The Care And Feeding Of The Clients From Hell

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I'm sure that every real estate agent has had one or two of these. If you haven't, you will. The Clients from Hell, to whom your fee for doing most of the work of finding them a home means that you suddenly have no life except for them and get very, very Irate at the suggestion that you are not on call 24/7. What's an agent to do with people like this? Sure you have to stay in business and not everyone is going to have a perfect client-agent relationship with you, but is it worth it to keep these clients? Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't.

There are the people who think that your cell phone is your electronic leash, the ones who phone at odd hours (it's 3AM and I was on the MLS and there's a house I want to see at 7AM because it might sell and it might be the perfect home for me and I need to see it NOWNOWNOW), the ones who think you're not being flexible enough when you refuse to drop everything and take them out, the ones who complain incessantly about where you're driving, what you're talking about, how you're conducting the tour (I wanted to start in the basement!) There are the ones who insist on taking their unruly children to showings or their beloved 112 pound St. Bernard, because they want to see "if she likes the place".

You can't please everybody. There are people who will complain and be nasty even if you're bending over backwards to accommodate them. You are going to have to make a choice of whether to deal with these people or telling them to find another agent.

Dealing with Less-Than-Stellar Clients

Set Boundaries

Establish working hours for yourself and times when you will and will not answer phones, email, texts or carrier pigeon messages. Communicate this to all clients and potential clients. Put it on business cards. This doesn't mean that you have to stick to these hours if there is a big job/little time situation, but it does mean that you are stepping back from client demands. They can expect that you will communicate with them during the stated hours; everything else is a bonus.

Set Expectations

Clients will work better when they have something to look forward to. If you can say, "I will call you at 11:00 AM tomorrow and give you the answers to your questions." or "I will email you by 7PM tonight with a list of properties that I have found for you.", many clients are less likely to bother you during times you don't want to be bothered. You can also reverse this by saying something like, "Call me between 10 and 11." You are still available to your clients, but on your terms.

Set Limits

There are some clients who are just not getting the whole "I work for you; I don't belong to you" concept. You will have to be firm and tell them, "I'm sorry, but I can't talk right now; I will call you at X time." or "I'm sorry, but you cannot bring Flopsy to this house showing." or even, "It's really hard to focus on the house when you have kids with you. Is it possible to reschedule the showing when you have a babysitter?" (There's usually no problem at all bringing kids to home tours if the parents are keeping an eye on them, but there are people who will let their children run wild in homes and actually damage property. If the parents can't or won't control their children, it's not really fair to the home sellers and listing agents to expose homes for sale to possible damage and mess.)

Naturally, some people will not be pleased about your refusal to accommodate their more outrageous expectations. Stand your ground. There is little to be gained by acquiescing to an unreasonable demand for the sake of a possible commission and once people like this realize that you will do so, they will hold your commission over your head like a guillotine. Often, it is people like this who never show an agent any return on their time and money, instead choosing to cause the agent a lot of stress and expense for nothing.

Drop the Client

Despite the possible lost commission, the time and money you spend on impossible-to-please clients is nothing compared to the stress that they cause. If you have made every reasonable effort to do your best for them and they are never happy, why continue? If they are making you uncomfortable with comments or questions and won't stop when you request that they do so, what does this say for their respect for you? Is it really worth going through all the pain and humiliation of working with people who don't respect you and constantly infringe on your personal boundaries? If it isn't and you're not sure that you are even going to see any return for working with them, consider dropping them.

A lawyer who specializes in real estate can aid you in dropping a client that you've signed a contract with. It also helps to keep updated on the Fair Housing laws. However, it is not illegal to drop a client because s/he/they are annoying/rude/mean/or any kind of -ist - racist, sexist, etc. If you don't have a contract with a client, it can be even easier. Simply tell the client that you will no longer be working for them, wish them (insincerely) the best of luck and end the call.

You can always refer the client(s) to another agent who you dislike, if this is easier than just dropping them, saying to the client(s), "Well it looks like we're just not working out for each other. Here is the name and number of someone I think will suit you. Goodbye."

If you have to drop them cold-turkey, your former client(s) may bad-mouth you to other people and other agents, but chances are that danelle hunter if they were this miserable to you, they were equally miserable to other people and you'll have plenty of sympathizers.

As your blood pressure returns to normal and you stop curling into a fetal position when you hear your phone ring, you'll realize that this was a good move.