Are You on a First Name Basis with Your Clients?

Real Estate Agent with Solutions Real Estate CA DRE #01490977

Are You on a First Name Basis with Your Clients?


In some professions it seems more of the norm, although that may be shifting, for us to address another professional more formally than by first name. The medical profession, for one.


I suspect that in the past it was a rare person who addressed their doctor, and perhaps their dentist, by anything other than Dr. ____. While I don’t think that’s necessarily as true these days, I know the formal title is still often used, particularly with someone you don’t really know.


I call my doctor and my chiropractor by their first names and always have. After all, they call ME by MY first name. Maybe that’s presumptuous.


Do you use your client's first name?It doesn’t mean any less respect although I suppose some people, especially someone with a title, might take offense.


But I certainly wouldn’t address the Queen that casually, would you? You would??!!


So I wondered…are you on a first name basis with your clients? Do you address THEM by first name or in a more formal manner, say Mr. ___ or Ms. ___.


Is it a question that comes up in conversation early on, when you might say “How would you like to be addressed” or “May I call you ___?


Or do you just assume their first name is OK to use, especially if you get a call or voice mail where the caller uses their first name, which seems to be giving permission?


What if the caller says “This is Mr. ____?” Do you then take the lead and use that formality? And does it feel too casual, at a later point, to call them by first name once you know it?


My personal feeling is most people are OK with being addressed more casually, since society tends to be that way these days. That’s probably true in email as well and often email is so casual that there is no name at all, just the message.


But what about other cultures? Might using someone’s first possibly offend them?


Do you assume it’s OK to address everyone you meet by their first name or is it better to ask?


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David Grbich
Realty One Group - - San Juan Capistrano, CA
Orange County Real Estate - 949-500-0484

Very interesting - I do use first names but keep things pretty professional. I have a had a client who I called "Will" and was corrected that it was "William" which was all good. I think first names contribute to a good friendly working relationship. Regards Dave

Nov 02, 2012 10:41 AM #15
Frank Iglesias
Working With Houses, LLC - Atlanta Real Estate Investments - Lawrenceville, GA
Atlanta, GA Real Estate Investor

Interesting read.  As investors it is almost always by first name.  EVery now and then someone is more formal but rare indeed.

Nov 02, 2012 11:13 AM #16
Ginny Gorman
RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate - North Kingstown, RI
Homes for Sale in North Kingstown RI and beyond

Jeff, you raise a good question and I usually do use their first name...rarely use the Mr. unless asked for...but knowing customs is a must to know what is appropriate too.

Nov 02, 2012 11:39 AM #17
Fred Carver Personal Real Estate Corporation
RE/MAX Camosun Victoria BC Real Estate - Victoria, BC
Accredited Real Estate Consultant

Hi Jeff...Congratulations on your feature. Addressing people you do not know well should be Professional as Realtors. Your neighbor or Friend of a friend, I would address the way i call myself...hi my Name is Fred. Knew Clients are Mr, or Mrs. until we get to know one another.

Great Post!

Nov 02, 2012 12:23 PM #18
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

I come from a legal background.  We always referred to our clients and opposing counsel as Mr. or Ms. -- but I don't do that anymore. I'm in real estate . . . it's first name with me.  Gosh, I've had some clients that I didn't even know their last name until the handed me a copy of their pre-approval ;-)

Nov 02, 2012 12:46 PM #19
Nathan Tutas
Tutas Towne Realty, Inc. - Davenport, FL
Your Central Florida Real Estate Expert
I don't want to sound arrogant, but if a client were too hung up on title I likely wouldn't want to work with them. I'm a pretty down to earth kind of guy so working with someone who insists on being addressed as dr this or mr that just isn't going to work out. I think you are right though. I haven't run into anyone who really cares.
Nov 02, 2012 12:54 PM #20
Melissa Zavala
Broadpoint Properties - Escondido, CA
Broker, Escondido Real Estate, San Diego County

Thisi s an interesting conversation. My neighbor is a doctor, and a friend. Yet when we go to his office, the nurses seem to snicker when we call him my his first name. 

Nov 02, 2012 01:40 PM #21
William Johnson
Retired - La Jolla, CA
Retired Real Estate Professional
Hi Jeff, That was weird, my comment disappeared before I even hit submit. Anyway,as I was saying, I follow the clients lead. I can't think of one past client in the last number of years where I referred to them any other way than their first names.
Nov 02, 2012 03:20 PM #22
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Jeff - If someone introduces himself as Mr., Mrs., Ms., I follow that example.  Otherwise, I typically use first names.

