Buying or selling a home is an extremely personal and emotional transaction. Because of that, you need to be prepared in advance for the kinds of tough conversations you will face. Here are some strategies to help you get through the difficult talks with your clients.

As someone working closely with people buying and selling homes — making one of the biggest decisions they will ever make — you’ve likely been put in some challenging situations. Caught in the middle at times, real estate agents need to be prepared for sensitive topics that will inevitably arise.

Buying or selling a home is an extremely personal and emotional transaction. Because of that, you need to be prepared in advance for the kinds of tough conversations you will face.

Here are five topics that might be sensitive for clients, along with strategies and suggestions for navigating them.

My sellers want to price their home unrealistically high

Many homesellers will view the value of their home higher than it’s worth and insist on listing the property at the unrealistic number.

Perhaps they saw another home listed in a less desirable area on one of the major real estate websites and are convinced “If they can get that, we should be able to get this.” Or maybe they received advice from a family member who’s an armchair real estate agent.

No matter how the client reaches their too-high-to-sell number, you need to politely push back. If you find yourself in this situation, be gentle when broaching the subject. Use positive terms to describe the house and the seller’s personal experience in it, but also make sure you provide data and hard numbers to bring them back to reality.

Lean on your expertise and reassure them that you want what’s best for them: to sell the home at a best price possible for them (but one that is realistic for the market). Be as diplomatic and factual as possible while remaining sensitive.

My buyers are looking at homes way out of their range

Onto the buying side: Much in the same way a seller might be unrealistic about the value of their home, a buyer might be unrealistic about what they can afford — they may want to see homes outside of their range, especially as they do their own research online.

It can be a tough conversation but ensure your clients stay within their price range. The last thing you want is for buyers to fall in love with a home, only to find out it’s not in their budget.

It’s important to set strict caps on price ranges and to not show any homes that are not attainable financially. And when they are searching on sites like or Zillow, encourage them to set filters for price ranges that align with their budget. It makes the search far more efficient and ensures they don’t fall in love with a home they can’t have.

My client’s home needs to be cleaned

While it might not be as bad as the show Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC, you will likely run into sellers who haven’t kept up their house or simply are not the cleanest people. Before you show their house, encourage them to clean up.

Stress the importance of presentation and first impression, but in a very polite manner. Provide estimates and contact information for professional organizers or cleaning companies.

Stay clear of terms such as “dirty” or “messy.” Keep the conversation positive and focused on the fact that an uncluttered or tidy home can really help to wow potential buyers and encourage them to make a higher offer.

My sellers are going through a divorce

Selling a home can be stressful enough for a happily married couple. But for partners going through a divorce, they face additional layers of stress. Understand that your sellers are going through a lot legally, financially and emotionally and that you’re there to ensure they make the best real estate decisions.

When faced with this situation, you’ll need to have exceptional communication skills and patience to carefully navigate these transactions. If possible, avoid discussing personal issues with your clients, and stick to what you know and what they’ve hired you for.

My sellers have recently lost a loved one

Selling the home of someone who recently passed away on behalf of surviving family and children can also be a tough situation, particularly if there are several active voices from the selling side. The sellers are likely still mourning the loss of their loved one, whether it’s children selling the home of a parent or a seller downsizing after the death of a spouse.

Memories remain in the house, and you need to be particularly careful when navigating the situation, from making staging suggestions to discussing the potential in the home for new buyers. Be patient with these sellers.

Understand the complexity of their situation, and put yourself in their shoes. Oftentimes, the best way to help is stick to what you know: real estate. Help a seller in mourning transition via a smooth and efficient home sale.

With bit of practice and a healthy dose of mindfulness, you’ll be able to get through any sticky situation you face. No doubt, buyer and seller emotions will run high during the process. Reassure your clients they have hired an expert in the field and that you will walk with them every step of the way.

Be smart about how you deal with sensitive subjects, treading lightly when needed and leaning on your professional experience. Following the tips above will help you navigate some of those tough waters, making the next similar situation easier to handle all while leaving a positive impact on the homebuyers and sellers you have served.

Kathleen Kuhn is the president of HouseMaster. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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