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RED FLAGS: When to turn and walk away.

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How many times have you sat there in a listing presentation and thought to yourself, "Wow, do I even want to take this homeowner on?" This happens to not only real estate agents, but contractors and stagers as well.

I used to think I could handle anyone, no challenge was too great. And boy, let me tell you, I've had some doozies!  Lately, I have encountered a couple of clients that have me wondering if I am up for such a catastrophic and demanding client. When a client is taking up 80% of your time and nothing is making them happy, is it better to identify those clients from the start, and kindly suggest another (who may enjoy their abuse)?

In January, I took on a client who, in terms of revenue, was comparable to 3 small staging projects.  Now looking back at the time I had into it, it was a total of 20 staging jobs.  Nothing made him happy.  It was almost like he was sabotaging his own listing.  The agent and I were pulling our hair out, bending over backwards, and I have to commend her on her professionalism to hold it together.  He ate up and spit out 3 agents before we walked in the door.  Now I understand why.  Yes, there were RED FLAGS in the beginning. We knew about the other agents, we knew he was a hard case.

When you are sitting with your potential seller and that little voice keeps warning you, are you listening?  I am not saying cut and run, listen to it and give it enough attention to understand what it is telling you and why.

RED FLAGS to pay attention to if a homeowner mentions:

  • "We have had several agents and none of them did a good job."
  • "We kicked our contractor off the job; he told us nothing would make us happy."
  • "Our last agent only had four open houses and two broker's opens."
  • "We are interviewing agents until we hear the price that we want."
  • "I am not going to change anything, people either like it or they don't."
  • "We are going to stay in the house while it is being shown, we don't trust anyone."
  • "I expect you to answer the phone every time I call."

It's tempting to take a listing just to have inventory.  Overpriced houses and pain-in-the-rear clients just come with the territory. Yet, have you ever sat down and done a little job costing?  What does a listing cost you financially, emotionally, and in the time it takes away from listings that have a reasonable chance of selling? Is it worth it just to have that listing on your dry-erase board?

Ninety-five percent of sellers are wonderful to work with.  They truly agree that selling their home is the right decision for them. They are willing work with you and not against you.

When I speak to seasoned agents, agents that have been there, done that, and have learned from many years of being in the business, they tell me, "It's that five percent that you may decide in the long run to turn and walk away. Read between the lines, watch for the RED FLAGS, and listen to the little voice inside your head."  That is what made the difference in their long-term success. It has saved them time and aggravation along their career road.

Thank you for your time,
Angela Voss
Designology Home Staging

Open for discussion:
Would you or have you ever turned a listing down? What were the RED FLAGS?

Comments (23)

Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

Angela, I'm not an agent but I have walked away and as a stager, I have "fired" agents.  Life's too short to put up with excessive nonsense. 

AND for the RE agents that won't walk away but just take listing after listing because they like the numbers and not the selling...they will never be my Realtor. 

May 27, 2010 04:06 PM
Donne Knudsen
Los Angeles & Ventura Counties in CA - Simi Valley, CA
CalState Realty Services

Angela - WOW!  What a great message.  As a mortgage gal, I too have had my fair share of pain in the @$$ clients.  After eight years, I have picked up on some of the same clues and warning signs.  I have no problem telling some pain in the @$$ that I'm not the right MLO for them and that they need to finds someone else to work with.

May 27, 2010 04:06 PM
Patty Purdue Laforte
Realtypath LLC - Salt Lake City, UT

Oh those wonderful warning signs.  LOL  They are not only with the seller but also with the property.  Last week I met with a FSBO and it turned out they moved out of the property because his wife got sick and they found mold.  Swears he removed everything and redid the room with the problem, but absolutely no way would I take this listing.  The home is vacant and has a musty smell so I don't think this DIY job was complete.  Once disclosed on the seller's disclosures every transaction would blow up.  Why bother doing the work if it never actually closes. 

We must always think ahead.

May 27, 2010 04:18 PM
David North
Coldwell Banker Bain - Duvall, WA
for a rewarding real estate experience

You're right on.  Not all business is good business, and it doesn't do the agent or the client any good when it's not good business.

May 27, 2010 04:50 PM
Angela & Stephen Hardiman / HouseTie.com
HouseTie.com - Spokane, WA
When first impressions count...

Liz - Stressful clients seem to drag on all season long. I agree with you.

Ginger - I haven't ever fired an agent. A few I won't work with because of their ethics. I've worked with over 250 agents and I would have to say that 99.9% of them are fantastic to work with. Yet, I do understand what you are saying.

Donne - LOL @$$!!! That's great.  

Patty - It is never worth it to try to hide something.

Thanks for all your feedback.

