Screening Your Clients

Education & Training with Sell with Soul

 You may find during your real estate career that there are certain types of people you don't want to work with.  No, don't get worried, I'm not getting ready to advise you to throw your Fair Housing training out the window.  I'm referring to personality types that you will realize are a bad fit for you.  Relationships developed in the process of buying or selling homes can become rather intense, intimate and emotionally charged.  It stands to reason that every real estate agent is not a good fit for every buyer or seller. 

I am extremely detail oriented and responsive.  Being shy, I am not schmoozy or chatty.  If a buyer is looking for his real estate agent to be his new best friend, I'm the wrong person for the job.  I am also a strong believer in fair negotiation.  I do not beat up the ‘other team' just because we are on opposite sides of the closing table.  I will not attempt to intimidate the other party's real estate agent or make ridiculous demands just to show off for an unreasonable client.

That's my style; it may be yours, it may not be.  But when the personality fit is wrong, everyone suffers.  If you're losing sleep over a client or getting a sick feeling in your stomach when their phone number pops up on your cell phone, you'll be amazed how much better you'll feel if you let ‘em go.  NEXT!

In my corner of the world, I've found that people from a certain affluent, liberally minded town north of me tend to irritate me to the point I can not represent them properly.  I find them to be unreasonably demanding, suspicious, untrusting and litigious.  But that's just me. Perhaps you will have trouble with Missourians or New Yorkers or surfer dudes.

In real estate, people will come after you for no good reason, with no real cause.  You will get through it, and learn something about yourself and about your business in the process.  You can't help but take it personally - sometimes it IS personal. 

It took me a long time to figure out that not every real estate agent is a good fit for every client.  Because my negotiating style tends to be more win/win than beat-em-up, I am occasionally accused of being a soft negotiator by people who enjoy more confrontation and animosity.  In fact, I finally added a few hard-core tough-acting agents to my referral network!  Now, whenever I begin to work with someone I suspect revels in nasty negotiations, I either let them go or refer them to my nasty negotiating associate!

When to Let a Buyer Or Seller Go...
    This is truly an advanced skill. Even agents with 25 years experience have trouble walking away from a troublesome client.  Either you've invested dozens of your precious hours with them and want a payout on your investment or you've spent lots of your precious dollars marketing their home and don't want to throw it all away.

Before I move on, let me say this.  That tough client of yours is probably mean to everyone, not just you.  They live their life this way.  Their days are filled with confrontations, frustrations and general unhappiness.  The entire world is a disappointment to them and they're used to that feeling.  It's really not personal.  In fact, these people can become your biggest fans if you're lucky (and good).  You might even think they hate you and would never send you a referral, but you could be wrong. 

Some of my best referral sources are clients who terrified me; who made me feel incompetent and even stupid. Consider this...if this type of person enthusiastically refers you to a friend of theirs, how much weight is that reference going to carry?  A lot!  Believe me, their friend knows how difficult they are to please and if they're actually satisfied with your services, you must be something special.

Or... maybe not.  But it does happen more than you think it would.

Letting Buyers Go
    The most obvious reason to let a buyer go is if he isn't going to buy a house.  You'll know soon enough if he's serious or not; some clues are his unwillingness to contact a mortgage broker, a general lack of excitement about the process OR even an overly enthusiastic response to every house you show him.  You don't have to be rude about it; just don't make him a priority. 

But there are other less obvious reasons to give up on a buyer.  Perhaps you're feeling a breakdown of rapport between you - you notice that he argues with most of your comments or that he doesn't seem to trust you.  Buyers who don't trust real estate agents or the process in general are lawsuits waiting to happen.  If he doesn't laugh at your jokes or it seems to take offense at your sense of humor, you might be in for a painful ride.  If it's bad enough, he will probably fire you eventually anyway, after some (real or imagined) minor mis-step you make. 

Sometimes a buyer will fire you.  Ooooooh, it's painful.  But also a relief.  You don't get fired by buyers that you love; it's the ones who are making your life hell.  Don't argue with him unless there is a true misunderstanding.  Maybe not even then.    Mourn the loss for an hour or so, move on.  Not every real estate agent is a good fit for every buyer.  Let him torture someone else for awhile.

