Holding on to a client who is not the right fit for your real estate business is one of the worst things you can do as a real estate professional. You invested time, money and energy on them, but they are negatively impacting you and your business.
However, if you don’t fire them, you will lose additional time and money, as well as the energy that can be better spent on other clients or prospects.
Trust me, there will come a time in your real estate career when you will have to end an agency relationship with a client. It is a hard decision to make, but smart agents know when it is time to say goodbye.
A solid working relationship is built on trust, loyalty and honesty. When even one of those elements is broken, the relationship is in jeopardy. Watch for these signs that your agent-client relationship is in trouble.
Trust is broken when the client lies to you. So, why do they lie?
A client might not want you to know information regarding their financial condition, an adverse fact regarding their home, an impending divorce or the real reason they didn’t show up for an appointment.
Another reason people lie is to be in control.
When a person lies, they are in complete control of the story or situation. Their narrative is one they can manage when avoiding the truth. The truth, in fact, will be a threat to them because they will not be in control.
I feel very betrayed when someone lies to me. Lying is one of my “cardinal sins,” and some of my past relationships with clients, friends and family have significantly changed or ended due to lies. Relationships are hard to repair when trust is broken.
2. Abusing mentally or physically
It is rare, but sometimes a client will become abusive. As a principal broker, I’ve walked several agents through situations where the client was verbally abusing them or others on their team.
Abuse can come in many forms, including throwing a tantrum, calling you names, storming around shouting or otherwise acting threateningly. Your principal broker or team leader can assist you in terminating your agency agreement with an abusive client. If you feel the person might become violent toward you, call the police immediately.
3. Making unreasonable demands
Some clients can be demanding. However, some clients can cross the line and become downright unreasonable with their demands.
What is considered unreasonable? Anything out of proportion or out of the ordinary.
For example, a client calls or texts you at midnight to discuss potential properties to view, or a buyer client wants you to negotiate the commission of both agents in the transaction so that they can get the house at a lower price.
If a client asks this of you, fire them on the spot! Tampering with our compensation is entirely out of bounds in my book. We work too hard for the money.
4. Financing issues
If a client or prospect is unwilling to meet with a lender to get pre-approved for a loan, don’t move forward with helping them find a home. This is a major red flag!
The client is more than likely hiding something that can impact their ability to obtain financing for a home.
5. Constantly being in a state of indecision
Nothing is more frustrating than a client changing his or her mind either before the offer is submitted or after the seller has accepted the offer.
Several years ago, I had a client, Barbara, who was excited to find a new home and agreed to sign an exclusive buyer representation agreement with me. She was a single woman with no children. Barbara was very friendly and appeared to know what she wanted in a home.
We looked at several houses and found one that met her needs. We returned to my office and wrote up an offer on the property.
When I completed all the paperwork, I faxed the offer to the listing agent. (Yes, I used a fax machine; it was before sending offers via email was common practice.)
Three hours later, Barbara called me and told me to withdraw the offer. She said she thought about it more and decided it was not the “right” one for her.
About two weeks later, we made another offer on a home that she said was “the one.” She called me about six hours after I sent that offer to the listing agent and told me she changed her mind. I was frustrated, but I shook it off.
I continued to show Barbara properties. We finally found a house that was, in my opinion, the home for her. It had everything she wanted and needed in a home. We wrote an offer and sent it to the listing agent. Guess what? She pulled the offer. Yes, two hours after I submitted it.
My patience finally ran out on this client. I called Barbara and said I was not the agent for her. I fired her by terminating her buyer representation agreement with me. I never looked back, and I am — to this day — glad I sent Barbara on her way. That experience taught me a very valuable lesson.
A client who keeps changing their mind is not committed to purchasing or selling a home. They do not have the self-confidence needed to make important decisions — especially big ones such as buying a home.
This type of client will take a tremendous amount of your time and resources, and you will reach a point of total frustration.
6. Ignoring advice and laying blame
One of the reasons a buyer or seller utilizes the services of an agent is because we have the experience and expertise clients need to navigate through the complexities of a real estate transaction. Clients seek our advice so that they can make wise and informed decisions.
Unfortunately, when they don’t listen to our counsel, they can find themselves frustrated, angry and bewildered. When this occurs, they usually point the finger at their agent. If they are not willing to benefit from your professional wisdom and insight, you might need to let them go.
What are you worth? If you counted all the hours per week you spend in and on your real estate business, would you know your hourly rate? I think you would be surprised at how low your rate is, based on the amount of time and effort you spend taking care of your clients.
A pet peeve of mine is when clients — especially sellers — start fiddling with my compensation. Clients always expect to save money in a transaction if they can lower the agent’s commission. But, the opposite happens. It costs them more.
The work we do — the marketing, negotiating, management and handholding — from the first appointment to the closing table offers value.
When our compensation is cut, though, we can find ourselves less motivated to “go the distance” for them. I know I am worth every penny I charge a client. You are, too!
8. Backing you into a corner
Have you ever been at a listing presentation where the seller brings up your competition and how much less they charge to list? I have.
I felt the client was backing me into a corner every time they mentioned a competitor’s name and the lower commission they would charge.
To meet this objection head-on, I presented my value proposition with confidence, espousing the unique benefits that my brokerage and I brought to the table for the seller.
Yes, they can pay less, but are they prepared to give up my willingness to fully negotiate for them and forfeit a large part of the marketing needed to sell their home? I believe in the old adage: “You get what you pay for!”
9. Asking for something illegal or unethical
Some clients will cross the line of illegality when they feel it will benefit them both personally and financially. These kinds of people might look respectable and charming on the outside, but their behavior and actions in a transaction can have a negative impact on you and your brokerage if they are not playing by the rules.
If a client asks you to do something that is illegal or that puts your license at risk, fire them immediately! It’s not worth losing your license and spending thousands of dollars on attorney fees when a client is dishonest and unethical.
Don’t walk away from them — run.
Terminating an agency relationship and telling your client goodbye should only be done after careful consideration and discussion with your principal broker. If you find yourself in a “no-win” position with a prospect or client and there is little to no hope of getting a deal done, then it is time to fire them.
John Giffen is Director of Broker Operations for Benchmark Realty, LLC in Tennessee. He is the author of “Do You Have a Minute? An Award-Winning Real Estate Managing Broker Reveals Keys for Industry Success.”