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ArlingtonReal EstateRealtor Q&A: How to deal with challenging clients

Realtor Q&A: How to deal with challenging clients

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How do local real-estate professionals deal with clients who prove to be challenges? We asked some top industry professionals for their feedback:

Mark Middendorf, Long & Foster: “If you think a specific property is the right one for your buyer, as their representative, you should discuss with them all of the reasons why based on the criteria and feedback they have shared with you. A good buyer’s agent is also a good listener. However, they are the ones that will be living there, so ultimately, the decision is theirs.”

Jennifer Thornett, Washington Fine Properties: “The saying ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink’ applies aptly to real estate. I think almost every agent has had a buyer who just can’t commit, but in today’s market, we actually find ourselves talking buyers out of compromising. This market is exhausting for all parties on the buy side and it takes patience and perseverance to find the right property. I find that buyers who are patient and trust us to help them secure the right property are so satisfied and grateful that their enthusiasm effortlessly generates future business. So patience does pay off in the end.”

John Mentis, Long & Foster: “I never tell a client what to buy or not to buy. My approach is always to support the buyer-client in making an informed decision. Given the right amount of information and the right amount of time, a buyer will make the right decision for themselves. I don’t believe you can or should rush a client’s decision.”


Laura Schwartz, McEnearney Associates: “This market is very challenging for buyers, but regardless of the market conditions, every buyer moves at their own pace. Most of that is driven by their motivations to buy. There are buyers who need to buy and those that want to buy. At some point, the ‘want to’ becomes the ‘need to’ or they back out of the market entirely. I’ve found that buyers sometimes have to lose one in order to feel the consequences of being indecisive. Usually that feeling makes them more motivated and/or aggressive the next time there’s a house. I have always voiced my opinion when I think a house is the one or definitely not. Pressuring a client isn’t going to make them want to buy.”

Casey Samson, Samson Properties: “Buyers know what they want, and when they see it, they offer on it. The key in a strong sellers’ market is the Realtor must set expectation of how competitive they must be to win their perfect home. Our motto is: The best listings, or buyers, are the ones we don’t take. Nineteen out of 20 clients are awesome and we can meet their expectations, and then some. The 20th can cause more grief and anxiety, and waste more time, than the other 19 combined. To protect good clients, buyer and seller interviews are always a two-way street.”

Carol Temple, Coldwell Banker: “My job is to provide credible information so that buyers and sellers can make decisions that are uniquely right for them. They are in charge. As we move through the experience, I summarize what I believe I heard regarding their wants and needs and ask them if I got it right. I also ask them to be sure to tell me if I got it wrong. I also make it clear that it is OK to change your mind, just please communicate that to me. Buyer-clients who at our initial buyer interview said, ‘Do not show us split-foyers; we hate split-foyers’ are the same clients who then bought a split foyer. Opinions as to what might make a client challenging differ. I have never felt it necessary to drop a client. I have a simple criteria for clients with whom to work. Intelligent, reasonable and loyal. With those traits we can accomplish anything.”

Dean Yeonas, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “I think it’s all about setting expectations based on facts and data, and backing up conclusions with evidence. Sometimes some clients need to write four or five contracts before they listen to their agent. So you have to go through the exercise a few times. After time, if things don’t work out, you might have to have a meeting of the minds and ask a client to call your competition.”

Barbara Lewis, Washington Fine Properties: “We give our buyers all the information they need to make good decision for themselves. It is their decision and we respect and support the final decision. We have never dropped a client because they did not purchase a property that we liked for them. Rather, we are patient and are thrilled when buyers are excited when they find a property they want to buy . “

Rob Ferguson, RE/MAX Allegiance: “It is always the client’s decision and I support them to make a decision that is best for them and makes them the most comfortable. If I feel strongly about a decision, I will certainly lay out the reasons why I think they should do one thing or another but ultimately we are on the same team and they have to feel good about their decision, because it is their life and finances. Whatever they decide always works out for the best for them. From time to time, we deal with clients that we cannot see eye-to-eye with, and there is a clash of personalities. In those cases, it is in everyone’s best interest to go their separate directions, and I think that all the parties can see that is the best outcome. Business and real estate is no different, and there are a lot of emotions and personalities.”

Karen Briscoe, Huckaby, Briscoe, Conroy Realty Group, Keller Williams: “If there is any problem, often times there is something else going on, and you try to understand what that is, where they are coming from, then determine how to deal with that. There is a lot of stress in buying and selling. So sometimes you have to give clients a lot of grace in those situations, and maybe revisit why, and if, they really want to buy or sell. You have to understand their perspective.”

Eli Tucker, Eli Residential Group: “It happens. In those scenarios I think it’s important to communicate why I think it’s a good option, based on my understanding of their criteria and the market, and ask questions to better understand why they feel differently. Sometimes it’s just a feeling buyers have, and that’s OK, but discovering the reasons for those feelings is how we make progress.”

