OpinionAgent

Agent/broker perspective: Firing a seller

What can a broker do when the agent has had enough?
  • There are times when agents and sellers simply cannot reach an agreement, and the agent has no choice but to end the relationship.
  • Brokers have legitimate reasons for encouraging agents to pursue every possible solution with a challenging seller but should ultimately support their decisions to part ways.
  • The actual dismissal of a seller must be done very carefully and professionally.

Anthony Askowitz

In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz will explore a hypothetical Miami real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic.

The situation: A successful and experienced Miami agent has had it with a difficult seller and wants to part ways, but the broker would like the agent to stick it out and make it work.

Agent perspective

I have been selling homes in this market for a very long time and earned a reputation for being professional and delivering for my clients. Along the way, I have worked with many difficult customers and somehow found a way to make these situations work despite the challenges they’ve presented me.

But sometimes, on very rare occasions, I reach the end of my tolerance for a particular customer — when there is simply no way to salvage the arrangement — and respectfully part ways with them.

This can stem from any number of reasons (personality clashes, inability to mesh calendars and schedules, squabbles over commissions, etc.), but the no. 1 factor is usually pricing.

In this case, I very carefully and logically explain to the customer that their asking price is way too high and back this up with comps and market data.

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However, they absolutely insist on setting the price where they want and keeping it where it is, even though we have not had very much interest — which they blame on me.

I probably should not have accepted the listing with this being the case, but it’s a pretty expensive house, and the commission would’ve been nice. But it is clear that the house cannot be sold at this price, and I truly think it would be better for both of us to move on.

Broker perspective

Taking an overpriced listing is a business decision that every agent must face. Even if they have advised the seller that the asking price is too high, their acceptance of the listing is a tacit acceptance of the asking price as well, and the seller will always forget the agent’s initial reluctance.

If a seller believes they have a year to sell, then testing the market at an inflated price may be a good strategy. However, if they have two months to sell, then the agent must educate the seller and insist on correct pricing — or turn down the listing.

Difficult, stubborn and downright greedy sellers are absolutely part of the real estate game. Some sellers think they have all the power, and it is nearly impossible to shake them of this belief. I expect my most savvy and experienced agents to understand this implicitly, take a deep breath and find creative solutions to convince the seller to do the right thing.

There are two key reasons why I encourage sticking it out: First, I want my agent to maintain their hard-earned reputation, and a fired client can damage that very quickly. Instead of being a source for good word-of-mouth referrals, the former client will talk poorly about the agent every time they have an opportunity.

Second, I need my seasoned and veteran agents to be good role models for the newer ones, and I can’t have them thinking they should cut ties with difficult sellers the minute things get challenging.

That being said, as an absolute last resort, if every avenue for agreement has been explored, I will ultimately back up my agent if they choose to part ways with an extremely difficult client. Staying in an unhappy relationship is not good for anyone’s psyche, and I want my agents to be happy, productive and focused.

How to meet halfway

If the seller must be let go, it should be done professionally and directly without any malice or hard feelings.

Two additional out-of-the-box suggestions would be to have the initial agent refer the listing in-house to a colleague who might have a fresh approach and can handle the challenging seller, or to refer the seller to a colleague at another company in exchange for a small referral fee.

Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty in South Miami and Kendall, leading the activities of more than 165 agents. He is also a working Realtor who sells more than 150 homes a year.