of the work, and now I’ve found a house without my Realtor, what’s next?
If you’ve every asked this question, you’re not alone. Whether a buyer can change agents, or choose to be represented at a later time is an often misunderstood topic.
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No. Just because a real estate agent has shown you a home does not mean that you have to use them. You don’t have to work with them in general, or on that specific listing, even if they are the listing agent (i.e. seller’s agent).
In New York as in most other states, the Department of State has come out with strong opinions regarding the splitting of commissions between agents in general, and the right of buyers to work with the agent of their choice more specifically:
“In prior opinions, the Department of State has stated that a listing’s broker must always honor the buyer’s right to be represented by his or her own broker, and that the listing broker cannot refuse to work with a buyer’s broker. The listing broker is not, however, obligated to share the sales commission with the buyer’s broker unless, prior to the sale, the two brokers have agreed to do so.”
The story is different if you have signed an exclusivity agreement of some type with a buyer’s agent, in which case you may owe commission regardless of what you choose to do.
Buyers typically never sign any sort of exclusivity agreements in New York City because of the ease of seeing listings and the enormous amount of competition between agents (i.e. there are 50,000 licensed real estate agents in the NYC metro area alone).
However, norms in other locales like Westchester County, NY can be different.
Because a Realtor conceivably will have to do more work driving a buyer around in a suburban or rural environment, buyers in these areas may be required to sign an Exclusive Right to Represent Buyer Agreement by their buyer’s agent.
You can of course decline to sign such an agreement, but that may cause Realtors to neglect you or outright refuse to work with you as your buyer’s agent.
As a buyer, you are not obligated to choose whether you want a buyer’s agent before you view a property for the first time.
As the Department of State has clearly indicated in its opinion letters, the listing agent must respect the buyer’s right to choose to work with the agent of his or her choice.
In practice, this means a buyer who is typically early in his or her search will often attend open houses on their own. Think about it, the buyer at this stage may not even know whether it really makes sense to buy vs rent, and is merely exploring what’s out there. Or perhaps the buyer is further along and just wants to scope out different neighborhoods to get a sense of where they actually want to live.
As you can imagine, they may not want to loop in a buyer’s agent at this point, for fear of wasting a buyer agent’s time because they don’t know how serious they are yet.
In plain English, this means that buyers shop around on their own, and then choose to have representation later on when they are more serious. This happens all the time.
Fortunately, these types of battles are quite rare between real estate professionals in NYC where 90% of deals are done between two agents, a buyer’s agent and a seller’s agent. Nationwide, the average is not far off at 75% of all transactions being done between two agents.
Real estate professionals generally understand and are aware of the state statues around buyer’s rights to choose their own agent, and as a result fights about representation are quite rare between traditional real estate agents.
The situation can be less collegial however, if the buyer is represented by a discount broker who’s stated objective is to “disrupt” the industry. We’ve heard too many stories from customers who had previously worked with mom and pop discount brokers who have learned the hard way. Typically, the listing agents would simply ignore the discount broker’s inquiries or even offers, much to the detriment of the buyer.
Fortunately, buyers can save money buy getting a Hauseit Buyer Closing Credit from one of our traditional, established partner brokers who are not discount brokers. Because of their discretion in giving you a rebate of the buyer agent commission, you won’t suffer from the negative consequences of boycotting by traditional brokers that your typical, small discounter broker might experience.
No, buyers typically do not save any money by working directly with a listing agent. Most traditional, exclusive right to sell listing agreements will state a specific percentage (what’s the typical real estate commission in NYC?) in commission that a seller will pay if the property sells.
This means the seller has already contractually agreed to pay a set percentage of the sale price, regardless of whether the buyer chooses to have an agent or not. This means that the commission will either be split, typically equally, between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent, or the seller’s agent will keep the entire commission if the buyer is unrepresented.
In plain English, it’s use it or lose it when it comes to deciding on whether to have a buyer’s agent.
The seller won’t save money if you for some reason decide to forgo your right to free buyer representation, which means you’re essentially throwing away the free advice that the seller has paid for you in advance.
What if the listing agent says I’ll get a discount?
Considering that the listing agent will essentially earn double commission if you waive your right to a buyer’s agent, it’s no wonder that he or she will say anything to try to convince you to throw away your right to a dedicated buyer’s agent.
However, you’ll need to be smart and logical about this. Keep in mind that any sort of discount in price or the commission (“supposedly”) is completely unverifiable on your end. Of course all of the conversations that the listing agent has with the seller will be verbal, not that you’d be shared any written correspondence or documentation to begin with.
As a result, how do you know that the discount that the listing agent claims to have negotiated with the seller had anything to do with you being a direct buyer? In other words, how do you know the listing agent didn’t just tell the seller that you countered with a lower price, meaning no reduction in the listing agent’s commission percentage?
