Because avoiding trouble is easier than extricating yourself from it, agents who value their own well-being have learned to be choosey about the clients they decide to work with. The spread of COVID-19 has simply underscored the importance of careful pre-screening and ongoing vigilance.
Because nobody can weed out every bad apple in advance, it’s essential to recognize clear signs that you and your client might not be the great fit you hoped you’d be.
These are our top no-go moments:
1. When they refuse to follow public health protocols or showing guidelines
Scofflaws might be your clients or other agents and their clients. Whoever they are, you can’t work with them if you can’t trust them to follow the same (usually state or locally mandated) rules as everyone else.
2. When they aren’t candid with you
Clients you catch shading the truth or straight up lying to you have proven they’re not trustworthy. So, you have to ask yourself if you truly want to deal with untrustworthy people in the middle of a pandemic — or ever.
3. When they won’t listen to reason on price or anything else
Everything about COVID-19 has complicated real estate agents’ work. So, maybe endless patience isn’t such a good trait right now.
Think long and hard about keeping clients happy:
- When clients believe they know more about selling their property than you do.
- When they’re blind and firmly assure you their home will “sell itself” as is, and the home looks like an ’80s fever dream.
- When they’re stubbornly unreasonable about price.
In short, when they refuse to face facts, do you really want to put yourself at risk for people who won’t get real?
4. When they love looking but aren’t eager to buy
The era of COVID-19 is inhospitable to looky-loos. Fortunately, there’s plenty to satisfy real estate tourists online these days. However, there are clients who sincerely believe they want to buy (or should) but have out-of-control trust issues or an irrational fear of missing out on the “perfect” house.
Indecisive clients can be just as much of a time-suck as people who are window-shopping. If they’ve had six agents before you, do you actually have time to be No. 7?
5. When nothing is ever good enough
You pick up the phone at 8 p.m. They complain because they tried to reach you at 9 p.m. the day before, and you weren’t available. You find them the unicorn property that meets all their requirements at their price, and all they can focus on is how “wrong” the shower curtain is.
You bring them a full-price offer, and they insist on countering at a higher price. You can feel for over-the-top perfectionists, but you cannot win this game. You can, however, end it and decide whether you say “enough” sooner or later.
6. When clients can’t agree — on anything
Whether they’re buyers or sellers, clients who drag you into the center of the family firing range will wreck your serenity and take a lot of time doing it, which makes them especially dangerous right now.
If you decide to take on such clients on anyway, establish your choice of ironclad boundaries upfront with the warring parties. Be prepared to enforce them by walking away if they can’t abide by them. And make sure you’re getting combat pay.
7. When they’re outright abusive to you or your associates
Everyone is stressed right now — not that there is ever a time when abusiveness is OK. But, it’s more essential than ever now that agents set clear boundaries around what they will tolerate and what they won’t.
In our world, screaming, cursing, name-calling, projecting blame for the client’s own failings, and personal or professional threats are not acceptable. Why would anyone put up with that kind of treatment?
8. When they routinely violate the terms of their contracts
COVID-19 has slowed inspectors, appraisers and lenders — which is actually the perfect excuse to have at least one pre-contract discussion about deadlines and the importance of everyone doing their best to meet them during this unusual time. And it can’t hurt to emphasize to buyers more than once that inspection reports don’t automatically give them a right to rewrite the contract.
If they still won’t live up to contract terms after all that prep, involve your broker to keep them on track. And vow never to work with them again.
9. When you’ve already had one negative experience with them, and they suggest returning for Nightmare 2.0
You would think every agent would follow some version of “Mistreat me once, shame on you. Mistreat me twice, shame on me.” But an amazing number of agents keep working with clients they know behave badly. Did somebody miss class on the day they practiced saying, “I really don’t think I’m the right fit for you”?
We get it. Firing clients is hard. It’s a loss you now have to fill. Best practice is to avoid such situations, if at all possible. So, resolve to do a more thorough job of prequalifying your clients — not just financially, but also personally.
Spend time with them on some nice outdoor dining patio talking about their goals, how they like to work, what questions they have and what their expectations are. Find out if they agent-hop and bad-mouth everyone who’s tried to help them previously.
Determine whether they’re novice buyers or sellers and if one of them wants to sell or buy but the other one really doesn’t. And be wary of people who want a friend more than they want an effective agent. You’re selling real estate, not companionship.
September is Realtor Safety Month. NAR runs a month-long campaign to make agents think about the dangers we face and the precautions we should routinely take at work. Get with the program. Take care of yourself!
Nicole Solari is owner and managing broker of The Solari Group in Solano and Napa Counties in Northern California. Nicole runs one of the highest producing brokerages in all of Northern California.