May 27, 2010 05:15 PM
Melissa Marro
Keller Williams First Coast Realty - The Marro Team - Orange Park, FL
Jacksonville Real Estate and Home Staging

I've done this before and would do it again.  Some clients just aren't worth any amount of time or money!  Know when to cut and run.... fast and in the other direction!

May 27, 2010 05:17 PM
Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging
Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR - Portland, OR
"Staging Consultations that Sell Portland Homes"

I've learned to always listen to that inner voice that warns me when someone is not going to be a reasonable client.  I have no problem at all walking away from them -- they're users and abusers and no one needs to deal with people like that.  They'd like to micromanage the project, they ask for ridiculous payment terms, they pay late, they violate the terms of the contract, etc.   Like Ginger, I've fired a couple of clients and wouldn't accept any amount of money to work with them again.  There are far too many wonderful people out there that we can help -- and they appreciate us and are a pleasure to deal with.

May 27, 2010 05:43 PM
Karen Walls

When Sellers don't give up something.  I try their price for a bit..then you go with mine.. Selling effectively involves participation in a give and take scenario.  If they are not willing to give,,,I am not willing to take on a migraine. If we are being hired for our expertise..that should reasonate in your presentation! If you are being hired by a undercover FSBO to be listed in the MLS only and using your naive patooty....RUN ---------> for the EXIT!

May 27, 2010 05:59 PM
Charles Edwards Bentonville
Coldwell Banker Harris McHaney & Faucette 479-253-3796 - Bentonville, AR
AR REALTOR, Bentonville Real Estate Agent and Broker

Preach it sister! You got me right where I'm living. Check out my recent blog post titled 'IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW HARD YOU WORK'. Great post. THANKS!

May 28, 2010 01:38 AM
Anna Dovger
Add Value Home Staging LLC, 281-704-6607 - The Woodlands, TX
Home Staging -The Woodlands, TX

Angela, great list of warning signs. I will keep it in mind.

May 28, 2010 03:21 AM
Tessa Skeens
Hampton ReDesign, Home Staging and Redesign - Grand Junction, CO
Staging For Realtors, Builders & Investors

For every client that doesn't appreciate another professionals time and expertise, there is one who will. When we spend time with a client who doesn't get it we're not available to one who does. Thanks for the reminder!

May 28, 2010 03:42 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Angela-it's always tempting to try with certain clients just to see if you can do it; if you're the one Realtor or Stager that gets  through to them.  However, as everyone has said, sometimes it's just not worth the time and aggravation.  Better to cut and run and go on to the next great client that's out there.

May 28, 2010 06:42 AM
J. Philip Faranda
Howard Hanna Rand Realty - Yorktown Heights, NY
Associate Broker / Office Manager

Yes, those are all pretty clear warnings that the client would be more trouble than they are worth. 

May 28, 2010 12:49 PM
Lori Kim Polk
Premiere Home Staging : Home Staging Services - Roseville, CA
Home Stager - Roseville, Sacramento

Angela... great list and to the point. Take the time to help someone else who appreciates what you do as a stager, a professional, and as a person.

May 28, 2010 04:31 PM
Charlene Storozuk
Dezigner Digz - Burlington, ON
Home Stager - Burlington Ontario

Yes, I think it's very important to watch for those red flags. I've had to walk away from a couple of jobs before and I have no regrets that I did.

May 31, 2010 05:53 AM
Ross Quintana
Real E Smarter - Spokane, WA
Real E Smarter Real Estate Coach - 509-362-1966

Yes, I have heard many of these red flags, sometimes I go after them for a challenge but I have also fallen victim to the client you can't please.

Jun 01, 2010 05:15 PM
Todd Clark - Retired
eXp Realty LLC - Tigard, OR
Principle Broker Oregon

I've gotten up in mid-sentence before because of red flags and left listing appointments. It freaks out sellers and when you tell them why you are leaving they are shocked. I am always truthful and tell them that I work only with clients that are hiring because I am a professional and I know what I'm doing. If you need to question me, then clearly I'm not the person for you. 

Jun 08, 2010 06:11 AM
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

I feel the same if the clients badmouth other agents or mention that they worked with few with no success.

Great blog post, guys!

Jan 22, 2015 03:33 PM
Sussie Sutton
David Tracy Real Estate - Houston, TX
David Tracy Real Estate for Buyers & Sellers

Yes.... you have to learn to walk away and say next!

Jul 15, 2015 05:57 AM
John G. Johnston
John G. Johnston & Associates, LLC - Westcliffe, CO
An Exclusive Buyer's Agent ~ Westcliffe, CO

I live in a buyer's market...hence, I am an Exclusive Buyer's Agent.  I don't have to tolerate the red flags you mention.  However, buyers can be just as difficult.  Time to cut and run.  I love what I do and putting up with BS is not one of them.  Thanks for sharing and enjoy your day!  

Aug 14, 2015 01:00 PM