A cautionary tale exemplifies the importance of vetting sellers to determine if they’ll be willing clients or a huge headache.

We recently received a realtor.com seller call and, at first, everything seemed normal … kind of. The seller signed a listing contract that afternoon; a little quick, but not unheard of for our market.

Fast forward a couple of days and the story changes drastically. The seller appears to be something different then the initial calls suggest: demanding, angry and asking a lot of our agent outside of the scope of our “normal role.”

Today, the brokerage canceled the listing with the seller. In doing research online, our agent found in one of her local Facebook groups specific references to similar interactions that other local agent had with the property owner. Further conversations with those agents showed that the gentleman had been jumping from one agent and brokerage to another.

Some of their stories included:

  • “Our agents have been advised for several years not to do business with this person. The last agent that didn’t follow our directive ended up out of pocket before even signing a listing agreement.”
  • “If I were you, I wouldn’t take the listing! Not worth it.”
  • “I had four offers in the first week. He didn’t want to accept any of them. Called the cops on one agent that was showing for trespassing.”
  • “I was a buyer’s agent. We cancelled the transaction and to this date, the seller is holding the buyer’s deposit.”
  • “I suggest you RUN AWAY. You will never get to the finish line and if you do, all your hair will fall out!”

There’s a lot to be learned from these experiences about the importance of verifying potential sellers.

1. Due diligence applies to the client, not just to the property

If you see that a property has been on and off the market for an extended period of time, don’t just look at the property. There may be an unwillingness to follow through on the client’s part that has doomed the efforts of all of those past agents. Sometimes people think they are ready to sell, but when the time comes, they (consciously or unconsciously) undermine the process.

2. If something sounds too good to be true, proceed with caution

We love it when the phone rings with an unexpected hot lead who is ready to move forward immediately. However, when this happens, it’s worth it to take a few minutes and find out what has been going on with the potential client. If they’ve worked with a lot of other agents or been on and off the market repeatedly, do a little digging to find out why.

3. Your professional reputation is not worth one commission

It can be difficult to back out on a transaction once you’ve sunk money, time and effort into it. “If you can just get to the finish line,” you think, “it will all be worth it.” However, remember that if your seller pushes you to do things that are, if not unethical at least unseemly, your reputation will be what’s at risk. Once the client is long gone, you’ll still have to deal with the way people view you in your market.

4. A strong professional network is a necessity

We’re all competitive, and we all love winning the listing, but it’s vital to remember we’re also allies. Develop your professional network both online and in real life so that you can quickly and easily reach out to a trusted resource when you need advice or guidance.

5. Getting rid of bad clients opens the door for the good ones

Whether it’s stubbornness, pride, or simply an optimistic disposition, it’s sometimes hard to admit you’ve made a mistake with a client. You may feel that it’s better to hang in there and see it through rather than “fire” your client. However, you’ll find that the time-sucking, stress-inducing client you’ve been clinging to is rarely worth the trouble, while parting ways with them frees you up to provide better service to great clients who truly value your help and expertise.

In the end, I sent an update to all the agents that we knew had been involved with this gentleman, and the agent who I had been informed would now be listing the property. I felt that it was my responsibility to bring some awareness to the new listing agent.

Sometimes things seem fishy. Sometimes things seem too good to be true, yet they work out. You never know what is going to be the case. In this instance, a Facebook group and a network of local agents, all from different brokerages, came to the rescue.

Troy Palmquist is the founder and broker of The Address in Southern California. Follow him on Facebook, or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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