How Much of Your Personal Life Should You Disclose to Clients?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Kirby Fine Homes

Over the years that I have been a real estate agent, I have learned that one of the best ways to turn a customer into a client is to find a common connection and build rapport. You can typically find something you have in common with almost anyone, and it is easier to get someone to open up to you when you can actually hold a conversation. Of course during these conversations, peronal tidbits of your life can come out and what you say can help or hurt you.

Take for instance one home owner who contacted me about listing their home. After meeting them and speaking about their home, I was told they loved what I offered for marketing and told me they thought I could sell their home. I thought I had the listing, until they told me they felt my kids would get in the way of my marketing and showing the home, so they wanted an agent without children. What?

I was really shocked by that one.

So now, I leave my kids out of conversations as much as I can, and I make sure I don't tell people about family functions or events for the reason I am not available to see them. Now I tell them I have an appointment at that time as I find that no matter what, if you tell a client that you have a personal function to attend, instead of attending on them, they get offended. Guess agents are not allowed to have a life.

Another example of what to tell or not tell is health related issues. I had minor surgery recently that had me in the hospital for a day. I had my phone with me so I could receive emails and messages, which my husband helped monitor. I didn't tell many people as I didn't want them to worry, and I didn't want any clients to think I wasn't working (heaven forbid I take a day off). Sure enough, while I was recovering, a client called about something which I would not be able to get to for a few days, but was already in the works. He got mad at me because I dared to have surgery without consulting him first. As mad as I was at his lack of empathy or understanding, I bit my tongue and told him I would get on it as soon as I could drive (aka, no more pain killers). But really, what business is it of his anyway that I had surgery?

So I have to ask you, what is your "line in the sand" for what you will or won't disclose to a client about your personal life?


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Liz Lockhart
Riverbend Realty, Cape Girardeau, MO - Cape Girardeau, MO
GRI, Cape Girardeau Real Estate

Jennifer~ I hit SUGGEST before I even started my comment! I know some agents who will not admit when they are out of town. I see no reason to "admit" being out of town if you have an assistant or some other agent covering for you. Just let messages roll to voice mail and then forward the customer voice mails.

I have recently had two medical crises in my family that took me out of town. I did sometimes tell clients that my assistant would have to get back to them, because I was in the ICU waiting room. They appreciated the honesty (and could have determined my personal circumstance anyway by looking at my FaceBook status). The key, of course, was always in having an assistant (or associate) who DID get back to them right away.

Feb 08, 2011 07:00 AM #1
Justin & Krystal Knott
LIV Sotheby's International Realty - Breckenridge, CO
Breckenridge CO Real Estate & All Summit County CO

Jennifer, I have found that not telling a client a lot is a good idea unless you have really become friends and then they will understand if you are out of town, have a medical emergency, etc.  Recently, we went out of town and let our sellers know we would be without cell phone service (we were going to Europe) for a few days but that the owner of our office would be stepping in...they decided to cancel the listing via email after we had already left town.  So from now on I have decided not to tell my clients when we are going out of town, I just make sure there is someone available to step in for me.  --Krystal

Feb 08, 2011 07:06 AM #2
Kristi Sims & Trish Sarfert
Coastal Realty Experts - Cantonment, FL
Serving military & civilian relocations!

Jennifer,  I have had some of the same issues, both with kids and illnesses.  While I can understand the seller's (or buyer's) concerns, I usually try to tell them up front that if I am ever not availble, the can contact (insert name here).  It doesn't always soothe them, so I'm like you- keep the kids and the majority of my personal life out of the conversation.  And I don't mean to sound biased, but I can just bet that if a male Realtor brought up the topic of kids, the buyer/seller wouldn't be as concerned.  They just assume that as the mom, we are the primary caregiver (which we usually are, but that doesn't affect my work ethic).

Feb 08, 2011 07:07 AM #3
Jennifer Kirby
Kirby Fine Homes - Minneapolis, MN
The Luxury Agent

Liz, thanks for the suggestion!

Krystal - with technology, you should be able to keep in touch with everyone without them knowing you are even gone, especially if you have an assistant. Going on vacation is ok, but the key is answering emails and returning phone calls, if you can. One seller I know called me about listing their property once their current listing expired. She was furious because her agent was on his third vacation in a couple months and told her she would have to wait a week till he got back into town before he would get feedback for a showing. Now, I have to say, that's just ridiculous.

Trish - good point!

Feb 08, 2011 08:03 AM #4
Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Connecting you to the L.A. real estate market

I guess we need to keep a professional distance from our clients.  They are not our friends and we do not know how they are going to react.  Valid points here.

Feb 08, 2011 02:58 PM #5
Renée Donohue
Savvy Home Strategies Realty, LLC-REALTOR®-Estate-Probate - Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas Real Estate Broker -

I found your wordpress blog and it is BEAUTIFUL! 

I think we need to be careful in the day and age of social media and transparency to let them know where we are and when we are doing it.  We still need personal time for ourselves :)

Feb 13, 2011 04:29 AM #6
Suzanne McLaughlin
Sabinske & Associates, Inc. (Albertville, St. Michael) - Saint Michael, MN
Sabinske & Associates, Realtor

Here is what my broker told me long ago.  Clients are not your friends.  They are clients.  You make them your priority, but you don't need to give them any more information than what you are working on for them and when you feel you can deliver it.  If their expectations are different than what you feel you can deliver when they expect it, negotiate it. 

Apr 01, 2011 02:46 PM #7
Frank D'Angelo
EXIT REALTY NEXUS Minneapolis & St. Paul MN - Coon Rapids, MN
Helping people is my business in Real Estate

The difference between clients and friends are as different as the two names.  Establishing a professional courtesy makes it all simply.  A professional courtesy is simply that.  Technology can bridge the gap to communicate all of those courtesies and should also eliminate any 24/7 expectations if utilized effectively.


May 06, 2011 05:43 PM #8
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