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The Real Estate Agent’s Guide to Working With Difficult Home Buyers

Jacqueline Kyo Thomas

Let’s face it: Some home buyers can be difficult to deal with. They may be unreasonable, unrealistic, rude, indecisive, and inconsiderate. They may not respect your time. They can change their must-haves on a whim. They may want to view multiple homes multiple times just to make sure it has the right energy or that their friends and family approve. And they can back out of a deal at the very last moment.

You’ve got to cater to their needs with a smile on your face. It can be a challenge, especially when your feet are tired, your patience is shot, you feel taken advantage of, and you have other clients who need your services, too.

So, how do you deal?

In this post, we’ll discuss how to handle even the most difficult of buyers so that you can keep your sanity intact.

Listen to the Buyer

The first step is also the hardest: Listen to your client. While this may sound like common sense, it’s pretty easy to ignore the client’s wish list and try to wow them with the latest and greatest property on the market.

Another reason to listen uninterrupted? Sometimes, clients aren’t able to quickly articulate what they need. By giving them space to describe their needs, you’ll see a clearer picture of their home buying goals. Instead of leading the client to a conclusion (that they may not want), you can then ask more specific questions in-line with what they’ve already said.

Set Expectations

Don't miss this crucial step. It’s one of the most important things you can do in your professional relationships. First, find out what your clients expect from you. Second, explain to clients what to expect from the home buying process.

Take a few minutes now to save yourself from headaches later.

During your initial meeting, educate your client on the basics of home buying and also prepare them for potential roadblocks. For example, if one of your client’s must-haves is a waterfront view but their current budget is too low, it’s important to be honest – and the sooner the better. While you may be able to find what they’re looking for in their price range, let them know ahead of time that it may not happen. And, in an effort to work with your client, give them other ways to make it happen (i.e. raising their budget, expanding their search parameters, and considering fixer-uppers).

Having these difficult conversations early on while everyone is still excited and motivated will reduce unrealistic expectations.

Do Your Research

The last thing you want is for your nightmare client to know more about a neighborhood, street, or property than you do. Be sure to research every neighborhood and property before you meet with your client. Make sure that the property aligns with their needs and wants.

Also, learn everything you can about a property (or have the information easily accessible on your phone) so that you can promptly answer your client’s questions. This will help you gain your client’s confidence.

If your client believes that you’re knowledgeable about the property and that you intentionally selected that property to fit their needs and wants, they’ll be more receptive to your future suggestions.

Be Honest

Sometimes, you have to say things that your client doesn’t want to hear. For example, clients don’t want to hear that their offer is unreasonably low. But sometimes, you’ve got to be the bad guy and tell them to add an extra thousand (or several) to their offer. Nobody wants to be the guy who dampens their client's dreams, but it’s better to tell them to raise their offer than it is to tell them the seller has rejected their offer.

Don’t be afraid to give your honest opinion. You are, after all, the expert. And they’ve hired you to provide solid real estate advice. Let them know that lowball offers will likely insult the seller and cause them to lose out on their home. Or if they do manage to get a rock bottom price, the seller may not pay for repairs or cover closing costs.

Communicate Often

Another way to manage difficult home buyers is to keep them informed. Many buyers spiral out of control when they feel ignored. They’ll bombard you with calls, texts, or emails in an attempt to stay up to date with the latest info.

Instead of waiting for buyers to contact you, set the rules for engagement during your initial meeting. Explain how often you’ll be in touch (but recognize that some clients will want more or less contact with their real estate agents). Also, ask your client how they’d prefer to communicate, whether that’s via email, text, phone, or a combination of all three. And, here’s the most important part, be consistent with your communication. Keep in contact with your clients every step of the way so that they believe that you’re working hard for them and have their best interest at heart.

Help Your Clients See the Potential

This is a biggie. Not everyone has the superpower to see the potential in a property. Many, if not most, buyers are looking for a turnkey property. They can’t see past the paneling and linoleum.

But you can.

Sometimes, especially when dealing with clients who have small budgets, you’ll need to use your superpowers of vision and persuasion to help your clients see the property’s potential. Make sure that you’ve researched how much it may cost to update the property to the client’s wish list specifications.

Have Empathy

Don’t forget to be empathetic. Home buying is a huge prospect for most people.

It may take months to find the perfect home. And then, after finding one’s dream home and agonizing over the right offer, another offer can take that house off of the market. It’s not easy to clash and compromise with a spouse, to spend your life’s savings, to navigate through buyer’s remorse, to encounter unexpected costs, to be confronted by failed inspections. Home buying can trigger anxiety and turn any client into a negative version of themselves.

Home buying isn’t for the faint at heart. Be patient with your clients.

Fire Them

Sometimes you come across a client who’s beyond difficult.

They may make unreasonable demands or act poorly. They may use profanity or threatening language. They may refuse to make offers in writing. They may back out of offers several times. They may call you day and night incessantly. Or they simply may refuse to follow your professional advice.

Life is short. And some paychecks aren't worth it. If a client is causing you to lose sleep or sanity, it may be best to terminate your client relationship. Sure, you may be losing out on a sale, but you may be gaining your time and the opportunity to meet another client who's a better fit.

But here's a word of caution: Always be professional. Explain the reason(s) for your termination and, if you think it's a good idea, refer the nightmare client to another agent. Depending on how far you are in the process, you may need to put everything in writing and have your broker sign it.

Additional Resources

Before you go, check out these related posts:

Here are 10 tips for setting your client’s expectations during your initial meeting.

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