When real estate agents should let a buyer go

Sometimes it's best to cut your losses and get out

This is the story of how I fired a buyer, then six months later, the buyer came back to me — but it didn’t unfold the way you may think. This story has a technology twist.

In 13 years of practicing real estate, I had never told a buyer to find another agent, but this person was ruining my life. I’m sure many (if not all) Realtors have thought about firing a buyer who was driving them crazy, but how many Realtors have actually let the buyer go, along with the potential to making upwards of $30,000?

Let’s face it: That’s a lot of money. It’s equal to three or four sales of average-priced homes, and I spent six months with this client showing homes and writing up offers, only for contract cancellations left and right. I was doing everything right and still getting nowhere.

I went to an extreme. Why? Because the client was demanding, and I don’t like to disappoint people. I sent letters to about 100 homeowners asking if they wanted to sell their properties and took this client to see homes at inconvenient times, usually around 7 p.m. I was bending over backward to please someone who ultimately could not be pleased no matter what the circumstances.

You know those buyers who tell you what they want, and because there’s low inventory and it isn’t available in your market (or because it doesn’t exist), they feel there’s something out there that you must be missing. This is because they are always right. There must be a secret list of homes we’re not sharing with them. They just can’t fathom that what they want doesn’t exist in their targeted price range, and their expectations might be wildly unrealistic.

Set expectations so you can communicate clearly.

One thing I learned from this experience was that I should set expectations upfront. I had been setting the expectation of low inventory with my client, but I failed to set expectations on when and how I would be communicating.

I don’t know about you, but some clients text me questions at 11 p.m. I couldn’t figure out if this client was expecting a response that late or just couldn’t wait to get out the question, which was usually something that needed to be answered through a phone conversation because the question was complex or I needed to do some research.

Set boundaries — so you can have a life!

Every time I saw a text from the client, my stomach would turn and I would instantly get anxiety. It became a burden on my home life, my relationship and mental health. This person clearly had no boundaries or respect for other people’s time.

I turn my phone off from 9 p.m. until 9 a.m. Unless you are on my favorites list in my phone, it won’t ring or vibrate. In theory, it’s a good way to decompress from work. However, the text notification is still there if I look at my phone. And, of course, I still look at my phone during the blackout times, so this works only to a certain degree. If you are like me and wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself checking your phone for emails, then you may want to keep your phone in another room.

Decide whether money will determine what you are willing to do (or not do) for a client.

When you begin to look at this issue from a time-investment and paycheck perspective, you have to figure out if your time is worth the money. You say to yourself, “But I’ve already spent six months with this client, and I know this client is a qualified buyer who wants to purchase a home.” Well, when will you decide you’ve had enough?

I got a text from the buyer one day as we were in the middle of trying to negotiate a contract. He said I wasn’t representing his interests in the manner I should have been and expressed the opinion that I wasn’t doing my job. What? Really? That sent me over the edge.

All terms had been verbally negotiated and agreed upon — except the buyer was demanding that certain furniture be included in the sale. The seller didn’t want to respond to the demand, so the timeframe for a written acceptance expired. My response to my client’s text message was, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I think it’s time for you to find another agent.” I was done!

At first I questioned my actions, but I also had a sense of relief when I let the client go. Of course, letting a client go is the easy part. Letting the money go is a different story. Not only was the buyer gone, but the house he was going to list with me was also off the table.

Fast forward seven months. I received a text message from the buyer, at a reasonable hour this time, long after I’d removed his information from my phone. I put two and two together and realized who this person was and that he was asking me to see a property. Not only asking to see one property, but also asking me for my professional opinion about a different property. They had seen this property with another Realtor, and I was not representing the buyer, nor was the buyer asking me to write up an offer.

It was decision time again. What should I do? Why not answer him in a professional manner, let the past go and see what he’s thinking? His price point had increased, and I was almost flattered he contacted me — after all, I was the agent who fired him!

I decided to show the buyer the property he had not seen yet. As I was showing him the home, I realized he thought I was the listing Realtor. So, how did he get to me again? I had written several blog posts about the community on my website. When he Googled the community, my blog came up first in the search results!

Then it hit me. I let this person go, let the money go, and in the end he came back because of all the hard work I have done blogging about real estate in my community.

Not only did I show him the property, but we made up and actually went under contract!

If you are struggling with a client, maybe it’s time to just let go! You never know how things will turn out, and it just might allow you the clarity and mental capacity to focus on more productive tasks and goals.

A licensed Realtor since 2002, Rae Catanese regularly gives expert advice and insider tips about the Tampa Bay real estate market via her blog, The Tampa Real Estate Insider.

Email Rae Catanese.