Another spring selling season is in full swing around the country, and the crazy people are returning to the real estate market everywhere. The folks I am speaking of are the buyers, sellers and cooperating agents (on the other side of the transaction) who cause real estate professionals great stress and anxiety as they manage residential property listings and sales transactions. This year, in my local market, we see even crazier behavior from the “over-medicated, under medicated or not medicated” crowd.
The managing brokers I manage at Benchmark Realty, LLC are calling me every day with situations involving clients who are allowing their emotions to get the best of them and electing to walk away from transactions that are only a few days away from closing. Cooperating agents are doing the same by speaking into various issues outside of their fiduciary responsibility and evoking fear and apprehension in their buyer and seller clients. Trust me, as spring winds down and summer arrives, real estate buying and selling is going to bring out the worst in some people. There is crazy in the water!
The Last-Minute Temper-Tantrum
A couple of weeks ago, one of our brokers stopped by my office to fill me in on a situation concerning one their agent’s upcoming closing on a listing. The transaction was three days from the closing table, with a “clear to close” and closing disclosure issued by the lender and final title and loan documents were sent to the title company. The buyers made their final inspection to check on a few minor repairs they requested in the repair amendment to the contract. A couple of minor issues cropped up as they looked over two of the repair items they felt were not properly repaired by the seller. The buyers wanted the seller to rectify these issues prior to closing or escrow money to cover them.
Their agent informed our agent who, in turn, communicated with the seller about the buyer’s request. Once the seller learned what the buyer wanted, he became very emotional and elected not to close on the transaction and wanted to retain the buyer’s earnest money. Remember, the repairs were minor and within reason.
The seller was mad and wanted to “punish” the buyer. This created a flurry of phone calls, emails and texts between the two agents and their managing brokers. The seller was not willing to budge and, in my opinion, allowed his bad feelings toward the buyer get in the way of any reasonable thinking. The title attorney overseeing the closing felt the seller would most likely be in default because he was not acting in “good faith” to address the repairs. Long-story-short, the deal did close in the end, but not after a lot of unnecessary “trauma and drama” taking place.
Buyers Going Behind an Agent’s Back
Another situation came to my attention just a few days ago. One of our brokers informed me of a transaction falling apart because the buyers went behind our agent’s back and made an offer on another house. The lender - a close family friend - immediately drafted a loan denial letter for the first house and subsequently sent over a loan pre-approval letter for the second house. Our agent was pretty upset as she was kept out of the loop. These buyers – and, their lender – created some significant issues for the sellers and both agents in the transaction. The buyers could find themselves purchasing two homes and possibly spending some time in a courtroom defending a lawsuit filed by the first seller and, maybe the second seller. I encouraged our broker to advise his agent to release the buyers from their agency agreement and focus on finding a client who is not as deceiving as the one with whom she was working. She did and helped another client get under contract on a home that met their needs.
Let the Screaming Begin!
The last scenario I will share is one that is occurring much more often than in past years. An upset client calls our office and asks to speak with the managing broker. The broker takes the call and all he hears on the other end of the line is constant yelling from the client complaining about how our agent was not properly communicating with him. The client expresses his or her grievances by letting their emotions run wild and screaming at the broker because they feel “injured” by what our agent did or did not do. Ninety-eight percent of the time, the client is reacting to a situation they cause, or the other party instigates. All we can do, as brokers and managers, is listen to their ranting or tell them to call back when they are much calmer. I have hung up the telephone on people who do not let me get a word in to discuss the matter or not willing to listen to me. They are determined to ensure they get their point across to me. I have little patience for this type of behavior. In this particular scenario, communication did take place, but the demands of the client were more than unreasonable. Our agent said the client had some serious mental issues and was in therapy.
Why is Behavior Getting Worse?
As I write in my book “Do You Have a Minute? An Award-Winning Real Estate Managing Broker Reveals Keys for Industry Success”, client behaviors and the problems they cause for agents, brokers, and others in a real estate transaction are becoming more significant and challenging to manage. So why are so many more people misbehaving? There are many reasons for bad behavior, and I don’t have enough space to mention all of them in this blog.
Let me share a few possibilities of what might be causing stress and anxiety everyone is feeling these days.
Too Much Data!
Access to information is easier now that it has ever been. The information overload we all are experiencing has occurred through easy access to communication and data on smartphones, tablets and laptop computers. As increased Internet access to property information readily available through websites such as Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com, so has the expectation of a quick response from a real estate agent to a prospect or client on a multitude of questions, issues, and concerns. It seems we are constantly texting, emailing or calling to receive and relay information to everyone. And, the person on the other end wants a response NOW!
Emotions Blocking Reasonable Thinking
Another source of erratic behavior is letting emotions get in the way of making a decision that can jeopardize the transaction for either the buyer, seller or both parties. When emotions replace clear thinking and objectivity, there is nothing but chaos for all involved in the deal. Sometimes, the agents themselves are the ones who allow their feelings to hamper a successful property closing. As I noted in my book, REALTORS® can be their own worst enemies.
Psychotropic Prescriptions and Their Effect on Behavior
A third – and very troubling – contributor to lousy behavior could be attributed to the use – or non-use – of prescribed psychiatric drugs. I know this might come across as a little controversial, but it is a reality that real estate professionals must be willing to face and understand.
According to IQvia, a leading health industry technology consulting company, over 150 million Americans are taking prescription medication to control depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anti-psychotic behavior, etc. The proper use of psychotropic drugs can allow individuals to cope with everyday activities and maintain a sense of normalcy in their life. Some of my closest friends are on medication and find themselves leading much healthier and productive lives. However, if medicine for behavioral disorders is misused or not used regularly, it can cause significant problems for the patient and the way they interact and communicate with others. Mental illness is real, and it can lead people to abnormal behavior. Many agents and brokers are caught in the crosshairs of those who are mismanaging or not taking medicine or have not sought professional help in addressing their behavior(s). This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does…it is pretty damn serious.
There are many more reasons “all hell breaks loose” when people show their worst sides. The three “case studies” I previously mentioned are pretty common in the real estate world and are ones I have experienced first-hand as an agent and principal broker.
Most of the time, “it will work itself out in the end”!
Finally, I believe there is some good news about all this craziness. What I discover in almost every situation where people are upset about something happening, or not happening, in a transaction is a solution can be found. We have to remember to stop the ranting and raving, calm down, step back and take a few deep breathes. A long time ago, my late father told me “Don’t worry. It will work itself out in the end.” And, most of the time it does. As a managing broker, I found if my agents and I approached various situations calmly and rationally, nine times out of ten they will work themselves out.
For agents, I share this very important piece of advice: it is imperative that you do not let the bad behavior of your clients and cooperating agents get in the way of servicing your client, negotiating a contract or closing a transaction. Trust me, it can be challenging and frustrating. I get it. However, agents have fiduciary responsibilities they owe to their clients and emotions can interfere with their ability to assist a seller or buyer in a real estate transaction. Remaining calm and collected and being objective will allow an agent to be successful in all the important work they undertake for their clients, customers, other agents and themselves. In the end, it does work itself out.
One of the reasons I share my thoughts on client and cooperting agents "craziness" with you is because I am more likely to witness all types of behavior than the average real estate agent or managing broker. I oversee seven managing brokers and almost 1,100 agents in offices throughout Greater Nashville and Middle Tennessee. Our market has been one of the hottest markets in the country over the past three years and, let me tell you....we have seen CRAZY at times! If you haven't experienced challenging clients or agents on the other side of the transaction....trust me, at some point in your career you will.