Agents Owe Clients the Truth, Even if Clients Don't Want to Hear It

Real Estate Agent with Lyon Real Estate BRE #00697006

confusionI was reading another agent's blog this morning about dealing with a screwball situation and unreasonable demands. I made the comment that the icky part of the real estate business is when an agent has to choose between being honest and getting more business. Because sometimes when an agent tells a client the truth, that person is unprepared to hear it. Not only that, but because the client doesn't want to hear the truth or refuses to believe the truth, that person will look unfavorably upon the agent. An unfavorable opinion equals no more referrals. No more referrals hurts an agent's business.

So, what does an agent do? Is it wise to compromise?

I say no. I believe in telling the truth. That doesn't mean let it all hang out, but it does mean being honest, knowing full well that the honesty may not be well received. Being honest sometimes means an agent will lose business. A client may not like the agent as a result. But as like-able as one may want to be, the other side of the coin is you can't please everybody 100% of the time. It's impossible. And you can drive yourself crazy if you try.

An out-of-area seller called me yesterday about taking a listing in Land Park. He told me how much he wanted to list his duplex for and asked whether I would do it. Ordinarily, if I think a seller is listing a home too high, I will say so yet take that listing for a couple of months, just to see how it goes. Because it's possible a Bay area buyer will overpay for a home in Land Park. I don't like to be judge and jury. It's not my home. But I do need to be honest.

Based on my experience over the years of selling homes in Land Park, I can pretty much predict at what price a home will sell. I explained to this guy what similar properties had sold for and why. Didn't matter. He demanded I sell his fixer-upper duplex at $450,000; said it was my job to get that for him. He got huffy with me. No, sorry, it's not. Because it's not gonna happen. Not in this real estate market. Maybe in an alternate universe but not in this one. Well, my name is mud to this guy.

Hey, is anybody else watching Fringe? That show has become so darned confusing. I finally figured out that each show is now based in alternating universes. If the opening shots are tinged in red, it's the parallel universe. If the opening is blue sky and clear, whoa, wait a minute.

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Elizabeth Weintraub is an author, home buying expert for, a Land Park resident, and a veteran real estate agent who specializes in older, classic homes in Land Park, Curtis Park, Midtown and East Sacramento, as well as tract homes in Elk Grove, Natomas, Roseville and Lincoln. Weintraub is also a Sacramento Short Sale agent who lists and successfully sells short sales throughout the four-county Sacramento area with an emphasis on Elk Grove. Call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916.233.6759. Put 40 years of real estate experience to work for you. Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate. BRE License # 00697006.

The Short Sale Savior, by Elizabeth Weintraub, available with free shipping.

Photo: Unless otherwise noted in this blog, the photo is copyrighted by Big Stock Photo and used with permission.The views expressed herein are Weintraub's personal views and do not reflect the views of Lyon Real Estate. Disclaimer: If this post contains a listing, information is deemed reliable as of the date it was written. After that date, the listing may be sold, listed by another brokerage, canceled, pending or taken temporarily off the market, and the price could change without notice; it could blow up, explode or vanish. To find out the present status of any listing, please go to


Re-Blogged 6 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Eric Kodner 10/26/2010 04:18 AM
  2. Chris Ann Cleland 10/29/2010 02:48 PM
  3. Jim Hale 10/30/2010 08:50 PM
  4. Karen Kruschka 10/31/2010 10:49 AM
  5. Jackie Connelly-Fornuff 11/01/2010 02:56 AM
  6. Jim Frimmer 11/01/2010 04:50 PM
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Andy Brown
Climer School of Real Estate - Arctic Bay, YN
Best Real Estate Training in Florida

I AGREE 100%

We must all tell the customers the truth, not what they want to hear.

I just lost a deal last week with a builder because I told the buyer the truth. She told the builder's salesperson that I didn't give her a good feeling, so she was using someone else.

Witha  580 credit score, she is in for some more hard truths.


Oct 31, 2010 07:20 AM #13
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Hi Elizabeth -- I totally agree but would take it one step further.  I personally don't want to deal with clients that are unreasonable, think they can outwit the market, or what have you.  While I agree that a seller can sometimes net higher than what the market will bear if they both are willing to wait long enough and if the stars line up, I can get a pretty good sense if I think this seller will get reasonable, partner with me until the end, no matter how long it takes, etc.  If not, I pass on it, as time is one luxury I can never get back and I can use that time for lead generation or making other clients even more happy, which will then hopefully generate future business from them and referrals.

Oct 31, 2010 07:36 AM #14
Curt Baumgarth
Century 21 All Stars - Mesa, AZ
CDPE Realtor Serving the Valley of the Sun. 480 26

Right on the spot Elizabeth.  And it seems like everyone is an "expert" or has a friend at work that told them their opinion on the market/house/area etc. and the Realtor's opinion is always last...

Oct 31, 2010 07:39 AM #15
Charita Cadenhead
Keller Williams Realty - Birmingham, AL
Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama)

My motto is short, sweet and borrowed from a friend: Why lie when the truth will do?  PERIOD!

Oct 31, 2010 08:11 AM #16
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

A successful agent knows how to be candid without offending the listener.  It's just one of those necessary skills we develop with experience.  There is no substitute for the truth, in real estate or anywhere.

Oct 31, 2010 08:33 AM #17
Bryan Robertson
Intero Real Estate - Los Altos, CA
Broker, Author, Speaker

I tell my clients what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.  If what they need to hear means I don't get a listing or can't close a sale, so be it.  I'd rather they make the right decision.

