Who Owns the Problem & Consequences?

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty

Ever felt like you are in a tug of war with your client?  You have made a strong recommendation knowing that if heeded it would bring positive results.  The client digs their heels in the ground and decides to not follow the advice.  Then as you knew would happen your unheeded words come to bite and the urge to say "I told you so" is silently played in your mind.  Nevertheless, a big I told you so happened and now the client is upset.  Who owns the problem?

You go on a listing appointment and in preparation have spent a lot of time on a thoughtful market analysis to discuss the appropriate market value and price position of the home.  The seller just does not agree with your value recommendation even though it is formed by fact.  The seller wants to price at a level that they believe the home should bring because they need to make a certain amount at closing.  The price is above market and you warn and discuss of the downside and results of an overpriced home.  You list the home and it does not have any showings or which you warned may happen.  Who owns the problem?

Your client, against your recommendation, decides to negotiate too aggressively on the offer submitted and the other side gets emotional after the counter and walks away and is too upset to re-engage in the negotiations.  Who owns the problem?

One of the biggest mistakes I see Realtors make is taking ownership of a problem that is not theirs to take.  Allowing their clients to try to burden unsatisfactory outcomes on the agent's shoulders from a decision that the client made, not the Realtor.


  • Have confidence in your representation and realize you are the professional.  Take a commanding lead in the wording and delivery of information.
  • Respect your representation role.  That means that you understand that the client makes the decisions and you are a mirror of their decisions to the other party of the transaction.  You do not make the decision, the client does.
  • As a representative you have a duty to present all facts, discuss options, consequences and make recommendations.  The client makes the decision and you deliver that decision.

So when the seller is dissatisfied with the outcome regarding a decision they made and if they hold you accountable for the poor results what do you do? 

  • Remember who made the decision and privately do not take ownership.  I use the word privately because you are never to become defensive with a client and imply or blurt out the big "I told you so!" 
  • Step back and carefully examine the situation and plan a well worded response.  I have used statements like buying and selling a home can be a very emotional process.  I understand you are upset and that the results are dissatisfying.  Together let's revisit the steps to the decision and see if there is any repair or change that can be implemented to put us back on track with a favorable result.  So together you go over the process of the decision and the client's role will become apparent.
  • Should you have a client that insists you take the ownership then you have a choice.  The choice is can the relationship be repaired to a level where you can function well as the representative or do you need to offer to terminate the relationship?  Do you continue the relationship and just move on acting as a cushion for the issue?  This all depends on what the nature of the problem is and if you feel there is value to the continuation of the relationship.  Putting things behind and moving forward.

The simple fact is when your client makes a decision or takes an action that you have advised against then they own the results and assume the consequences.  Your professional way of addressing this situation may elevate the level of respect so when your input is given in the future then they will respect and listen.  As a Realtor, your job is to keep out of emotion and remember who owns the consequences.  The client made a business decision.  Too many Realtors lose this emotional tug of war and feel they have failed.  Keep proper perspective and your professionalism will shine.



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Not a real person
San Diego, CA

As a home inspector, I sometimes have to tell people, "Not responsible for advice not taken."

Jan 20, 2009 01:32 PM #2
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging, www.homes

Great points on keeping it all in perspective Connie. Being honest with your clients and yourself is always the way to go, no emotion necessary (although we all know how emotional selling and buying a home can be for those involved on either end)!

Jan 21, 2009 12:48 PM #3
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

Over a year ago I had a couple as Clients where I always met with him, and he always agreed, but an hour after I left him he would call telling me that his wife had decided differently. We never got anywhere on that six-month listing. They've been through two other Realtors now in late December asked me to represent them again. I met with them him on January 2 and declined the listing because his wife was not there and I could see us going through the same thing again. Not worth it.

If someone is going to hire me, it's because they want my expertise and opinions. Absent that and a commitment to work with me, they need a different Realtor.

Jan 22, 2009 01:52 AM #4
Karl Peidl
Moorestown, NJ
Accredited Loan Consultant

Great post Connie.  Two things that we all need to remember:

1. It's business, not personal.  We have to emotionally separate ourselves.

2. It's ok to say no and turn down some business.  In situations like that described by Jim above, you may be better off saying no and walking away.

Jan 22, 2009 08:13 AM #5
Sandy Shores FL Realtor®, Melbourne Real Estate
M & M Realty of Brevard Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Brevard County Real Estate, Florida's Space Coast

Hi Connie, Great post! It can be very, very frustrating. All we can do is advise the seller of what we recommend, but they don't always take the advice.  Try to remember that it's business. Sometimes, we also must know when it's time to cut our losses and walk away.

Jan 23, 2009 05:05 AM #6
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Connie Goodrich

CRS ABR (McKinney Realtor)Texas
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