Letting Sellers Go
    From a technical perspective, it's harder to let a seller go because your sign is in his yard, and most listing contracts don't really address the situation of broker termination.  It's not as if you can just stop calling your seller or ignore his calls and hope he goes away.  So, you may have to wait until your listing expires if you don't want to outright fire your seller. 

Again, the most obvious reason to let a seller go is a lack of motivation. Perhaps he is refusing showings or otherwise impeding the possibility of sale.  Maybe you've been under contract twice and he's refused to make reasonable inspection repairs.  Maybe his price is too high, and he's unwilling to reduce it. 

But what about the motivated, yet terribly unpleasant seller?  She doesn't respect you, doesn't follow your recommendations, yet continuously complains that YOU aren't getting her house sold. 

The last seller I wanted to fire knew more about selling real estate than all the agents in Denver combined.  When I first listed the home, I gave her some suggestions on improvements she could make and explained why they were important.  She discounted my suggestions.  Because I was Wrong.  I also told her that she needed to leave the house for showings and let the buyers discover the home without her presence. She disagreed.  Her home was in a transitional neighborhood that did not command the prices of nearby neighborhoods, but she was sure that buyers would overlook the inferior location.  If they didn't, I should call every real estate agent who showed it and convince them otherwise.  Yeah, right.

I warned her that her listing price was probably too high, but that I was willing to try it for a little while just in case.  After a month, I reminded her of this conversation, but she wasn't interested in a price reduction.  After all, she NEEDED that price to make it worth selling. 

I re-shot the exterior picture of her home four times because the lighting was never quite right.  She didn't like the combination I used for my lockbox so I had to change it.  I reprinted her home brochures several times, every time she thought of a different approach.

Toward the end of our listing agreement, she requested a brainstorming session with me.  She said she had some marketing ideas that she wanted to discuss.  Previous such sessions with her had been pointless, time consuming and draining.  I agreed to meet with her, but sent her an email ahead of time detailing my frustrations.  I listed all the suggestions I had made over the listing period and her across the board objections to them.  I explained that her home was being marketed properly and aggressively and that if she refused to consider my professional recommendations, I didn't see any point in expensive additional marketing.  Blah blah blah.  God, it felt good. 

Not surprisingly, she did not like my email.  She rejected my opinion that her reluctance to follow my recommendations was the primary reason her house hadn't sold.  This exchange pretty much marked the end of our relationship.  Her listing expired and neither of us discussed renewal. 

She ended up listing the home with another agent and eventually sold it, $20,000 less than she told me was ‘worth her while'.  Ah, so be it. 

Energy Vampires
     An energy vampire is a person who feeds off the energy of another, draining the host of their life force.  An energy vampire is exhausting to be around and inspires a desperate need to flee from their presence. 

You will run into energy vampires often, especially when listing houses.  If, during the course of a listing presentation you start to feel you're in the presence of an energy vampire, you're better off quitting while you're ahead.  Finish up your appointment and don't pursue the business. 

I met with a young couple, their brand new baby and their overly needy dalmatian.  A small, somewhat smelly house, screaming baby, whining dog, TV blasting.  Man and wife both talking at the same time, going off in tangents that were unrelated to the market value of their home.  Arguing with each other, fussing with the baby, yelling at the dog.  Dinner cooking, ceiling fan blowing my papers off the table.  Just writing this makes my heart beat a little faster with the memory.  It was chaotic and just plain unpleasant.  My face hurt with the effort of keeping a smile on my face.  I wanted out of that house.  When I finally got away, I went straight home and to bed.  I honestly couldn't function the rest of the day - my energy was that zapped. 

Another seller I worked with had severe ADD (I think).  He would call me and talk non-stop for half an hour about the most inane topics.  He'd jump around from subject to subject, barely pausing to take a breath.  He'd be telling me the saga of replacing his water heater and then jump to a story about renting his condo to a star basketball player who didn't show up to sign the lease, then to a discussion of the curtains in his basement.  My participation was not needed, but these conversations were exhausting.

