Difficult real estate clients

We have discussed in the past a need for balance in the real estate industry. Agents are human, like everyone else, and need to be conscious of the energy and time they are putting toward their work – as well as the hundred other things that need attention throughout a given day.

We’ve also talked about focusing on the paths that will generate the most money and grow your career.

That being said, we now want to discuss something that most agents experience in their careers at some point, but that no one really likes to talk about… when is it time to just let a difficult client walk?

Sure, any client could at times be a little difficult. Maybe focusing too much on how the paint color in a particular room isn’t their style and that being a deal-breaker.

That happens.

But that’s not the type of client we’re talking about, obviously. No, the really difficult ones are the ones that don’t value your role in the process and try to undermine your every move – on top of not respecting your time.

On the surface, it sounds a little blasphemous to propose the idea that you should ever move on from a client – no matter how difficult they may be – because more clients equals more money. Saying “no” to money seems counterintuitive.

However, when you look at the numbers, it’s not so crazy.

Take, for example, a difficult client that is in the market for a $100,000 home. On average, an agent could expect to make between $1,800-$2,300 on that transaction (depending on how their brokerage is structured). Not a bad payout at all.

Now factor in what that works out to over the course of a month (maybe 20 hours of interaction). That’s the equivalent of about $90-$115/hr. – still not bad.

But what about when that interaction spikes to 50 or 60 hours over the course of multiple months. Then you’re closer to $50-$30/hr., on the low end.

Take into account the wear and tear on your car, fees that you pay for memberships, marketing costs, and staff, and those numbers don’t sound as good.

And that doesn’t even factor in the stress and toll on you and your work/life balance, nor does it account for the opportunity cost of instead spending that time on clients that aren’t this difficult.

At the end of the day, your obligation to the client is to do what’s best for them. If there is a clear disconnect between you and the client, then what’s “best” for them is to either refer them to another agent, or simply let them go.

Don’t take that as calling them into your office and dramatically saying, “YOU’RE FIRED!” Even if that’s how you play it out in your head.

Some practical solutions:

1) Instead, explain that you “feel it would be in their best interest to try a different approach that better fits their needs…here’s a list of other agents who you can reach out to.”

2) Once you’ve had some space away from the situation, then take a moment to reflect on where things could’ve gone wrong. The best path to future success is to first look at the past and learn how to adjust your approach moving forward.

Was it all on the client? Were they just like that from the beginning? Or was there something along the way that led to that? Perhaps a communication issue that irked them and affected their mood.

3) Learn how to pre-screen clients and take control from the get-go. Remember, they are coming to you for your expertise and time. The most successful agents aren’t afraid to say “no” to clients that they feel will cost them money in the long run.

Set standards of doing business with you, such as requiring a pre-approval letter before looking at homes, explaining to them what you will require from them to do your job effectively, and setting expectations.

This not only helps to weed out clients that aren’t a great fit, but also can help prevent the client from ever becoming difficult later in the process.

There’s no right or wrong answer, and each client will be very different. The main takeaway is that agents need to know when to sever ties, and also know how to learn from situations like these, so that can they continue to grow their careers.