Oct 31, 2010 08:43 AM #18
John Zappia
Maine Custom Realty - Portland, ME
Maine Custom Realty

I just listed a place last week...I'm the 5th broker in 3 years...they told me what they thought it was worth...I showed them the truth (honestly, I wasn't going to take it unless they got real with the price, which was 20k less than desired)...they thanked me and I listed it...wish they all went like that.

Oct 31, 2010 08:55 AM #19
Jose Dias
Home Sellers Help in Scottsdale-Phoenix-Peoria-Glendale - Scottsdale, AZ
Sell Your Home in Scottsdale-Phoenix-Peoria-Glendale-Goodyear

Elizabeth, it is not always pleasant when we tell our clients things they don't want to hear. But I agree with you that we all have a duty to do it even if it means loosing that client.

Oct 31, 2010 08:59 AM #20
Michael Simcock
Coldwell Banker (Elk Grove, CA) - Elk Grove, CA
Elk Grove, CA Realtor 916 425-1084


It is best to tell the truth and with the amount of business you do, you have found a good way to tell them without getting out the hammer. Sometimes I think we forget tack with all that is going on.

It may cost you business from time to time, but my thought is that telling the truth builds respect. We are so busy trying to be liked in this business that we forget that it is better to be respected than liked. Having both gets the most referrals.

Oct 31, 2010 09:46 AM #21
Michael Simcock
Coldwell Banker (Elk Grove, CA) - Elk Grove, CA
Elk Grove, CA Realtor 916 425-1084


It is best to tell the truth and with the amount of business you do, you have found a good way to tell them without getting out the hammer. Sometimes I think we forget tack with all that is going on.

It may cost you business from time to time, but my thought is that telling the truth builds respect. We are so busy trying to be liked in this business that we forget that it is better to be respected than liked. Having both gets the most referrals.

Oct 31, 2010 09:46 AM #22
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents
Lyon Real Estate - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

Hey Michael: Telling the truth doesn't build respect if the client doesn't believe you. I tried to explain to a seller that the only way her home was likely to sell was as a short sale, and that's the truth. But I wouldn't say that client is very happy with me right now.

Oct 31, 2010 10:05 AM #23
Catherine Ulrey
Keller Williams Capital City - Salem, OR
Equestrian and Acreage Property Specialist

The truth isn't easy for everyone to accept.  I remember an office tour a few years ago of another agent's listing.  They announced to the entire office not to comment on how the house smells like smoke.  Well, if you don't want to hear the truth about why your home isn't selling, how do you ever expect it to sell?

Oct 31, 2010 10:28 AM #24
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Elizabeth, you are preaching to the Choir here. It is my money, my time I do not waste either one on unreasonable sellers. If they listen I am willing and able to help sell their property at the maximum the market will handle. I find that I talk to so many people that I can not remember everything and the Truth does not need to be remembered because it will be the same vs. a lie....

Oct 31, 2010 10:46 AM #25
William James Walton Sr.
WEICHERT, REALTORS® - Briotti Group - Waterbury, CT
Greater Waterbury Real Estate

Elizabeth, it sounds as if we will forever be caught in a Catch-22 when it comes to telling the truth. I wish it weren't so, but there it is. But it's good to have an easy attitude about it; otherwise, we would all drive ourselves nuts over it.

Oct 31, 2010 12:21 PM #26
Sylvia Young
Options Realty Group - Emeryville, CA

I ALWAYS tell them the TRUTH.  Yes, sometimes it hurts, but this is BUSINESS!

Oct 31, 2010 01:19 PM #27
Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

So true, we need to tell oour clients the way it is....not just what they want to hear. 

Patricia./ Seacoast NH & ME

Oct 31, 2010 01:32 PM #28
Lane Bailey
Century 21 Results Realty - Suwanee, GA
Realtor & Car Guy

When I have to break the news to a client or customer, I try to be gentle... but it doesn't help to skirt the truth. 

Oct 31, 2010 03:49 PM #29
Rhonda Burgess Howse
Your Rutherford County Real Estate Expert - Smyrna, TN

Elizabeth - I had a very similar conversation today with a potential short sale client.  Like you, I do a lot of short sales.  The lady has a first with Wells or Chase or somebody like that but that is not the problem, it's the second with Franklin Credit Management.  I don't know if you've ever dealt with them before and I have and they killed my short sale.  At the time, my client offered cash at closing along with signing a promissory note for the full balance of the loan and they still turned it down.  Even when I looked up recent info from other agents, Franklin is still killing deals as recently as September.  I advised the lady that she is between a rock and hard place having to deal with Franklin and that I will not take the listing.  She then started questioning me like I was on trial. This is a simple business decision.  Just like I will not take on too many BOA short sales at one time.  She was under the impression that I HAD to take the listing.  I politely explained that is not the case and I wished her well.  

Oct 31, 2010 05:28 PM #30
K.C. McLaughlin
RE/MAX United - Cary, NC
Realtor, e-PRO, Homes for Sale - Cary, Raleigh NC

Been there - done that. I explain to the sellers that they need to be AS motivated as I am to sell their home. That means cleaning, de-cluttering, staging and yes pricing it right. I show them all the comps and recommend a price that the home should be listed for. What is the point of overpricing a listing? The seller will be inconvenienced, get frustrated and blame YOU. You are the professional and your reputation is on the line. Anyone can list a house I tell them - but I am here to sell it.

Nov 01, 2010 12:07 AM #31
Kathryn Maguire (757) 560-0881 - Chesapeake, VA
Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach

I say tell the truth, back it up with facts and let the chips fall where they may. It saves you so many headaches!

Nov 01, 2010 12:10 AM #32
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