Taking the sting out of a surprise

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Pareto Realty TN #251071

Pretty much everyone hates nasty surprises!


Bad news sucks!

We all experience pain and suffering at the hands of Auto-Mechanics (I’m at Lincoln Ford of Franklin and just got the news I need new brake pads and tires), doctors, REALTORS, Dentists, and the worst part about all this is that surprises NEVER seem to show when we have the patience, time, or money to deal with them . . . otherwise, they wouldn’t be – well – SURPRISES!

Our only emotional regulators are adopting a mentality of expecting to be surprised – ALWAYS . . . as we keep our eyes on our surprise barometers 24/7.

These surprises do NOT have to ruin our days. So often, the difference between a “TRAIN WRECK” and an “inconvenience” is in the presentation of said surprise.

As service providers, we can turn our FULL attention towards our surprised clients and with appropriate empathy show and explain the problem . . . followed by offering a couple of solutions.

The operative action that makes this work (in terms of taking the edge off) is the subtlety of coming out from behind the service counter – or meeting the client in person – and taking the time to sit down and ‘splain the issue.

These folks at Ford Lincoln of Franklin do this well. When they discovered excessive tire wear and marginal brake pads, they invited me out to the bay to show me the problem, explain the probable cause, offered 3 good solutions and worked with me to finalize a fair price.

I felt well informed and ready to make a buying decision within 8 minutes of receiving the bad news.

As I sat here waiting for the work to be done, I have witnessed these folks do the same thing with other customers. I’ve seen enough to know that this is not contrived or plastic . . . These folks exude authenticity.

How do you break bad news to your clients?

So often, we earn the right to receive future referrals from our clients based on our ability to handle the sticky situations and surprises along the way.



Residential Real Estate Principal Broker and Founder of Pareto Realty, LLC. Creating the quintessential real estate firm with emphasis on "Live, Work, & Play" balance . . . and a true Performance Oriented environment for Real Estate Professionals. Serving the Real estate needs of Home Buyers and Sellers in Middle Tennessee.

Posted by

Barry Owen

Principal Broker
Pareto Realty
Nashville, TN

Call me: 615-568-2123
email me: barryo@comcast.net




Simply & BOLDLY Living the FourFold Way in Open Space!

Quintessentially connected to the real estate industry to offer the ultimate experience for Home Buyers and Sellers in Middle Tennessee . . . Inquire within!


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Dörte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Barry,

For me, sharing bad news as soon as possible is best, because otherwise I may lose my nerve & overthink what to say. Of course, I try to think a minute to see, if there is a good solution or if we need more diagnostics. Good to know the next step before the delivery.

Aug 18, 2017 07:50 PM #6
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Specializing in Brookside, Waldo, Prairie Village

Personally, I can get upset at 'last minute surprises' during a deal if I think they could have been avoided. I have to really watch the way I present it  to the client, and remember to be calm, act confident it will get worked out. Can't let my personal irritation influence the reaction of the client.

Aug 18, 2017 08:37 PM #7
Stavrula "Sam" Crafa, RNC,GRI, CDPE, PSA
Future Home Realty - Seminole, FL
Providing the integrity and service you deserve.

Great analogy. It's all in the presentation. Bad news is easier to deal with when it's presented in a calm and professional manor with some solutions. Great post. Have a great weekend!

Aug 18, 2017 09:04 PM #8
Dorie Dillard
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.346.1799 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good morning Barry Owen ,

What a great post! You used a great analogy to show how delivering bad news in our business should occur. Running from problems or procrastinating is not the way to be a problem solver. Handling sticky situations and surprises in our business shouldn't be a new thing for us to expect..we see it all the time but it's how we handle things that will set us apart and earn us a reputation for honesty in this business. Repeat business will always follow.

Aug 19, 2017 04:24 AM #9
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

My business is all about delivering bad news! Pointing out the negative aspects of someone's home is not fun. It's important to be honest and explain why I'm addressing the things I address and how changing them can benefit the seller. Kindness, respect and an understanding of the sellers' stress is key.

Aug 19, 2017 04:34 AM #10
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

When I have bad news, I call up my clients, and say, "I have bad news" and I tell them what it is and provide options for moving forward.