Don't take these listings - you aren't the only one who will feel the energy zapping power of a vampire.  Your life will be miserable and the house probably won't sell anyway. 

We owe our "good" clients our full attention, energy and enthusiasm. Try not to burn yourself out working with people who bring you down. Life's too short....

copyright Jennifer Allan 2006

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Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
BVO Luxury Group @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty - Scottsdale, AZ
Serving Scottsdale, Phoenix and Maricopa County AZ
It's one of the hardest things to teach new agents - they want to cling to those prospective buyers - and the more time they've invested - the more they want to cling!
Nov 29, 2006 04:13 AM #3
Jim & Maria Hart
Brand Name Real Estate - Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC Real Estate
It also comes down to your priorities.  In the end, you have to be closer to the top of that list than your client. 
Nov 29, 2006 04:27 AM #4
Nima Rezvan CT Lender CT Senior Mortgage Broker
Nima Rezvan Prosper First Funding Corporation NMLS#110681 - Fairfield, CT
First Time Home Buyer Expert - CT FHA Loans - FHA

Good afternoon Jennifer,

Great blog!  I can tell you this that I totally understand where you are coming from and I would like to add this.  In my personal opinion, homebuyers work more with real estate agents when compared to working with their lender/loan officer.  I am a loan officer here in Fairfield County, Connecticut and I can share a story where a client of mine which was a referral from a new realtor in Stamford, CT just kept using the four letter word: "F" word which made me uncomfortable but I kept up with him and ended up pre-approving him for a mortgage but he still has not found a home yet.  I guess what I like to say is that if you have the patience to put up with someone like this then go for it specially in a slow market, if you are in a slow market.  Great to read your blog.



Nov 29, 2006 04:28 AM #5
Heather Saul
Weichert Realtors Hoey Group - Wildwood, NJ

Jennifer -


You are so right.  I have had myself in a situation where I was working with buyers who I could not relate to at all.  It made the relationship very difficult, almost impossible.  I lost sleep and never wanted to answer the phone.  We finally found a home that worked for their family and closed within 10 days.  I could not wait for the entire situation to be over.  But, you live and learn.   Next time - no more screaming customers!!

Nov 29, 2006 04:59 AM #6
Renée Donohue~Home Photography
Savvy Home Pix - Allegan, MI
Western Michigan Real Estate Photographer

I love the term and description "Energy Vampire" 


Nov 29, 2006 05:24 AM #7
Eddy Martinez
Nationwide Funding Group - Highland Park, CA
You are correct , i ask prospects a series of questions before we get into serious financing discussions.
Nov 29, 2006 05:33 AM #8
Kaushik Sirkar
Call Realty, Inc. - Chandler, AZ
Walking away from what is effectively $$$ can certainly be very difficult.  But in some cases, it may just be the correct thing to do!
Nov 29, 2006 06:09 AM #9
John Hruska
Homes Charlotte, LLC - Charlotte, NC

Walking away from what is effectively $$$ can certainly be very difficult.  But in some cases, it may just be the correct thing to do!

Ditto ! 


Nov 29, 2006 07:06 AM #10
Robert and Lisa Hammerstein -201-315-8618
Keller Williams Valley Realty - Hillsdale, NJ
Bergen County NJ Real Estate


My husband and I usually size up our clients/customers the first time out and we compare our first impressions.  I've found that sometimes he's right and sometimes I'm right but I tend to be a very tenacious individual and my efforts have gotten the best of me at times.  But I believe in giving the prospect the benefit of the doubt and applying all the traditional rules of the r.e. industry.  If you use your first impression first and then look at it practically the right answer is usually staring you right in the face.  If you let the money be the first consideration, you may end up biting your nose off to spite your face.  But if you treat everyone fairly as you would like to be treated, things will usually work themselves out.  The Golden Rule is my best compass!

Best of Luck to All!

Lisa Hammerstein

Nov 29, 2006 08:28 AM #11
Netta Blackwood
La Rosa Realty - Kissimmee, FL
REO/BPO Expert

You are right. We are not everybodys agent. For some of us, we can detect it quickly, you get what is known as that vibes from that customer. Maybe they might want to stick with you due to a friend etc., but they are gonna make you work hard. Regardless, if customer and agent do not match, then naturally, they might clash. I'd rather avoid a clash. Thanks for the insight.

Nov 29, 2006 11:42 AM #12
Robert D. Ashby
Visual Approach Aerial Photography (Visual Approach Photography) - Plantation, FL
Turning Visions into Photographs (and Videos)

To steal the phrase from Trump, tell your troublesome client

"You're Fired!"

I have had to do this several times.  The first few are hard to do, but it gets easier over time.

Nov 29, 2006 01:37 PM #13
Adam Tarr
MavRealty - Phoenix, AZ
PC -GRI, ABR, CDPE, RSPS, ePro - Designated Broker
Just walk away! as the saying goes. It is sometimes difficult to discern up front, but it if you can tell, it is imperative that you understand how valuable your time is.
Nov 29, 2006 02:51 PM #14
Derek and Mariana Wagner
The Artisan Group- Keller Williams Premier Realty - Colorado Springs, CO
The Artisan Group - Colorado Springs REALTORS®

Very very well written post. Thank you.

I can be very patient - with both troublesome clients AND personality differences. But, when I have "enough" I am done. Ususally, I can have a great conversation, where we mutually agree that no one is benefitting from the "partnership" - and I refer them to someone else that I believe will be a better "fit". Most times it is an amicable "split" and we usually can even get a referral fee.

Nov 29, 2006 05:28 PM #15
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Thanks for all the positive comments! Makes my day!


Nov 30, 2006 10:53 PM #16
Ryan Windsor
RE/MAX Crest Realty (Westside) - Vancouver, BC

 This is one of the best blogs I've read. Your ideas flowed seemlessly together. I actually laughed out loud a couple of times... Anyway,

 A Commercial REALTOR® once told me that you're not a REALTOR® until you fire you're first client.

Good Luck Jennifer,


Dec 03, 2006 06:17 PM #17

One of my mantras...

Take what you can get to survive. Take what you want to grow.

: ) 

Dec 17, 2006 12:53 AM #18
Bill Saunders, Realtor®
Meyers Realty - Hot Springs, AR

I just HAD to go to page 33 and read. This is really timely for today as well. I am sure there are some new agents that could profit from these pearls:)! Now, sorry if I missed an earlier answer, but...

What in the WORLD was she talking about with the combination problem, was it 666 or have a 13 in it???

Seems like you would want to give her a parting gift of a free FSBO kit...hmmm I kinda like that.

Feb 10, 2009 01:22 AM #19
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Funny- I don't remember what the issue was with the lockbox. But I do remember how we parted ways... I was so freaked out by her that when I came over to pick up my sign and lockbox, I didn't want to see her - so I pushed the key through her mailbox slot and left. An hour later she called me all hysterical because she said someone stole the key and she'd have to have the locks replaced. Yeah, right. I offered to have my handyman do it, but she didn't take me up on it.

Feb 10, 2009 01:29 AM #20
Bill Saunders, Realtor®
Meyers Realty - Hot Springs, AR

Uh, I think that my first listing might be my Mother in Law's house. I feel like calling HGTV and telling them about a reality show about a new agent selling his Mother in Law's home. Should be very entertaining for those not connected. I am certain she will not listen to anyhing I say, so unfortunately, I am going to split the listing with a more experienced agent in the office. She will listen to her and I won't have to put up with "we could have gotten more" for the rest of her life. She did listen to me when I rooki-ly told her to have an appraisal done, so she would have an idea of worth...and crap if it didn't come in pretty high for these parts (bargain basement for the Denver area I am sure:) ). Now, because I have listened to the webinar Saturday, I have to talk about the difference between worth and value on the market...sure made a lot of sense. I am soooo toast :)

You know, these early blogs are really great stuff, and I bet people do not leaf all the way to the back.

Feb 10, 2009 07:51 AM #21
Bill Saunders, Realtor®
Meyers Realty - Hot Springs, AR

And now it is two years after that comment...and my mother in law is still on the fence... and I am sooo alright with that!!! :) :) :)

Oct 02, 2011 12:26 PM #22
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