Think back to your rookie agent days. If you’re like most of us, you would have done anything for that first client. That first closed deal.
You would have, and probably did, put up with anything a client threw your way.
As time goes by, every client remains valuable, but we learn that sometimes what they cost us in angst (and money) just isn’t worth the effort of keeping them.
Sometimes, walking away from a client is best for both of you.
The dishonest client
It’s interesting how buyers have the bad rep of being “liars.” Maybe it’s because “sellers” and “liars” don’t rhyme? Whatever the reason, the label applies to some sellers as much, if not more, than some buyers.
You know where I’m going with this, right? The transfer disclosure statement, or whatever it’s called in your neck of the woods.
If ever there was a document more accommodating to the liar, it’s the TDS. And, although the vast majority of sellers are honest when filling it out (I’m pretty optimistic about my fellow humans), there are those who just can’t resist fibbing.
When the form asks if the seller is aware of any “alterations or repairs made without necessary permits,” your client, Joe, casually circles “No.”
While sitting on a deck he built without permits
You may not know he didn’t go through the proper channels when he added the deck. You may not even know that he added the deck.
A good listing agent will counsel his or her client on the importance of honesty throughout the transaction. We know all too well that not only can the homeowner be held liable if the lies are revealed, but the agent and broker as well.
Some sellers, however, don’t just lie to the buyer but also to their agents.
It’s easy to understand the temptation. The type of glaring honesty you’re asking of them is hard to swallow when it comes to selling something as expensive as a home. Telling the truth about the home’s flaws seems counter-intuitive.
But, if you happen to know that he built that deck (and did so without permits) and you’ve pointed out his “mistake” and he insists on allowing it to remain, it’s time to part ways.
Some clients are almost begging to be ditched
Also known as the “toxic client,” this is the guy or gal who treats you like a servant. Or, he thinks everyone is out to get him and constantly treats you with suspicion. Or he’s a professional time waster.
“I fired a $6 million client once,” Sandi Klein, author and real estate agent told the Chicago Tribune’s Mary Umberger. One of those always-the-smartest-in-the-room-guys, he ignored all of her advice about bidding on homes.
He insisted on low-ball offers, despite Klein’s objections. Not only was this a waste of his time, but also Klein’s, the listing agent’s, and the sellers’.
Do you really want to work with the client who tells you that he doesn’t trust anyone and that “you can expect that every single thing you do will be subject to a microscopic evaluation?”
Those words were directed at Michael Hausam, an agent in California. He recalled the incident to Realtor Mag’s Danielle Braff.
“I don’t trust you, nor anyone else, and as a result, I’m going to make this entire process of working together an absolute nightmare,” his client promised.
Whether it’s a time hog, an advice-ignorer or a client who is outright rude, ditching these clients protects not only your bottom line, but your sense of self-esteem and sanity as well.
Don’t be a tarrier
To tarry is to hang around way longer than you should.
Years ago, I interviewed Ken DeLeon, Silicon Valley mega-agent. During our chat he mentioned that he frequently turns down listings and isn’t at all hesitant to fire a client.
Yeah, I was surprised too. Many agents go their entire careers taking every listing that comes their way and wouldn’t dream of kicking a client to the curb.
The problem, he said is that agents are “too overly eager.” We continue working with the client who stubbornly insists his house is worth more than it is, the client that you’ve shown homes to for more than 6 months who still can’t make up her mind and the one that you know is secretly working with other agents.
DeLeon insists that agents don’t put a premium on their time. Taking the overpriced listing hoping you can eventually talk the client into reality sets you up for a huge time suck.
And that buyer who can’t make up her mind? Think of the wear and tear on your car, the gas you use and tack on what your time is worth and to tarry is truly foolish.
The key is in knowing what your time is worth, according to DeLeon. A lawyer-turned-real estate agent, he is well aware of the value of an hour’s worth of his time and you should be too.
Then, calculate the time it will take you to talk down that low-ball bidder, the overpricing homeowner or the buyer who loves to look at homes, for months on end.
If the costs outweigh the benefits, it’s time to bid the client aloha.
There must be 50 ways to leave your client
The first time you part ways with a client will be the most difficult. When it’s over, however, you’ll never forget that feeling of relief, of freedom. It’s like leaving a toxic love relationship in which you stayed far too long.
Believe it or not, there are certain steps to take when you need to relieve yourself of a lousy client. Before you utter that goodbye, run the situation by your broker and, possibly, your attorney or lawyer.
The latter may be especially important if there is a buyer’s agreement or listing contract involved. Your broker should be able to counsel you on whether or not professional legal advice is necessary.
Then, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll tell your client that “it’s not you, it’s me” and “I hope we can still be friends.”
It’s best to stick to the facts and don’t make it personal. Larry Easto, coach and author, recommends that you offer your client options as well.
He suggests something along the line of “May I have my broker assign this to another agent in our office or would you prefer to find a new agent on your own?”
I don’t know that I’d foist these clients on a colleague though.
Breaking free of exhausting, unprofitable, dishonest or emotionally draining client relationships may, in the end, be a blessing to your bottom line.
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