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How Not to Buy & Sell Homes - The Bridge Burning Technique

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Mint Properties, Lic. #01871795 Lic. #01871795

How Not to Buy & Sell Homes - The Bridge Burning Technique 

Why do people burn bridges?
 Simply put, I think because it’s satisfying.  There are definitely two camps on this issue as far as real estate agents are concerned, some are definitely anti-burning and some are definitely pro-burning. Both camps can seem ridiculous at times.  The agent who believes in continuing the conversation no matter how futile, or the agent who negotiates with a Zippo in one hand and lighter fluid in the other.

I won't pretend I've never burnt a bridge... I have.  And, it certainly has been gratifying.  Sometimes you burn a bridge because you want to guarantee that you won’t use it again.  And it is an effective technique for sending a message.  When I decided I didn’t want to work another law firm job, I told a legal recruiter that I rated those positions right up there with “Puppy Assassin” in terms of desirability.  That did the trick, no more calls or emails from her. 


When potential buyers and sellers start setting things on fire, I do start to wonder though.  After all, it’s hard to pretend you don’t want a property when you offered to buy it, and it’s hard to pretend you don’t want to sell a property, when it is listed for sale.  So why all the ceremonial torching?  Some people view bridge burning as a type of negotiation; they actually burn the bridge and expect the other party to swim across.  I must admit, I haven’t experienced that one yet.  

I have seen those same arsonists out in the middle of a lake trying to reconstruct a burnt bridge or two.  In my experience, it’s painful to watch and very expensive indeed.  And, I have also heard the pangs of regret months later, from many a reformed flame thrower.  Regret is also expensive, and also painful to watch.  


Typical offenders in this market?  Sellers who draw a line in the sand and then don’t listen to the market, investors who love their spreadsheet more than reality, and buyers who thought they would be in the driver’s seat forever.  Ships do sail and bridges do burn and we see it every day in this business.


Once lit, whether slow burning or fast and chaotic, that bridge will burn, and when its gone, its gone.


Tni LeBlanc is an independent Real Estate Broker, Attorney, and Short Sale Agent. She has successfully completed short sales with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, CHASE , GMAC, Seterus, IndyMac, CitiMortgage, Green Tree Servicing, Specialized Loan Servicing,  HomEq Servicing, Wachovia, Coast Hills Federal Credit Union, Select Portfolio Servicing, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac,  and others.  

* Nothing in this article is intended to solicit listings currently under contract with another broker. This article offers no legal or tax advice. Those considering a short sale are advised to consult with their own attorney for legal advice, and their tax professional for tax advice prior to entering into a short sale listing agreement.  Tni LeBlanc and MInt properties are not affiliated or endorsed by any lender.

Copyright ©2013 Tni LeBlanc *How Not to Buy & Sell Homes - The Bridge Burning Technique*


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Tni LeBlanc, Broker
(805) 878-9879 mobile/text

CalBRE #01871795

Comments (38)

Tni LeBlanc, Realtor®, J.D.
Mint Properties, Lic. #01871795 - Santa Maria, CA
Tenacious Tni (805) 878-9879

Nancy - Very true!  We can be turned into firefighters too!

Debbie - I agree.  I always tell people to sleep on a bridge burning, unless of course it is totally merited.

Cindy - Love it!  I can definitely relate.  And I think sometimes it needs to be done.  We get some real characters in real estate.  However, when you burn that bridge be prepared that that is the end of the negotiation!

Kaera - Yes, a time and place for everything for sure.

Liz - Very true.  Once it's been done, it's done. 

Mar 22, 2013 12:24 PM
Tni LeBlanc, Realtor®, J.D.
Mint Properties, Lic. #01871795 - Santa Maria, CA
Tenacious Tni (805) 878-9879

Thanks for stopping by Donna!

Karen - Very true.  Sometimes it's just OVER.

Dianne - LOL. Yes, we do a lot of "translation" in our field.  Those flamethrowers will calm down and then want to know what happened to their deal!

Kathy - Yes, if you want to move on -- burn that bridge.  But if you don't, be careful!

Ginny - I agree they aren't doing so well in this market.  We have such low inventory, so every deal has to be well considered!

Mar 22, 2013 12:29 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

You make excellent points, Tni!  I don't know how many real estate agents I've watched burn bridges when they left offices they worked in.  Only, to find the grass wasn't greener on the otherside of the fence, and would have been likely greener if they had stayed and watered:-)

Mar 22, 2013 12:32 PM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

I love Lenn's response.... "I  don't burn bridges.  I simply delete them."  This going to be my new motto going forward in 2013.

Mar 22, 2013 12:37 PM
Brenda Mullen
RE/MAX Associates - San Antonio, TX
Your San Antonio TX Real Estate Agent!!

I seem to be caught in negotiations with one of them bridge burners right now lol...Great post :)!

Mar 22, 2013 01:27 PM
Maria Morton
Platinum Realty - Kansas City, MO
Kansas City Real Estate 816-560-3758

Ha! This post is a perfect response to the post by Brenda Muller "Reject me once...Shame on Me...Reject Me Twice...

