Brokerage

Choose your clients carefully

Broker Notebook

One of the wonderful things that comes with being self-employed is that real estate brokers and agents get to make choices.

We can choose to work with certain clients, or we can choose not to.

In fact, we can even choose to take the day off, and there really isn’t anything anyone can do about it except call us a lazy agent.

We are under no obligation to work with anyone.

If we have the courage, we can pick and choose whom we work with. Working with the right people is what makes work fun and rewarding, instead of stressful and exhausting.

Each time we choose to work with one client, we may also be choosing not to work with another. That’s because there are only so many people we can work with at one time, and it is possible to have too many clients.

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Sometimes it isn’t the number of clients that’s important. It’s the type of clients.

There are people who are just not worth working with for any amount of money. We try to avoid them but sometimes we don’t figure out who they are until it is too late.

Sometimes the right choice will lead to a commission, and the wrong one will lead to working for months for free because we don’t get paid until we sell a house and the sale closes.

Like most agents, there are times when I have worked very hard for very little money, and other times when a large commission more or less falls into my lap.

Yet some of the lowest-paying transactions that involve the most work are the most rewarding, because of the people involved in the transaction.

Sometimes the clients are buyers or sellers who are in situations that seem hopeless, and we are actually able to help them. We get to use all the experience and real estate skills we’ve accumulated in our careers and make a difference in someone’s life.

It can happen, and it does.

Other times I figure out too late that I’m working with someone who is never going to be happy with anything. I’ve learned to just ride it out, knowing that at least it doesn’t have anything to do with me.

I listen, but I don’t really hear, and hope that I can sell the house quickly and move on without absorbing any of the negativity.

There are people who are just not worth working with for any amount of money. We try to avoid them but sometimes we don’t figure out who they are until it is too late.

They are bullies who threaten us with legal action because they are disappointed in an outcome. They don’t trust real estate agents, and their paranoia causes problems during every step in the homebuying or selling process. They sign contracts that they don’t actually read, and then accuse us of all sorts of things later.

My patience with most people is almost infinite. But my tolerance for verbal abuse or bullying is almost nonexistent. The same for lying or raging paranoia. I would rather walk away from a commission than spend my time in an abusive client relationship.

Every hour I spend with a client that makes me miserable is an hour when I could be working with someone I like and who will give me the opportunity to do an amazing job.

If only people understood that the way they talk to, and treat, even a lowly independent contractor like a real estate agent matters. I cannot help but like the clients who say “please” and “thank you” more than the clients who do not.

Each time I pass on a client, I’m really making room for a better client.

The agent-client relationship runs both ways. We cannot sell a home without the owners’ help. Nor can we help someone purchase a home without complete cooperation.

While it is true that a real estate agent can screw up a real estate transaction, I think our clients can mess things up even more than we can.

There is a certain amount of risk with any client. I think they feel the same in that they are taking a risk when they work with us. We live in a litigious society, and there are times when I just need to reduce my exposure to high-risk clients and walk away knowing that I worked for free, apart from the lesson I have learned from them.

Some agents take a kind of assembly line approach to selling real estate. They cast a wide net and promise to be everything to everyone, and are happy to sign up any clients who will work with them.

That approach just doesn’t work for me. Maybe I just don’t like money enough.

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