Nov 02, 2012 04:04 PM #23
Christina Sanchez Hood
Palo Alto, CA
#SiliconValleyHOODS | Inspired Living

Well, Mr. Dowler, that is a very timely question for our social media frenzied population!  When I was younger, I worked in an international business and it was always proper to use Mr. & Mrs., or Ms. to address everyone.  Much like the T.V. show MAD MEN.  Fast forward to today, as Christine (#23) shared, I will typically use first names unless introduced otherwise.  Congrats on your feature :)

Nov 02, 2012 04:17 PM #24
Debbie Cook
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc - Silver Spring, MD
Silver Spring and Takoma Park Maryland Real Estate

Wow - As long as I've been in real estate I have never thought of this question.  I have always assumed that you'd speak to or address anyone by their first name.  

I quess though, when I think back to when I was an ad executive for a newspaper or when I was an RN working in a hospital I DID address my clients or patients by Mr or Mrs or Miss until I or they were oK with me calling them by their first names.

Nov 02, 2012 04:51 PM #25
Gary Frimann, CRS, GRI
Eagle Ridge Realty / Signature Homes & Estates - Gilroy, CA
REALTOR and Broker

Jeff, good question.  I usually call them by how they answer their phone (which is usually a cell phone these days) and if they say something like "This is Jeff", then I just call them Jeff.

Nov 02, 2012 10:17 PM #26
Kathryn Maguire (757) 560-0881 - Chesapeake, VA
Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach

I use the name by which they introduce themselves.  And funny thing, not a single one has ever introduced themselves by their last name.  I never thought about it before!

Nov 02, 2012 10:51 PM #27
Dori Kay

I start off with the "Mr." and "Mrs."  until I ask their preference and/or follow their lead.  I'm pleased to say my client relationships have always ended up on a first-name basis.  Thanks for sharing.

Nov 03, 2012 03:44 AM #28
Martha Brown
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc., Annapolis MD 21403 - Annapolis, MD
Your Homes Around Annapolis Agent

Jeff- It has been interesting reading the answers as most everyone does the first name in todays world. I do believe as a society we have become more relaxed and less formal of days gone by. I was brought up to always call someone older than me as Mr or Mrs.. I do believe todays younger generations tedn to move to the first name basis more quickly than those from my generation. After all social media was not even around back then. :0)

Nov 03, 2012 10:58 AM #29
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Jeff, in my office I can only think of one agent who might not have called one of her clients by his first name.  She was one of the agents who represented President Clinton when they left the White House, and she probably didn't call him Bill. 

Nov 03, 2012 02:16 PM #30
Bob & Leilani Souza
Souza Realty 916.408.5500 - Roseville, CA
Greater Sacramento Area Homes, Land & Investments

Jeff, like many others have said before me...I address people by the way they introduce themself. :)


Nov 04, 2012 05:27 PM #31
Nick T Pappas
Assoc. Broker/Broker ABR, CRS, SFR, e-Pro, @Homes Realty Group, @HomesBirmingham & Providence Property Mgmnt, LLC Hun... - Huntsville, AL
Madison & Huntsville Alabama Real Estate Resource

Jeff, it really depends on the age of my client and my relationship or how I was introduced to them.  I'd have to say that initially (about 90% of the time) I address them by their last name...from then on depending on personalities and and comfort levels that may change.  However, we usually end up on a first name basis...I don't think there's a one size fits all answer.  I mostly use the clients personality as a filter about how I address them.

Nov 05, 2012 06:54 AM #32

I"m not a realtor, just a average jane ;)

I prefer to be addressed by my surname in formal settings that have a "legalistic" feel to them, in other words : any & all environments that require written agreements that are - or potentially have - the potential to reach the legal arena.

I dont expect it of my babysitter, my hairstylist or my bartender. However : when being shown a home ( or even an apartment for rent ), when speaking or interacting with staff that work at an establishment in or related to the medical / health field or : obviously in the context of a law firm, or most anything ***** where our relationship is governed by statutory law or written agreement**** an immediate use of the first name is overly casual and the person is showing a lack of class, integrity and professionlism

Jun 03, 2015 12:43 PM #33
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Thank you for responding. Not everyone feels the same about how they prefer to be addressed and it's clear we should not make assumptions. But if someone calls me by my first name I will assume I can do the same. But I usually ask what is preferred

Jun 03, 2015 01:08 PM #34
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Jeff Dowler, CRS

The Southern California Relocation Dude
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