Ready to fire a client? Ask yourself these 5 questions first

by Chip Bell


Few people take pleasure in having to fire someone (looking at you, Donald Trump), but sometimes it’s unavoidable. This applies to real estate clients, as well.

In a recent top producers’ panel hosted by PERL Mortgage in Chicago (part of the lender’s monthly Lunch and Learn series), a number of local real estate power players gathered to debate a range of topics, from the benefits of listing portals to work delegation strategies. A wide range of topics and opinions were shared, but when a member of the crowd asked if any of the panelists had ever fired a client, the response was uniform: absolutely.

In an industry where business is built on relationships, agents are not quick to fire clients. But every agent should know when the smart business decision is to cut their losses and get rid of a client who’s more trouble than they’re worth.

If you’re thinking you should fire your client, ask yourself these questions first:

  1. Is there mutual respect? Yes, if you want your commission, you have to make it work even with difficult clients, but it’s at your discretion. And just like any employee will quit a job if their boss doesn’t respect the effort and time they put into their work, so should an agent fire a client who can’t respect their effort and expertise.
  2. Are their demands unreasonable? If you’ve been in the real estate game for a while, chances are you’ve encountered the client who can’t seem to go an hour without having a “crisis.” Of course, it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter needy clients, but when that neediness translates into unreasonable expectations, that’s when it’s time to draw the line. But what is “unreasonable”? That’s not a question we can answer, but rather something agents need to determine for themselves. Draw the line for yourself and your clients and don’t allow a precedent that casts you as the door mat. If a client’s bad for business, don’t hesitate to say “see ya.”
  3. Are their price expectations unrealistic? Most sellers are going to value their home above the market. They aren’t trying to make your job difficult – research shows that sellers often overestimate their home’s value. It’s an emotional thing; many sellers have attachments to their homes. Once you’ve explained the reality of the local market and where their home fits in that market, a client unwilling to budge on price could sabotage the sale. Remember, no one’s paying you for your time – you’re going to get paid for selling your client’s home.
  4. Are they being honest? There are several aspects of the buying and selling processes that will require your clients to be honest and open about their home, their budget, their finances and other information. Sellers must disclose details about the home and its history. And on the buyer’s side, clients going through the lending process will need to disclose certain facts about their financial situation to get approved. If your client won’t or can’t disclose the information needed to make the sale happen, it’s time to reevaluate.
  5. Are they ever going to make a decision? Your client could be nice and respectful and understanding and honest, but if they’re never actually going to buy or sell, then every moment you spend with them is a moment you could be spending with a client who truly needs an agent. Don’t waste time on a client who can’t pull the trigger; qualify your leads to ensure you’re spending time with people ready (and able) to buy.

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  • Allison Garcia says:

    I answered each of these questions only to confirm that I need to cut ties. Ive been in Real Estate for 18yrs and have never had to fire a client. My client is a personal friend. What is the best approach?

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