Or here’s another example, let’s say the listing agent promises that you’ll receive a discount of 2% by going direct, perhaps via a supposed reduction in commission. How do you know that the listing agent didn’t just call the seller to negotiate a 2% price reduction instead?
Get a sure thing instead through Hauseit
Instead of all of these games, why not just get a Hauseit Buyer Closing Credit instead? You’ll have the benefit of an experienced, traditional full-service broker guiding you throughout the process. Plus, you’ll have a written agreement stating how much your buyer’s agent will pay you from their commission at closing.
Not only would you save the same amount, or possibly more, of money, but you can be certain that the proceeds came from the commission vs a reduction in price. Furthermore, the savings would come to you as post closing equity, which is considerably more valuable than pre-closing proceeds. As the cherry on top, you’ll get advice and guidance from an experienced buyer’s agent throughout the process as well.
Can I Switch Real Estate Agents as a Buyer?
Can I Change Realtors as a Buyer? Yes, you absolutely are allowed to change representation at any point as a buyer.
You can easily swap out your buyer’s agent with someone new if you don’t have any sort of exclusivity agreement, which can be the norm in dense metropolitan areas like NYC.
However, if you’re searching for a home in a rural or suburban area like the Hudson Valley, then the norm may very well be for buyers to sign exclusivity agreements with buyer’s agents.
In that case, you can still switch to a new buyer’s agent, but doing so may be detrimental as you may then owe commission to your exclusive buyer’s agent if you close on something without them.
If it can easily be demonstrated that he or she caused a meeting of the minds to occur between the buyer and the seller.
For example, if you submit an offer with your former agent, but the offer was rejected or countered, then that agent is typically not considered to be the procuring cause of the sale if you submit a new offer with a different agent who successfully negotiates an accepted offer.
However, if your original buyer’s agent submitted an offer and negotiated an accepted offer, but you decide to back out and re-submit that same offer with a different agent, then you may be in trouble. In that case, the original buyer’s agent may very well have a valid claim to be the procuring cause of that specific transaction, assuming it goes through.
Can You Fire Your Realtor Before Closing?
Yes, buyers can certainly fire their Realtor before closing, but that doesn’t preclude the buyer’s agent from earning commission if he or she was the procuring cause of the transaction.
This means that if you have a falling out with your buyer’s agent a few days before closing and decide to fire him or her, she will still be obviously the procuring cause of the sale (along with the listing agent) and will still get his or her commission check.
Sure, you may get some slight satisfaction from yelling at and “firing” your buyer’s agent before closing, but ultimately the joke’s on you. Why? Because your buyer’s agent won’t have to deal with you, and will certainly not have to attend closing (not that brokers typically attend closings to begin with) but will still get paid. He or she will just pick up the commission check from the seller’s attorney at a later, more convenient time after closing.
How to Fire a Real Estate Agent as a Buyer
It’s easy to fire a real estate agent as a buyer. Simply email the agent that you will no longer be using their services, and as a result you will be terminating any relationship you might have with said agent.
Remember to be polite and courteous as there’s no need to create enemies. This buyer’s agent may very well be the listing agent for another property that you may become interested in.
If you’re buying property in NYC or another major metropolitan area where the norm is for buyers to be “free agents” who aren’t typically tied down by exclusivity agreements, then that’s all you need to do.
If you happen to have an exclusivity agreement with your buyer’s agent, then you’ll need to examine the language in your agreement around termination.
You might get lucky if the agreement allows for early termination, or not so lucky if the agreement can only be modified with mutual agreement.
An exclusivity agreement may very well force you to pay your exclusive buyer’s agent a commission even if you stop working with him or her. Meaning if he or she is not paid via a co-broke from a listing agent, then you would be responsible for paying the buyer commission.
Sample Email to Break up with a Realtor
As per our conversation, I am terminating my relationship with you and your company.
I want to make it clear, my decision is based solely on my discomfort with you and your actions. Your colleague Bobby has been good to work with on identifying and showing me prospective properties. He is client focused and that has been very much appreciated.
Dear James and Leroy,
Pursuant to our listing agreement, I’d like to cancel with 24 hours notice. We have decided to go in a different direction with the sale of the house.
As we have not found a buyer yet, I trust this will not cause you any hardship. We appreciate that you did exactly what you said you would do.
Also per the agreement, if you happen to bring a buyer to the house, you will, of course, receive the 3% sales commission.
Disclosure: Hauseit® and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. No representation, guarantee or warranty of any kind is made regarding the completeness or accuracy of information provided. Hauseit LLC is a Licensed Real Estate Broker, licensed to do business in New York under license number 10991232340. Principal Office: 148 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10013.