Tough Love

My buyer told me that he lived in the same house for 10 years.  When I checked, I found out he’d still be there today if the Governor hadn’t pardoned him.

New agents, and those desperate for clients as well, have been known to make a common mistake.  They will work with anyone that comes along.  And work with, and work with, and work with …..

Everyone has a story about the homebuying couple who dragged you out every weekend and frequently during the week as well, looking at homes when in fact the husband and wife couldn’t even agree on what the basic parameters of their search were.

  • He wants a good bargain, she won’t contemplate anything if it is older than 3 years.
  • She wants a house with good bones which she can decorate to make special, he’s unwilling to take on any remodeling.
  • They can’t qualify for [maximum loan level for their income], but are unhappy with everything in that price range.
  • They have reasonable expectations for their ability to buy, but can’t seem to ever get a preapproval letter from the bank so you can submit an offer.
  • They’re really great to work with, but you didn’t realize their invisible relatives were actually the ones with the most input.
  • They have magnificent plans to make money with real estate investing and are pretty sure they have all their ducks in a row, but find it difficult to pull the trigger.

And the seller side is just as rife with anecdotes.

  • The owner who checks, “not known” on the seller disclosure form as to whether or not home improvements were done with proper permitting and inspection.  You sit with them at this appointment, noting the wall sockets with live electrical still hanging from the walls.
  • The seller lets you go ahead and prepare all your marketing, failing to tell you his reason for contacting you was to hopefully stave off the trustee sale in 7 days.
  • The house has tenants who haven’t cleaned in the entire 7 years they’ve lived there and who appear to have housed the “Institute for Incontinent Canine Research” during most of that tenure.  The owner indicates asking them to prepare the house for showing is your job, “What do you think I’m paying you for?”
  • AND everyone’s favorite:  the seller who will not be convinced their precious home isn’t worth every penny they think it is, and will not be persuaded to list it for less.  You chase the market down, with them telling all their friends what a horrible agent you are.

So now you’re wiser

You’ve beaten your head against the wall enough to have slammed a modicum of wisdom into it and realize that you need to part ways with your client.  How do you do this without having the owners, Mr. Smith and Mrs. Wesson, get all Brian Urlacher in your face?

The least offensive way is to let your clients know that for personal reasons you will not be able to represent them.  Ask them if they would like a referral for another agent or whether they would prefer to do the replacement search themselves.

If you are trying to perhaps retain the client, but help them to see reason, especially in the case of an overpriced house, a more direct approach may be the ticket.  Real Estate coach Mike Ferry has a script that works well.  He suggests going to your client’s door and saying, “I apologize.  I’m going to have to release you from your [listing, agency agreement, etc.].  I wasn’t strong enough to tell you the truth that [fill in the blank].  In the case of an inflexible listing amount, that blank would be “your property is overpriced and is not going to sell.”

Sometimes the very knowledge you are willing to bypass money is enough motivation for your seller to look at their price with a somewhat more critical eye.  Sometimes not.  Either way, you will not spend your time soothing their feelings when offers they consider ludicrous and offensive are presented.

Solve problems before they start

You’ll find you don’t have to “fire” clients, if you screen them sufficiently to determine whether you will even hire them.

Adopt some policies and do not deviate.

  1. The prospective client does not get an agency agreement without a preapproval from a known bank or proof of funds in their name.  Period.  You’re fooling yourself if you think “FlipIt LLC” in Lessor Podunk, Saskatchewan is going to cough up on property without your well meaning investor client jumping through almost impossible hoops.  Likewise the lovely couple sitting in front of you who just need to transfer this money from their generous uncle in Xinxiang, China who has it in his account are in for a roller coaster home buying experience.
  2. Determine who else will have say in the purchase (or sale).  Require their presence at all appointments.  Nothing is more disappointing than putting in gobs of work only to have the shadow power pull out the rug at the last minute.
  3. Having determined their loan level, have your clients look with you (before walking out of the office), on what is currently available in their price range.  Take notes on their comments.  It will save you tons of time.
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