One of the biggest mistakes that most agents make is working with every type of client that comes along. Do you have a client that you need to "fire"?

When times get tough, it’s tempting to work with clients who we might normally refer to another agent. More often than not, this choice results in poor outcomes for both you and the client.

I remember being asked by a woman I did business with to find her a house in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. I had a pretty good knowledge of the area. Nevertheless, because most of my business was on the Westside of Los Angeles, I wasn’t actively previewing valley properties every day.

The result was that my client ended up buying a property on open house. Out of 200-plus properties that met most of her search criteria, she became very angry at me for not telling her about this particular property. I was the one who got "fired."

The best way to avoid being "fired" is to qualify your clients prior to working with them. Has your buyer been "preapproved" for a loan rather than just prequalified? Do your buyers or sellers have a time period where they must sell or purchase? Is the seller willing to be realistic about the current market conditions and list the house at a price where it will sell?

If you haven’t properly prescreened your clients, it’s time to take action. Here are just some signs that you may need to "fire" that pesky client:

1. The seller wants to "test the market" and has been doing so for six months with no offers.

2. Every time you see the client’s number on your caller ID, you avoid picking up the call.

3. Your buyer loves to look at houses, but never gets around to bringing his or her spouse to see any of the properties you show.

4. The seller forgets to mention that his or her property will be sold in foreclosure just seven days after you take the listing.

5. The husband wants a certain style of house and the wife wants something entirely different. Neither is going to budge and every time you take them out to look at property they fight about it. Now both are angry with you because you wouldn’t take their side of the argument.

6. The sellers conveniently forget that they have state and federal tax liens plus two more mortgages on the house than they told you about when you listed it.

7. The buyer lies on the loan application.

8. Your buyer who committed to work with you exclusively is out viewing homes with another agent.

9. In order to net some money from the sale, your short-sale seller asks you to kick back part of the commission and to not tell the bank.

10. The sellers refuse to put any restraints on their "very protective" pitbull that is especially aggressive toward children during showings.

11. After 12 months, your seller turns down a great offer and tells you, "I know we can do better." …CONTINUED

12. The buyer wants to make an offer, but doesn’t have enough money to cover the deposit check in his or her bank account. He or she tells you, "Don’t worry, I’ll get the money in soon — just don’t tell the seller."

13. The client uses abusive language with you or someone else in the transaction and feels no remorse for doing so.

14. The seller won’t do anything about the tenant who refuses to let anyone in to show the property.

15. The seller is unwilling to disclose a recent inspection report showing that there is a serious problem with the foundation.

16. A buyer who has refused to sign a buyer agreement just happens to mention during a showing, "This is a great area. My sister works right around the corner at ABC Real Estate."

17. The seller has done work to the house without the necessary permits and tells you, "What difference does that make? I don’t have to disclose that."

18. The client repeatedly stands you up for appointments without contacting you or apologizing.

19. The seller lies about the real reason they’re moving — the neighbors next door who party from midnight to 5 a.m. almost every night.

20. The seller fails to tell you that his wonderful view will be completely obstructed soon by the people who are building on the adjoining lot.

Perhaps the most common problem is overpriced listings. Real estate coach Mike Ferry has a great script that works well in this case. He suggests that you go to your seller’s door and say: "I apologize. I’m going to have to release you from your listing. I wasn’t strong enough to tell you the truth that your property is overpriced and is not going to sell."

In many cases, this is a wake-up call for the sellers and they will actually adjust their price.

What can you say in other cases? Here’s another script:

"I apologize. Due to personal issues, I will no longer be able to represent you on your sale/purchase. Would you like me to give you a referral to another agent or would you prefer to find a replacement on your own?"

While you may be scared about letting go of current business, what happens for most agents is that when they clear out dishonest, disrespectful or overly demanding clients, they create the space for better-quality business to come in to their practice.

So don’t be afraid to fire that pesky client, but do save the happy dance until you get home.

Bernice Ross, CEO of, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough" and "Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters." Hear Bernice daily on You can reach her at or find her on Twitter: @bross.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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