If you don’t set boundaries, you can’t expect clients to respect them, writes luxury agent Amie Quirarte. Set firm boundaries, and communicate them upfront. 

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This post was updated June 27, 2023.

Is “yes” your default answer when asked to take on something?

As real estate agents and brokers, it seems as though many of us are programmed to always say the magic word “yes.” 

Yes, we can squeeze 21 showings in one day despite them being on completely opposite sides of town. Yes, I can talk at 11 p.m. Yes, I will “make” the sellers fix every item on the home inspection list. 

Scarcity is typically the main driving force behind the obsessive “yes” in our business, but I think for many of us, it can contribute to a downfall in our personal life and burnout in our professional life.

We’re scared that if we don’t answer every call as it is coming in, the lead on the other end may hang up and call someone else. And while that may be true, what do we, in turn, sacrifice to catch every potential lead that comes our way?

If every lead turned into a sale, then perhaps most, or at least some, of the yeses are warranted. But if they don’t always convert, and let’s be honest, we know they don’t, then we owe it to ourselves to be more mindful of what type of interruptions we are allowing into our lives. 

I learned the power of “no” pretty early on in my real estate career, though it took me many years to truly master it.

I wasn’t even old enough to drink a beer when I got my real estate license, and I felt like I had to work five times harder to be taken seriously than everyone else. I was a young female with no experience, and I noticed that I would tolerate much more than I normally would from clients because I was scared of losing the lead or the sale.

I would allow clients to speak to me disrespectfully, call or text me during non-business hours and quite honestly, at times, let them walk all over me. Until I decided I had enough.

If I didn’t set boundaries, I couldn’t expect my clients to respect them. So, I decided to set firm boundaries and communicate them upfront. 

Here is what my boundaries sound like: 

Set business hours, and stick to them 

I will be available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, unless it’s an emergency. An emergency in real estate is a multiple-offer scenario, tight expiration dates or anything that requires urgent attention. A real estate emergency is not transferring utilities. 

I found that by communicating these boundaries upfront, the interruptions are much less frequent (if at all), and on the rare occasions they do happen, I’ve found clients to be much more appreciative of my time. 

Communicate upfront about realistic expectations of the other party 

I might say something like:

“I do not work for the other party in the transaction (buyer or seller, depending on which side you’re on), and therefore, I can’t force anyone to do anything they aren’t willing to do. My job is to represent my client and do everything in my power to collaborate with the agent to achieve our mutual goal of closing.

“However, I can’t force the other side to perform, agree to repairs or come to your price any more than I am able to force you. I can take all the necessary and available steps, and I will, but my hands become tied at a certain point. This is a collaborative business, and I refuse to be attacked if the other party isn’t behaving like you want them to.” 

This is an important part of my boundaries because, in the past, I have been blamed for the other side’s X, Y or Z. I remind my clients that the buyer or seller on the other side is a human, just like we are, and they have a right to make their own decisions. It’s then our job to decide if those decisions are something that we feel comfortable with. 

Read the contract

Read the contract, read the contract, read the contract. I cannot tell you how many times I have had clients upset over something that was in the contract that they signed. If you are signing anything, read it carefully. 

I always make myself available to review the contract together or to answer any questions or concerns, however, it’s the client’s responsibility to read the contract and ensure they understand it before signing it.

Included in every DocuSign envelope is a note from me that says, “Did you have a chance to read this, and do you feel comfortable moving forward with the terms outlined in this?” Trust me, this will save you many headaches and frustrating conversations down the road. 

Do not be afraid to fire clients or say no to something that doesn’t feel right to you

Sometimes, the best decision you can make is to let a client go. At a certain point, regardless of how much time or energy you have spent with the client, you may need to let someone go. I’ve done this many times, and it has gotten much easier as I’ve seen the rewards.

Think of it like this: If you’re spending all of your time with one client, you are not making room for new clients who could be a much better fit for you. Remind yourself of this: You are not the perfect Realtor for everyone, and not every client is a perfect client for you. Just as you do in other aspects of your life, choosing your relationships carefully will have a profound impact on your success and happiness. 

Some of these may sound harsh, but after 10-plus years in this business, I have found that being honest with everyone, including myself, is the best way to succeed. If I am working with someone who is disrespectful and draining, I will not be the best version of myself nor reach my full potential as their agent. But, another agent will, and both the client and you deserve that opportunity.

Allowing some clients to seek out new representation (if the circumstances require it) will allow you to find the client who is a better fit for you — and that’s a win-win for everyone.

Amie Quirarte is a luxury real estate agent with Tahoe Luxury Properties in California and Nevada. Connect with her on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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