When it comes to the home buying process, real estate agents are supposed to be your best allies. If you're attempting to make an offer on a home you can't afford, agents are there to show you more feasible options. If you consider skipping the home inspection to reach the closing table in a shorter time, the agent typically won't hesitate to give you a slap on the wrist.

You hire an agent with an expectation he or she will fulfill these and other duties, but there are some real estate professionals who don't perform as they should. There are various reasons home buyers dump agents, and you shouldn't feel bad if you have the same impulse. Agents who are inexperienced, deceptive, inattentive or too busy are all candidates for dismissal. Sometimes competence isn't an issue, but you have conflicting personalities.

While you may be ready to kick your agent to the curb, it isn't always easy to express your dissatisfaction. Like ending a romantic relationship, firing a real estate agent can be awkward experience - though you're less likely to have a drink thrown in your face.

Here are some tips for ending your relationship with an agent:

Have a talk with your agent

Before you prepare to crush a real estate professional's hopes of finding you the right home, schedule a meeting to discuss your grievances. There are many agents in the industry who do a poor job at catering to their clients, so you're not alone if you're having issues. A polite nudge and explanation of what you're seeking from the relationship may be all you need to get the partnership back on track.

Meeting with the agent also gives you time to assess how things have been going so far. Maybe you think there's an issue with responsiveness, but you didn't provide accurate times for when it's best to reach you by phone. Consider what steps you can take to improve the relationship in case you are equally responsible for the troubles.

Get everything in writing

If you decide that you can't stand to work with your agent for even another day, it's time to terminate the partnership. However, don't meet at the local ice cream shop and give the "It's not you, it's me" speech. Write up a typed notification that includes the date and submit it to your agent's office. Be sure to list your reasons for wanting to end the relationship.

Not only does written notification appear more professional given the type of partnership, but it can also be useful for determining liability in the event there is a dispute regarding unpaid commission. For an extra layer of protection, consider mailing a copy of the letter to yourself so it's postmarked.

Review clauses in the contract

If you're under contract when working with an agent, you have more to think about than whether you're letting him or her down hard. The document may contain certain clauses that prevent you from terminating the relationship. Additionally, you may be allowed to dump your agent but have to pay a substantial fee.

After the relationship has ended, be careful when working with another agent. If your new real estate professional helps you place an offer on a property that you made a bid for with the previous agent, the latter may be entitled to a cut of the commission on the sale.

In some cases, you can show the agent's brokerage he or she isn't keeping your best interests in mind. However, there's no guarantee you'll be able to breach the contract.