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Should I Use My Friend or Relative as My Real Estate Agent?

So, you’re ready to buy or sell a house, and now you’re feeling some pressure to hire a friend or family member as your real estate agent. Maybe it’s your sweet neighbor Jan who does real estate part time. Or it’s a cousin who just got into the real estate biz—and posts about it constantly on social media. Should you just throw them a bone—even though you’re a little uncomfortable using them?

Um, no. Let’s be clear: Buying or selling a home is one of the largest financial decisions you’ll ever make. You need an experienced pro to guide you through the process.

While it might sound like a great idea to work with someone you already know and trust, real estate transactions rarely go smoothly, even in the best of situations. Throw family dynamics into the mix, and you’ve got a disaster waiting to happen.

Here are four good reasons to think twice before you hire a relative or a friend to help you buy or sell a house.

1. Your friend or relative could have a biased perspective.

You may be wondering, What’s the problem with being biased in my favor? Don’t I want someone who’s on my side? Yes and no. You want a real estate agent who will fight for your best interests from start to finish, but you also want someone who isn’t afraid to have a hard conversation and to tell you the truth—even if it’s difficult to hear.

Will your friend tell you that your overgrown yard (and creepy garden gnomes) will keep buyers from making it to the front door? Will your brother-in-law tell you that your budget for a new house or asking price for your current house is unrealistic?

That’s the kind of honesty you need to have a successful real estate transaction. Someone who only knows you in a professional setting will care more about selling your house than your feelings. And they’ll help you stick to your budget for a new place, even if it means saying no to a dreamy kitchen. And that’s what you want in an agent!

But don’t just take our word for it. We asked some members of our Ramsey Baby Steps Community on Facebook to share their thoughts on hiring a real estate agent who is a friend or family member. While some said they had good experiences, most warned to steer clear.

Dereatha R. said her family-member agent was embarrassed to tell her that her home was overpriced, so it sat on the market for a long time. “We let her go, and she has never spoken to us again,” she said.

Brenda T. also cautioned against hiring a family member: “It’s easier to deal with someone not related (to you) because you can tell them what you think and not worry about hurting feelings.”

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2. Your friend or relative may not be an expert.

Let’s face it. Your cousin’s mother-in-law, who has only been in the business for six months, isn’t going to have the same networks in the real estate community as a real estate expert who has been in the business for years.

Find a trusted real estate agent we recommend in your area.

An established real estate agent will know about properties before they even hit the market, and they’ll have details on homes that have recently sold in your area. That competitive edge pays off, especially in a tough housing market.

It may be tempting to work with a friend or family member because you want to help them out. Just remember: You’re not helping anyone if the relationship turns sour or you lose thousands of dollars. It’s better to hurt their feelings by not listing with them than completely ruin the relationship over a stressful transaction.

But what if your friend or relative really is a pro? Maybe the agent you’re considering knows the market inside and out. You may be able to trust them to shoot you straight on your home’s imperfections if you’re selling or to help you find a house you love. Being a pro should make you feel more confident about using them, right?

Not necessarily. Putting your biggest financial asset in the hands of someone so close to you is still risky.

If your friend or family member knows you well, they may think they know what’s best for you. Instead of showing you a house in your budget, they may take you to see one $20,000 over your budget that has a playroom your kids will love or a fabulous outdoor entertainment space.

The line between what you want and what they want for you can get fuzzy. Buying or selling a house is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make. It’s important to be guided by solid advice from a professional, not a friend or family member’s opinion.

3. The buying or selling process can get tense.

Even with a stellar agent, real estate transactions can get tense and complicated. Important steps like negotiating repairs and closing terms can get emotional for the people involved.

Sometimes it takes an unbiased viewpoint to find solutions to keep the deal together.

What if you’re not impressed with your agent’s marketing plan or you need more consistent communication? When you’re working with someone you only know in a professional context, it’s a lot easier to tell them the truth. But when you’re working with a close friend or family member, it’s tempting to settle and let things slide.

And what if your house isn’t getting the interest it should, and you have to fire your agent? Let’s just say you may have some awkward family get-togethers in your future. Or worst-case scenario: You may lose the relationship altogether.

Bev L., another member of our Ramsey Baby Steps Community, said, “If it goes well, great. But if not, it will forever put a rift in the family with continuing consequences. Not worth it.”

Other folks were adamantly against mixing family and business too. Michael E. said, “It’s hard to fire them when you don’t get results. If you do fire them, there’s family drama and everyone knows.”

Buying or selling a house is stressful enough. You don’t want drama in your family or circle of friends on top of it.

4. Your friend or family member will know your personal financial business.

When it comes to finding the right house or selling your current place, a lot of personal details come up—like your salary, house value, debt-to-income ratio and housing budget.

You may be really comfortable with your friend or relative, but do you want them to know all the details of your personal finances? No matter how much you like your aunt Karen, that’s not the kind of information you want her bringing up at Thanksgiving.

How to Break Up With Your Friend or Family Member

If you know a friend or relative is expecting you to hire them as your real estate agent, sit down and talk to them before they see your home listed with a different agent. Letting them know ahead of time shows them how much you value the relationship. That step can go a long way toward them understanding your perspective and not taking it personally.

Explain how much you value their relationship and that you don’t want to risk ruining it over a stressful transaction. Most friends and family members will understand this and may even have similar policies themselves.

Once you’ve had that conversation, you can move forward on your real estate transaction with peace of mind, regardless of how your relative responds. Even if their feelings are hurt initially, that’s far better than losing the relationship altogether because of a disaster later on.

Find a Real Estate Expert in Your Local Market

Our RamseyTrusted real estate agents know what it takes to buy or sell a home in your area. With their knowledge of your local market, you can trust their advice on everything from pricing to negotiations.

RamseyTrusted agents go through a vigorous vetting process and are held to high standards of customer service. Don’t settle for an amateur when you can work with a real estate pro.


Next Steps

  • Decide when you want to move.
  • If you have friends or family members who are agents, let them know why you won’t be using them.
Connect with a RamseyTrusted agent in your area

Frequently Asked Questions

Unless you signed a contract agreeing to work with a real estate agent for a specific period of time, you can simply call, text or email your agent to let them know you’ve decided to work with someone else. This might feel like a difficult thing to do, but it’s the right step if your agent isn’t serving you with excellence. If you did sign an agreement, try explaining why you want to switch agents and see if they’re willing to do the right thing and release you from the contract early.

Simply contact the agent to explain you no longer wish to work with them. If you signed a contract agreeing to work with the agent for a specific period of time, try explaining why you aren’t satisfied with the relationship. Your agent might be willing to break the agreement early to maintain a good reputation.

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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