If you’re a seasoned real estate agent, you probably know what I’m going to suggest – which is that you don’t have to and should not work with every possible client who comes along.
If you’re just beginning your career in real estate you may be thinking “What do you mean, choose my clients! I just want one!”
When we’re new in any self-employment career, we’re happy to just have a client. However, as time goes on, we learn that some clients can cost us more than they’re worth.
This is a lesson that it’s better to learn sooner than later.
You don’t need toxic clients – they cost more than they’re worth.
Often referred to as “toxic clients,” these people can cost you money out of pocket, time (which is, of course money), and some things that are even more valuable: your self-respect and your peace of mind. They can cause stress that carries over into your home life – causing difficulties with your spouse, your children, and your other loved ones. That stress can also wreak havoc with your physical health along with your mental well-being.
Even if slogging through a miserable transaction with them puts good dollars in your pocket, it might not be worth the cost.
Who are these toxic clients?
Let’s start with those who disrespect you.
Disrespect comes in many forms, beginning with an attitude you can feel from the first meeting. That attitude may be designed to put you in your place – as a servant. Years ago another agent and I co-listed several vacant lots for a couple who owned a local building supply store. My husband was building homes at the time and was a good customer, so they were very polite to him. The wife’s attitude toward me as a real estate professional was a different story. She made it clear that I ranked with someone she might have paid to shovel out the stalls in the barn.
Then there was the big name attorney from California whose sneering attitude toward a country girl like me had me gritting my teeth. We closed one transaction and he had more to sell – but I went from the closing to the office and removed him from my database entirely.
A blatant form of disrespect is lateness – or missing appointments entirely. Yes – sometimes there’s a good excuse, but in most cases, someone can call to say they’ll be late or won’t show up. And it certainly shouldn’t happen more than once.
I very stupidly drove to town on a Sunday to meet one young couple twice before I told them “No more.” They never did buy a house – guess they treated their next agent the same way.
Another act of stupidity – on my very first listing appointment the seller left me standing outside his front door in the cold wind, waiting for ten minutes while he finished practicing on his piano. And no – I hadn’t shown up early. A year or two later I would have gotten in my car and left.
A less obvious form of disrespect is disregarding your advice. If you’ve carefully prepared a comprehensive market analysis using the most recent comps, sellers should listen. Especially if you’ve taken the time to show them how you arrived at the numbers. Trying to push the number up just a little is understandable – but when they demand that you list tens of thousands out of range, it’s time to consider walking away.
Think of the time and money you’ll spend on marketing that can’t work.
When the client is a buyer who doesn’t respect your advice, you might find yourself writing a dozen ridiculous offers that never go anywhere. Is that how you wish to spend your time?
Calling at all hours of the night also shows disrespect. Do they really think you should get out of bed to answer the phone?
Then there are people who would ask you to forgo attending an important family event because they need you “right now.”
How about sellers who demand that you accompany every showing? I know that is the norm in some places and that many high-end sellers have that expectation, but it sure can be difficult to arrange your day around both your own clients and a buyer agent’s clients.
Another form of toxicity: Rudeness
Some people are prone to blaming and yelling – and they’ll yell at you. Some even curse at their agents. You don’t have to take that, and you shouldn’t – no matter how much the commission would be if you were ever able to get them to a closing table (Which is doubtful).
The price you’ll pay in terms of your own well-being is simply too high.
Yes, you should do your job. No client should have to ask you to post good photos of his or her house or to write an enticing property description. No client should have to leave messages for days before you return their call. But some people demand too much.
Way back in the dark ages I had a client who insisted that I advertise her house on e-bay. Instead of spending the $125 for an ad (twice), I should have said no. In fact, I should have said that unless she brought the price within reason, I wasn’t going to advertise it anywhere at all.
I did make excuses to myself over why I didn’t just fire her. One of those excuses was that she was a neighbor and a “friend.” Naturally, the house didn’t sell, and naturally she took her listing to someone else before she lowered the price. A year or two later it did sell, thank goodness. The new neighbor turned into a real friend.
How do you recognize these people and avoid them?
Spend some time talking with both buyers and sellers before you decide to take them on as clients. Pay attention to what they say and pay attention to how much respect they give you.
If a little voice in your head starts saying “Be careful” or if you get that “Gut feeling” that taking them on might not be a wonderful idea, pay attention to yourself!
You may think you really need that client, but if you take them on, you’ll be using hours that you could spend connecting with a client who will enhance your life. You’ll also be bringing unhealthy stress into your life.
What if there were no warning signs?
There are, admittedly, some people who can come across as pleasant upon first meeting, then turn toxic when everything doesn’t go just as they wish it.
In this case many agents are hesitant to fire them because of the time already invested. It’s a difficult decision, but made a little easier by realizing that a good percentage of toxic clients never make it to a closing. Sometimes you do need to fire a client.
There’s an old saying “Never throw good money after bad.” The same is true for time.
Remember that when you’re focused on being happy and productive, a new and better client will come along to take the place of the one you fired.
Who else should you fire?
Anyone who asks – or expects – you to do anything illegal or not in keeping with your moral or ethical code.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”
– Ann Lander
“There’s an important difference between giving up and letting go.”
Take care of yourself.
Yes, you need an income, but you also need to avoid the kind of stress that can ruin both your health and your relationships.
Choose your clients well, and don’t be afraid to turn them loose when it’s the right thing to do.
Wishing you joy and prosperity,
Impatient man and angry man Images courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Stressed real estate agent Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Sunshine courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net