Betsy Twigg, McEnearney Associates: “You have to find out what people want and need and respond to that. You continue to provide information about the market. You have to be patient, kind and nice. Even if you ultimately have to cut strings, you do that in a nice and compassionate way.”

Craig Burns, The Redux Group: “Ultimately it is their decision to buy or not. It is our role to coach a client in such a way that they would own their decision, even if it is not to buy a certain home. Dropping a client is rare, and thankfully have only had to do it a few times. Occasionally, a client comes along that only wants to look at homes with no intention of making a competitive offer. After a series of issues, I always do a face-to-face with a client and re-calibrate and re-focus to ensure we are on the same page. In this sellers’ market, even the best of clients can become frustrated and challenging.”

Gloria Adams, TTR Sotheby’s International: “I believe an agent in this situation should have and use an abundance of patience. The agent will make her/his point with the client by consistent discussion, comps, showings, all with a smile and a lot of patience. I have not had to drop a client for this reason, thank goodness.”

Craig Mastrangelo, Re/Max Allegiance: “I will never tell you what to buy, only what your money can buy based on your finances, loan approval and active listings on the market. Experience can play a strong role in an agent having an opinion that a house is perfect for their clients. If I feel that a buyer is straying from the course we have collaboratively agreed on, then I do have the hard conversation of asking them how a particular home does not meet the criteria the client has professed as being important to them. The hard part is having the conversation in a non-threatening manner. I feel that history has shown that their answers will help shed the way to a better client-agent relationship, or it will inform you that you need to move on yourself – hard to do, but sometimes necessary.”

Joan Stansfield, Keller Williams: “We set expectations early and vet them out carefully with tough love and candid conversations. We even ask – Are you buying or shopping? Yes, we have had to let some clients go; and a few of our buyers have had to step out and wait for their situation to change or improve. Writing and losing three or more offers and losing is cruel and unnecessary. Buyers must be brave and focused – shift and adjust their mindset and trust us to get the home.”

Dave Adams, Coldwell Banker: “As a Realtor, I wear many different hats. I’m a marketer, a salesperson and a negotiator, but I also often feel like a therapist. You need to assuage your clients’ fears and ensure that they feel comfortable and confident about the road ahead. As a buyer’s agent, we try to mentor and educate our clients and how to make a strong successful offer. I always address our clients’ apprehension with an open ear and a caring heart. At the end of the day, your clients want to feel validated and understood. I always stay friendly and positive. Ultimately, we always leave the decision to our clients. We have never dropped a client and have always come to a meeting of the minds.”

Dawn Wilson, TTR Sotheby’s International: “Buyers have to come to a conclusion on their own as to what is the best property for them. I try to ask a lot of questions about what they need and want in a home. When we see properties, I have them rank homes according to their criteria. Almost always, if they rank a home highly, they will make an offer. Probably the biggest challenge is when a client is not really giving a lot of thought as to what is most important to them in a home, and what location they really want to be in. So they take a scattershot approach to looking at homes. Usually, after a buyer has lost a house because they did not make up their mind quickly enough, they understand they need to do the pre-work and be ready the next time to make a quick offer. “

Jack Shafran, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “Basically, the agent and the client have to have the right chemistry, and sometimes it takes a while to get a feel to figure out how things are going. And sometimes it doesn’t work out and you have to part ways. Part of our job is being a psychologist. Usually things work out and the two can find a common ground.”

Steve Wydler, Wydler Brothers: “We give them context to consider how this home meets their goals. One of the things that is often overlooked by buyers and something we discuss with them is liquidity, in other words, how quickly would a particular home take to sell in a softer market? There were only three times in my career that I saw a property and told the client, ‘I found your new home.’ I don’t want to brag, but I was right all three times.”

Lori Shafran, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “As a real-estate professional, I don’t feel it is my role to tell clients what the right move is with respect to submitting an offer. But I am able to educate and help them see all aspects of a potential purchase opportunity. There have been several notable situations that, despite my efforts, my clients have directed me to take actions that I have advised against, regarding the purchase of a home. In these situations, my allegiance is to my clients and their wishes. Sadly, I also have had the experience of having to advise buyer-clients that I could not continue to work for them – primarily because their actions and their demands were outside legally permissible boundaries of contract law.”

Jean Beatty, McEnearney Associates: “I don’t ever make decisions for my clients about which properties they should buy, because they are the ones who will have to live in the home. My job is to guide and educate them through the home-buying process, that begins from the very first meeting. I help explain the intricacies of the market so that they can understand the challenges and how best to get an offer accepted. I have never had to drop a challenging client.”

Marybeth Fraser, Keller Williams: “Even in challenging situations, I remind myself this can be a stressful time for clients, and stress can sometimes bring out a less than positive side of someone. Each client’s needs are unique and our team is experienced to eliminate unnecessary costs and stress. Everything we do is always with our clients’ best interests in mind. We also believe that our clients should never buy until they fall in love with their magnificent manor. This commitment does sometimes lead to looking at many many properties over an extended period of time. The good news is our clients never have buyer’s remorse.”

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