When times are tough, or you need the money, it may be tempting to lower your standards to work with a client whose way of approaching their transaction is clearly out of alignment with your personal integrity. More often than not, this choice results in poor outcomes for both you and the client.

With more than 1,000 Inman posts, Bernice Ross is a long-time contributor whose weekly column on real estate trends, luxury, marketing and other best practices publishes every Monday.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to work with a client who is a poor fit for your business. If you feel your blood pressure increasing every time you see that client’s number of your caller ID, it may be time to ask, “Is it time to fire that annoying client?”

When times are tough, or you need the money, it may be tempting to lower your standards to work with a client whose way of approaching their transaction is clearly out of alignment with your personal integrity. More often than not, this choice results in poor outcomes for both you and the client.

Qualify your clients

Let’s talk about how you can protect yourself from a bad situation before it happens.

To avoid having to delete or fire clients from your current client list, make sure you qualify your clients before you start working with them. Your qualification will include not only the financial capabilities and readiness to transact, it should also assess whether they’re respectful and fun to work with — if not, refer them elsewhere.

Know when it’s time to clean house

If you’re feeling worn down and discouraged by clients who don’t appreciate you, don’t honor your time, who are unrealistic, have an attitude problem or any of a number of annoying characteristics, it’s time to go through your current client list and clean house.

The 21 signs

Here are 21 signs it’s time to fire, delete or refer that annoying client.


  1. The seller wants to “test the market” and has been doing so for six months with no offers.
  2. After being on the market for a year, your seller turns down a great offer and tells you, “I know we can do better.”
  3. The seller wants you to spend a lot of money on print and online advertising, even though they are priced $25,000 higher than any other home in the area and the property is in poor good condition.
  4. The cat box odor is overwhelming, and the seller refuses to do anything about it.
  5. The sellers forget to tell you that they got into a dispute and didn’t pay their contractor for work performed. There now are multiple mechanic liens on their property.
  6. The IRS just filed a lien on your sellers’ property for non-payment of income taxes.
  7. The seller refuses to deal with the uncooperative tenant who won’t let anyone show the property.
  8. The seller doesn’t tell you that the beautiful view you featured in all your advertising will be completely obstructed by the people who plan to add a second story to the house across the street.
  9. The seller refuses to disclose a recent inspection report showing that there is a serious problem with the foundation.
  10. 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.”
  11. The sellers lie about the real reason they’re moving — the neighbors next door work swing shift, and they blast their music every night after work until 3 a.m.
  12. The sellers refuse to restrain their very protective pit bull who is especially aggressive toward children during showings.


  1. Your buyer stands you up for appointments repeatedly without contacting you or apologizing.
  2. 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.
  3. The husband wants a certain style of house, and the wife wants something entirely different. Every time you take them out to look at property they fight about it. Now both are angry because you wouldn’t take either side of the argument.
  4. Your buyer who committed to work with you exclusively is out viewing homes with another agent.
  5. A buyer who has refused to sign a buyer’s agreement just happens to mention during a showing, “This is a great area. My sister works right around the corner at ABC Real Estate.”
  6. After 50 showings, the buyer still hasn’t found the right property and shows no signs of writing on anything any time soon.
  7. The buyers want to make an offer, but they don’t have enough money in their account to cover the deposit check. They tell you, “Don’t worry, we’ll get the money in soon — just don’t tell the seller.”
  8. The buyer lies on the loan application.
  9. The buyer uses abusive language with you or with someone else in the transaction and feels no remorse for doing so.

How to say ‘adios’

Once you have identified that it’s time to part ways with an annoying client, here are two examples of how to do it.

One of the most common problems all agents face is overpriced listings. 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? Try this for other farewells:

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?

Although you might be scared to let 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 into their practice.

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

Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP (brokerageup.com) and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

Show Comments Hide Comments
Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription