You've got to know when to fold 'em...

Real Estate Agent with Real Estate One

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this little gem. “Some of us think that holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it’s letting go.” (Hermann Hesse) “ Jack went on to write -The Gambler” was a hit song for Kenny Rodgers…”You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” This really isn’t about poker; it’s inherent wisdom. In life, it’s important to know when enough is enough.

I know that Jack writes these blogs with general life lessons in mind and not necessarily about our real estate lives; however, many of them just turn out to be so fitting for Realtors that I end up re-using the best of them. Today’s quote and Jack’s insight into it are just such a case. In real estate we tend to hold on too long to bad clients – the seller who really isn’t motivated (or ready) to sell or the buyer who has unrealistic expectations or is totally clueless about what they really want. The reason we hold on is our belief that we can somehow change them or educate them. That’s also why people oft times stay in bad personal relationships too long.

The fact is that sometimes “you gotta fold ‘em.” I’ve had to “fire” clients on occasion, but only after I probably had already wasted too much time trying to get them to be reasonable about the market price for their home or perhaps wasted too much time driving all over the place looking for that elusive perfect home that they’ll know when they see it. That’s my bad for being too egotistical about my magical persuasive powers to get them to change. That’s not a strength on my part, it’s a weakness; and I should learn to let go. Do you have this issue, too? Can you let go of those bad clients who are just sucking up your time and resources?

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 Norm Werner

Real Estate One


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Norm Werner 2009-2011 All rights reserved


Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Anita Tomei 09/08/2012 01:26 AM
  2. Ginger Harper 09/08/2012 04:07 AM
  3. Dana Smithers 09/09/2012 05:08 AM
Inspiration !!
Diary of a Realtor
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Tania Kalecheff

From the number of comments to your post , I think you hit it right on! Been there, done that.  Totally right ; it's a question of ego or like owning a bad stock  that you think will eventually turn around... It's always best to cut your loses and move on to bigger and better things. I've thankfully found that once I've let go of the "bad stuff" all sorts of good things come around, like the dark cloud has lifted. Could it be  that once we let go of the bad client we have a more positive out look and we then attract better things? Or is it karma?

Getting rid of bad buyers is easy but bad vendors not so as normally we have invested time and money on their properties. However, the sooner you realize they are a bad "investment" the smaller your loss will be...


Sep 08, 2012 05:28 PM #89

I recently had to make that decision with a buyer who has a relative who "use" to be in the business tell them that working with several agents at the same time was beneficial to them.  I was assertive in that I was not willing to work like that and gave him the analogy of working on a construction site and only having to put up and hand rail to complete the job, another worker comes on and puts the handrail up and he is the one who gets paid. Wished them all the best and told myself "next".  Another I hung in there with, new buyer who was extremely nervous, if she didn't like a light fixture or color of a room she wrote it off, they are finally under contract with a fantastic home and I am so glad I stuck it out with them.  I do get stung on occasion though, usually when a client finds a FSBO and the seller doesn't want an agent involved. 

Sep 08, 2012 10:26 PM #90
Margaret Mitchell
Coldwell Banker Yorke Realty - York, ME
Seacoast Maine & NH Real Estate

This post really spoke to me. Tania #89 drew an important distinction for me.  It is easier to fire a buyer than a seller.  I can fire a buyer quietly and no one is the wiser.  With a Seller, if you are in the middle of a listing agreement, not so easy. 

Sep 08, 2012 10:56 PM #91
Jamie R. Bell
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Glastonbury, CT
GRI Your Central CT Realtor

We all do it, the client that you are determined to find the right fit because you want something for your hard work... I get it and too have done it. In fact I recently had a situation with a seller that just blew my mind. Did everything I could including bringing her a very negotiable offer and she still thought I was trying to 'give her house away' Finally after walking away from the offer and letting the seller go, the buyer and seller have come to an agreement. Crazy business we work in, but to be a good Realtor does mean knowing when to fold 'em. Good luck!!

Sep 08, 2012 11:11 PM #92
Bob Miller
Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty - Ocala, FL
The Ocala Dream Team

Hi Norm, we think that is a key skill of agents - knowing when to let go BEFORE spending too much time.

Sep 08, 2012 11:36 PM #93
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Specializing in Brookside, Waldo, Prairie Village

I'm dealing with just such a client now...she is wondering why her house has no showings when it's outdated, overpriced and not in a desirable location.  Is this my fault?  NO.  I keep trying to explain and show her stats--but she keeps saying she 'has' to get X amount.  WHen the listing agreement is over, I'm done.  However, this woman is a friend and I'm afraid she will tell everyone I 'didn't do anything' to sell her house.  Just part of this business, we've all had clients like this.