Mar 22, 2013 02:19 PM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

The ceremonial torching of buyers and sellers . . . makes you wonder, doesn't it.  I remember a client who burned the bridge . . . and then she bought a house with another agent.  Funny how she called me with the complaints. Too bad, the bridge was out!

Mar 22, 2013 02:22 PM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Tni - I am not a fan of burning bridges as it just isn't an effective way to operate IMO.

Mar 22, 2013 03:42 PM
Conrad Allen
Re/Max Professional Associates - Webster, MA
Webster, Ma, Realtor

Hi Tni.  I have been know to explode rather than burn the bridge.

Mar 22, 2013 08:12 PM
Ed Silva, 203-206-0754
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Tni, I have fired off a few across my career but usually after having all of my patience pushed to the limits, and even though it may have been necessary at the time, there was still a regret.

Mar 22, 2013 09:04 PM
Tni LeBlanc, Realtor®, J.D.
Mint Properties, Lic. #01871795 - Santa Maria, CA
Tenacious Tni (805) 878-9879

Myrl - That is very true.  I suppose people don't always consider that things could get worse!  It's important to make as graceful an exit as possible in this business especially since you will likely still be working with those same people.  Of course, if you are working for a bridge burner, they can make that impossible!

Joan - 2013 sounds like it's going to be an interesting year!

Brenda - I read your post.  Yes, I think you are.  Tell those folks they can't have their cake and eat it too!

Maria - Turned out that way didn't it? 

Mar 22, 2013 10:20 PM
Tni LeBlanc, Realtor®, J.D.
Mint Properties, Lic. #01871795 - Santa Maria, CA
Tenacious Tni (805) 878-9879

Carla - You gotta love that one.  Brideg?  What bridge?  Was there a bridge there?  I forgot there was.  Some people have a lot of nerve.

Christine - It shouldn't not be done lightly that's for sure.

Conrad - So dynamite instead of lighter fluid?  LOL.

Ed - Well regret is just a part of life I suppose.

Mar 22, 2013 10:24 PM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Yes, indeedy. And as I always remind my clients, whether buyer or seller, a good negotiation is when all parties leave that negotiating table feeling like winners. I'm always encouraging my clients not to burn bridges... and to keep doors open for further negotiations. You never know where it leads.

Mar 22, 2013 11:17 PM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate Services

Tni, This market is bringing out the bridge burner and flame thrower in many.  I have definitely intentionally burnt a bridge that I did not want to associate with again.  I’ve had many agents burn their bridge with me and call a year or two later on a listing pretending to be my friend.  My goal is to remain neutral and keep other agents’ emotions out of transactions.  The good news is … this market will shift too.

Mar 23, 2013 12:19 AM
Gary Frimann, CRS, GRI, SRES
Eagle Ridge Realty / Signature Homes & Estates - Gilroy, CA
REALTOR and Broker

Tni, another great post.  Some bridges are definitely worth burning.  Calls from vendors come to mind, specifically those that want to sell us leads.

Mar 23, 2013 03:49 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Broker Retired

Well I have to say I've seen a bridge or two get burnt & the buyers are trying to swim back, go around, go under, trying anything to come back into favor.  I don't know if it's ugly per se, but sometimes it needs to be done.  Part of the business.

You know what's fun is when the moat is on fire & you send out the crocs to speed things up!

Mar 23, 2013 06:51 AM
Kathryn Acciari
Central One Federal Credit Union - Shrewsbury, MA
Mortgage Loan Originator

The best thing we can do is advise our clients that they are in danger of missing an opportunity.  Pride often goes before a fall - it is true.

Mar 23, 2013 09:53 AM
Wayne Johnson
Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS® - San Antonio, TX
San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale

Tni-Love that phrase for the person who loves their spreadsheet more than being responsive to the market.

Mar 23, 2013 02:52 PM
Tni LeBlanc, Realtor®, J.D.
Mint Properties, Lic. #01871795 - Santa Maria, CA
Tenacious Tni (805) 878-9879

Nina - Makes sense if you actually want a house as opposed to the pleasure of running the negotiation the way some less experienced person says it should go.  Listen to your Realtor!

Kathleen - I'm looking forward to that shift.  People do feel very manipulated right now by the low inventory and that makes for strange responses.  It makes emotions run high and then out come the torches.  LOL.  I tell you my market is burning hot for more than one reason right now.  

Gary - Couldn't agree more.  Those advertising calls in the afternoon annoy beyond compare.

Mar 24, 2013 06:38 AM
Tni LeBlanc, Realtor®, J.D.
Mint Properties, Lic. #01871795 - Santa Maria, CA
Tenacious Tni (805) 878-9879

Lyn - You are cracking me up!  Send in the crocs!

Kathryn - Very true.  I tell people to think about how they will feel about it tomorrow when they don't have the same opportunity.  That's all we can do.

Wayne - I've had my fair share of them.  I wish thei spreadsheet would go out and show them property.  But heck that thing doesn't even have a license!  LOL.

Mar 24, 2013 06:51 AM