How to serve clients who think real estate agents are evil

Broker Notebook

Every now and then I end up working with a client who really does not like real estate agents.

The client hires me so he can give the whole agent thing a try while he’s figuring out how to sell his home, or because he did not know what else to do. Or maybe he didn’t mean to hire me, but could not resist my charm.

Zombie agent image via Shutterstock.
Zombie agent image via Shutterstock.

After interviewing me and a couple of other agents, one client took a week to review listing contracts. He asked a lot of questions, and made it clear to me that he did not like real estate agents.

He eventually signed the contracts, but later he decided that I had tricked him into it. Nothing surprises me anymore.

These reluctant clients have all sorts of ideas about real estate agents, and most of them are negative. I can feel the hostility, even under the Minnesota nice.

I think what I like best about being self-employed is that I don’t have to work with the same people day in and day out — which makes it easier for me to be patient until the home is sold.

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Sometimes clients assume that I am just in it for the money. To them, that means I won’t do a good job.

Knowing when to say no is important, because every client is just as much of a risk to us as we are to them."

Yet every day, many of them go to jobs that they hate, because they need the money. My guess is they do a good job so they can keep their jobs.

I happen to enjoy what I do. But I’m sure that if i did not need an income, I would not be selling real estate.

I don’t have to take every client who comes my way. No one does. Even when business is slow, I have been known to pass up the opportunity to take on a client because I can tell that, no matter what I do, it won’t be good enough.

Knowing when to say no is important, because every client is just as much of a risk to us as we are to them.

Working with those clients who do not like real estate agents can be a good experience. It helps us keep our perspective, and not take ourselves too seriously.

We should not take it personally when someone has made up his mind that real estate agents are evil. Such people usually ask the tough questions and keep us on our toes.

They serve as a reminder that we always need to put everything in writing, so that there are no misunderstandings. They help us remember that we need to explain what we are doing throughout the process.

It is real estate agents who are usually viewed with suspicion, not our clients. But things often go wrong because of our clients’ actions, or because of the economy, or because a loan doesn’t get underwritten, or a buyer changes her mind.

Sometimes clients seem to plan on not liking the job I do, and some are never happy. But others seem to appreciate the work I put into selling their home, or helping them buy another. They almost seem surprised when I handle a problem they never expected, or give them advice that helps them more than it helps me.

Some are amazed at how real estate agents will work together when one is representing the buyer and another the seller, and how we encourage our clients to work with each other for a smoother transaction.

When it comes to marketing to these sellers, how do we explain to them all of the possible scenarios that can occur in the sale of their home? The only way I have had any success in marketing to reluctant clients is by earning their trust.

The entire time I have been a real estate agent I have been told that we are no longer needed and that we will be replaced by the Internet. I don’t see any evidence that fewer people are working with real estate agents than there were when I started 12 years ago. If anything, it has all gotten more complicated.

There are so many services we provide as agents, and we don’t always know which services will be required when we first start working with a new client. Our services are personal. Because no two properties or clients are the same, we tailor our services to fit the situation.

Sometimes the people who do not want to hire us second-guess us every step of the way, which makes it harder for us to do our jobs. I like to think of those people as teachers. They give me the opportunity to get better at what I do, and maybe I give them the chance to change their minds about real estate agents.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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