Sep 08, 2012 11:59 PM #94
Steve Higgins
RE/MAX Kelowna - Kelowna, BC

Hi Norm,

Good post it makes one think! I have a client that as of Monday I am letting go. They were very difficult, they wanted to sell their home but set up unrealistic viewing times. Pretty much impossible to show.

Sep 09, 2012 12:25 AM #95
Norm Werner
Real Estate One - Milford, MI
Helping the first time and every time

Thanks all for the continued comments. It would appear that this post hit a fairly common issue for us all. Sometimes just bringing yourself to the point of firing a bad client can turn things around. Some clients just need to be confronted with an ultimatum to from an agent who is ready to walk away. That adds a level of seriousness to the situation that otherwise might have been lacking. You still need the resolve to actually do it, before you make the threat to fire the client, since backing down without change on the part of the client just makes things worse.


Sep 09, 2012 03:20 AM #96
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


It is a difficult decision to make.  After working with buyers for months and maybe years you think they will buy soon.  Not necessarily.  Better to let go and expend your energies elsewhere.

Sep 09, 2012 03:48 AM #97
Ute Ferdig
Ferdig Real Estate Solutions - Auburn, CA
Because Getting It Right Matters!

Norm, your post could not have come at a better time. I just told a "buyer" on Friday afternoon that we were not a good match. I purposely am not calling him a client and used quotation marks for the word "buyer" because I don't think he was a real buyer. He was referred to me by another real estate agent for a non-related real estate purpose about 2 weeks ago and I started thinking that he was going to be nothing but a time trap. I was surprised when he called me last Thursday wanting to see a particular house. If he had been a total stranger, I would have pre-qualified him better. I showed him the house he wanted to see. Not only did he show up intoxicated, but when I asked questions about financing he told me a story about a private investor. I then was informed by the listing agents that this fellow was no stranger to them or the owners of the house. I could tell I was being used by this guy to play a game and I told him the next day that we were not a good match and that he had to find somebody else. He dared to ask me for a referral and I told him I had none. I could tell from his reaction that he was no stranger to being let go. I can consider myself lucky that this was the first time I had to let somebody go like that. Not only did he represent a serious waste of my time, but my reputation was also on the line.

Sep 09, 2012 04:23 AM #98
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Area Real Estate

Norm, very true. I think it's take strength to just let the situation go & say enough is enough. It's tougher than hanging on I think that's for sure but I do believe it is better for you (and your business) in the end. Will you make a few mistakes? I'm sure you will OR you will finally motivate that buyer to buy or that seller to get realistic.

Sep 09, 2012 04:46 AM #99
Rick Payne
REeBroker Group - San Diego, CA
Downtown San Diego Condo Expert

Great post! I could not agree more. As a newer agent this happened a lot (even with family sometimes) but as you gain more experience you get better at weeding out the tire-kickers. Thanks again!

Sep 09, 2012 09:51 AM #100
Brad Baylor
ERA Coup Agency - Milton, PA

Norm - Thanks for the great post.  You just re-affirmed a recent decision I made, not about real estate, but about a relationship that needed to end.  Thanks!

Sep 09, 2012 11:51 PM #101
Peter Tamura
Coldwell Banker Select - Tulsa, OK

Hi Norm,


It's more of a personality type than a market problem.  I remember the raging CA sellers market aroun 2004, no matter how high the comps were, the guy that told me he wanted to sell wanted 50K more than the market.  I would go back ever few months and tell him, ok, you might be able to get your price now, then it would be 50k higher again.  I finally gave up and I don't think he ever sold his house.  He was a big loser in the end because of his greed.

Sep 10, 2012 12:43 AM #102
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Great post and great point.  Sometimes I hang on too long.  I am stubborn and hate giving up.

Sep 10, 2012 06:48 AM #103
Brien Berard
Remax Professionals Laurel MD - Laurel, MD
Maryland Real Estate Agents - Laurel Real Estate

I also need to not deal with clients whose needs are not in my area of expertise.

Sep 11, 2012 12:42 AM #104
Nan Jester
Exit Real Estate Gallery Jacksonville Beach, FL - Jacksonville Beach, FL
Realtor, Exit Real Estate Gallery

I did just that this week. It is hard to turn away business but at what cost do we continue?

Sep 11, 2012 12:57 AM #105
Monique Ting
INET Realty Honolulu, HI - Honolulu, HI
Your agent under the sun

Thanks to a great CRM and an effective  lead capture system, I can be be choosy about who to work with. I will only do showings or list a property if/when the client is ready, willing and able!

Sep 11, 2012 10:50 AM #106
dave rossdale

I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I'd be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I've been doing,

Sep 12, 2012 11:56 PM #107
Wayne B. Pruner
Oregon First - Tigard, OR
Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI

I've actually turned down listing because I did not trust the Seller. Some Realtors are amazed by this.

Sep 26, 2012 12:23 AM #108
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Norm Werner

Helping the first time and every time
I'm a first-time buyer and I have questions
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