Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions of a person’s life. Being a good agent means offering your expertise and honest opinions to your clients. It also means understanding how to deal with tough buyers while maintaining a healthy working relationship.

The pandemic has completely upended our lives, and now, many people are looking for a change. The rise of remote work combined with historically low interest rates have caused many people to look for homes in areas they may have never considered before.

All of this has been surprisingly great news for agents during an otherwise tumultuous time, but some of these new homebuyers’ expectations are not completely realistic.

Although interest rates are currently low, we are also in a seller’s market, and home prices are skyrocketing. The urgency homebuyers are feeling to get the perfect home while standing out from the competition and snagging a deal could create a pressure cooker situation. Moreover, if you have a client who’s picky or difficult to deal with, it makes the process even harder. 

As an agent, it’s important to understand how to deal with tough clients while maintaining a healthy working relationship. This article will offer tips for Realtors on how to manage picky clients in our current seller’s market.

1. Manage their expectations up front

If your client has a laundry list of demands without the budget to match, you need to manage their expectations up front. This is especially useful for first-time homebuyers who may not realize their requests are unrealistic.

Currently, housing costs are through the roof (excuse the pun), so homebuyers probably won’t be able to get everything they want. To manage expectations, use a client intake form or have a detailed discussion with your client about their budget, neighborhood preferences, desired home size, features they’re looking for, etc.

Then, ask them to rank their preferences from most to least important. During the process, remind them that although you might not be able to find their exact dream home, you will be able to find a property that meets their top priorities and budget.

2. Stay organized

If a client is scatterbrained or moving a million miles per minute, staying organized can help them stay grounded. Outline the steps of the homebuying process, tell them how many houses you’ll be showing, make sure your appointments are on their calendar, and ask them to keep a detailed to-do list.

It could also be helpful to have a fact sheet with “Homebuying 101” tips (e.g., the average down payment is usually between 5 to 20 percent of the final sale price).

3. Don’t compromise your value

The average buyer’s agent commission rate is 2.7 percent of the final sale price. Clients on a tight budget may ask you to lower your commission rates. It is helpful, however, to let them know that the seller typically is responsible for paying all Realtor fees — both the buyer’s and seller’s.

Additionally, let your client know that agents do not typically earn a salary, and your commission-based earnings are how you make your living. In fact, only 1 percent of agents are paid on a salaried basis.

Although there are times when you should negotiate your commission — such as during the off-season or with an easy, quick sale — working with a picky homebuyer client in a seller’s market probably isn’t one of them.

4. Provide honest feedback

If a client’s bid is too low or too high or if they want to include too many unnecessary contingencies in their offer, the best course of action is to be honest with them.

These mistakes could end up costing them the deal, especially in the current seller’s market where homeowners likely have a plethora of offers to choose from. The client hired you so you could provide your professional opinion. Make sure you do not doubt yourself, and stand firm in your convictions.

5. Give them options

Homebuyers who are looking for the “perfect home” will usually quickly realize there is no such thing (at least, not how they might be imagining it) — especially in a seller’s market.

However, as their agent, you can give your client tons of options to make sure their opinions feel heard. Be careful not to get taken advantage of or too carried away, though. If you’ve exhausted your options and your clients are still unhappy, you will need to have a discussion with them about what’s realistic for their budget and requirements.

6. Know their communication preferences

Getting a timely response from your clients can make or break a deal, especially in the current seller’s market, where a slow response could mean they lose out on a house.

Ask your clients up front for the most convenient way to contact them. If they are still not answering you, then you’ll have to accept that they may have not been committed to the process from the get-go.

7. Have some empathy

If you’re working with a first-time homebuyer or someone with tons of questions, try to be empathetic to their situation. Although it may be annoying at times if someone is incessantly pinging you, remember that they are making a huge commitment, and you are their shoulder to lean on.

8. Remain professional

Sometimes, clients are not just picky — they’re mean. If you have rude or disrespectful clients, remain polite and professional when working with them, and do not resort to insults or arguments.

Maintaining positive customer service is important, even if it means biting your tongue a bit. If it gets to a point where the client’s attitude is negatively impacting your mental health or just driving you absolutely mad, don’t be afraid to pass them off to a colleague or drop them altogether.

9. Remember, you’re the expert

Some homebuyers have watched a bit too much HGTV and think they know everything about purchasing a property. These “know-it-all” clients may constantly dispute your advice, push back against your professional opinions or question every move you make.

Remind these types of clients that, although you appreciate their input, you are a licensed professional with years of training and experience. You can also let them know your closing rate to ease their concerns. For instance, the top 10 percent of agents close at least 35 transactions per year.

10. Know when to ‘break up’

If all else fails, know that it’s OK to “break up” with a client. Letting a client go might not be ideal, but there comes a point when you need to look out for your best business interests as well as your own sanity. 

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions of a person’s life. Being a good agent means offering your expertise and honest opinions to your client. However, if a client is too difficult, it may be time to let them go. It’s also always OK to set professional boundaries!

Luke Babich is the CSO of Clever Real Estate in St. Louis. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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