• Add "problem detector" and "problem solver" to your job description.
  • Expectations are key.
  • You may be part of the problem.

An important part of your job as a real estate professional is to keep deals together. This means paying attention and tuning in your little red-flag radar.

Little red flags do not mean a deal is going down the toilet. But put together, warning signs can add up and trigger a big flush.

You may encounter a major red flag, which warrants your immediate attention.

Your ability to recognize these triggers will increase with experience. When a buyer or seller hires a truly experienced agent, that’s one of the most valuable things the client is paying for — your red-flag radar, identification and maneuvering skills.

The busier you get, the more critical this skill becomes.

Heed these red flags to prevent your deals from falling apart:

Poor communication from any transaction party

Whether it’s the buyer, seller, either agent, the lender or the title company causing the bottleneck, poor communication can be an indication of an underlying issue.

Do not sweep poor communication under the rug and chalk it up to mixed signals. It can be evidence of a larger problem or something going on behind the scenes. Start asking questions.

Lack of progress

If one party in the transaction fails to follow through on commitments, is slow to respond or doesn’t get important tasks done, it can be a sign that motivation is lacking.

Perhaps obstacles stand in the way of forward movement that aren’t being disclosed to you. Take this as reason to pry.

Distrust build-up

Let’s say you are in a transaction where the party on the other side of the transaction is truly difficult, rude, unprofessional or exhibiting lousy communication skills. Maybe the negotiation was rough — it happens.

You’re miserable; you’re avoiding calls. Here’s the key: Keep things moving forward and do not share your angst with your client.

Involving your client not only is unprofessional but also builds distrust. You’ll end up with a client who refuses to negotiate on something simple simply because they no longer like the other party.

You may really need that trust factor at a critical point late in the transaction. As best you can, keep everyone happy and working together.

High emotions

Be the professional who asks a lot of questions, provides a road map and is always setting expectations. If you have a client who is prone to high emotions, outbursts or panic, consider these tips:

Delay your response

Wait an hour before returning the call. Things tend to calm down. If you respond immediately, then you’ll end up participating in the drama.

Avoid the 9 p.m. phone call or text

Most successful agents are not on-call 24/7. If you return the call or text at 9 p.m., you just trained your client to think that’s OK.

Unless it’s a critical deadline, I like returning the late night phone call with an 8 a.m. call. “Good morning. I got your message. What’s up?”

Have a ‘no surprise’ policy

Always let your client know what’s next.

Be prepared for Mom and Dad

All of a sudden, with little notice, Mom and Dad have made the trip across state to come inspect the house the young couple is about to purchase.

Chances are, they will have sticker shock at how expensive homes are in the city. And every family member may find the need to identify one thing wrong with the house. Prepare to be interviewed.

Beware of financing changes

Switching from financing to cash? Not a big deal. Switching from cash to financing? That’s a big deal.

Increasing the down payment? Not so much a big deal. Decreasing the down payment, however, can be an indication of issues with loan qualification.

These are all red flags: switching lenders, poor communication from the lender, adding or removing a party to the contract or loan.

Hopefully your buyer is working with a lender you trust with a proven record. Always require pre-approval before you start with a buyer — because if you don’t, the red flag is your fault.

You drive the bus

You should be driving the bus, not your client.

If you do not have control over the process, you’ll be running every which way to keep your client happy.

You don’t tell your dentist what to do or your attorney when to return your phone call. Be the leader; be the professional.

Final tip: you may be part of the problem

If you are somewhat consistently running into these types of client issues, take a look at yourself, your process and your systems before you let off steam.

You may need to tighten up your pre-client presentation to establish a more solid foundation and clearer expectations before you get started.

You may need to hire an assistant.

You may be so hungry for that next client that you make the mistake of taking on clients you should not have taken on.

If clients’ expectations are unreasonable or they are not valuing what you bring to the table (or their needs are outside of your expertise or availability), then you probably should not represent them in the first place.

Everyone has the same goal in the transaction: transferring ownership from one person to another.

The agent’s job is to administer the contract and manage the process of getting that done.

Staying on top of red flags is a critical skill in that process.

Julie Nelson is the chief success officer at The Nelson Project, Keller Williams Realty in Austin, Texas. You can follow her on YouTube or Twitter

Email Julie Nelson.

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