Aug 19, 2017 05:51 AM #11
Eileen Burns
Trans State Commercial RE Ft. Lauderdale/Miami/Palm Beach - Fort Lauderdale, FL
FL Probate Agent, Hotel & Land Specialist

We are all good news agents and change agents.  Not many want to change.  In many instances your choices are limited and there are always choices

Aug 19, 2017 06:42 AM #12
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

We don't know too much about anything specifically until we "process"it. Bad, good and all the rest are part of the process assuming we keep it real & honest

Aug 19, 2017 06:48 AM #13
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

There is bad news and there is BAD news. We deal with bad news every day. The house has termites, the buyer’s loan was ultimately denied, the seller is not willing to fix something, there is an unexpected cloud on the title…you name it…we have all been there. We show our skill, experience, and professionalism not by being honest, by delivering the bad news and buy by working to a solve the problem. There is usually a solution although sometimes the solution is that you get to start all over again.


BAD news is “the tests came back and I am sorry to tell you that…”  

Aug 19, 2017 07:54 AM #14
John Dotson
Preferred Properties of Highlands, Inc. - Highlands, NC - Highlands, NC
The experience to get you to the other side!

I like to keep suprises to a minimum.  Staying on top of the situation is a great start to calming folks when the time comes.

As others have said, honesty is the best policy and pointing out potential snags up front to buyers and sellers helps them prepare.

Aug 19, 2017 08:14 AM #15
Betsy N. Robinson - Serving the Sandhills, NC
Everything Pines Partners, LLC. - Whispering Pines, NC

Resolving problems quickly with well thought through alernatives is one of our major "value added" reasons Buyers and Sellers should hire a Realtor.  Work that angle well and you will have many trusted followers for life.

Aug 19, 2017 08:15 AM #26
M.C. Dwyer
Century 21 Showcase REALTORs - Felton, CA
Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist

How to authentically help people, nicely 'splained. Great post: a well deserved feature.

Aug 19, 2017 09:28 AM #27
Francine Viola
Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Olympia WA - Olympia, WA
Realtor, In Tune with your Real Estate Needs

Don't call it "bad" news - it's just news.  Things come up, and like this dealership did, they explained it, discussed options and then you could move forward.  It's good news they caught this problem to prevent you from being in an accident!

Aug 19, 2017 10:14 AM #28
Sham Reddy
H E R Realty, Dayton, OH - Dayton, OH

We earn the right to receive future referrals from our clients based on our ability to handle the sticky situations and surprises along the way. That's how you earn their trust!

Aug 19, 2017 10:58 AM #29
Barry Owen
Pareto Realty - Nashville, TN

Looks like I'm late to the party - Just realized this post was featured. Thank you AR!

Aug 19, 2017 11:02 AM #30
Nathan Gesner
American West Realty & Management - Cody, WY
Broker / Property Manager

It's businesses like this that really stand out from the crowd. Thanks for sharing, Barry!

Aug 20, 2017 05:29 AM #31
Mike & Eve Alexander
Buyers Broker of Florida - Orlando, FL
Exclusively Representing ONLY Orlando Home Buyers

The response will always take on the attitude of the person bringing the "news".

Sellers freak out over an offer, because their agent presents it in a dismal way.

Present "news" in a matter of fact way...better yet, prepare them for all that might go wrong, and they will not freak.


Aug 21, 2017 06:59 AM #32
John Wiley
Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty - Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL Real Estate GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Bad news is best dealt with in a caring way by giving the person the necessary information to process with.

Don't hold back, it will be best to honest and informative.

Aug 21, 2017 06:02 PM #33
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Great post and similarity to real estate.  As with car owners, buyers and sellers in real estate need to be well informed so they know they are making a good decision.   Good job with this one!

Aug 26, 2017 11:53 AM #34
Steffy Hristova
HomeSmart Elite Group Tempe AZ Tel: 480-966-9353 - Tempe, AZ
Tempe AZ Realtor - Your Home Close to Your Work!

Barry, I had missed this post - great points, and suggestions for solutions. Explaining the situation and offering a professional opinion for a solution, makes it just news, as Francine Viola suggests. 

Apr 17, 2018 07:01 AM #35
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