I often get asked how a buyer can end a relationship with their realtor when they’re unhappy with them, but we don’t often hear about the flip side of this–when should the realtor let a client go?
This is never an easy decision, particularly if they’re a serious buyer. After all, we work on commission. The sad thing, I’m sorry to say, is how many of my colleagues feel they have to put up with poor behaviour; I heard some terrible stories from very good realtors who were simply trying to look out for their client’s best interest and found themselves attacked, insulted, screamed at, or sworn at, because the clients didn’t like the advice they were given.
Personally, I made a decision long ago that I would only work with people I can get along with. The buying/selling process is stressful enough, both for them and for me, without introducing any additional conflict into it.
Unlike many other agents, I don’t ask my clients to sign a Buyer’s Representation Agreement upfront. A Buyer’s Representation Agreement commits us to work together for a contractual period of time and to be honest, I don’t want to be contractually bound to someone I don’t often know very well. Sometimes people click; sometimes they don’t.
If the relationship isn’t working, I’d rather say goodbye. The client may be happier with another agent that’s a better fit for them (at least one hopes this is the case, although in my experience, difficult people are often simply difficult).
That said, there are stresses that arise in every purchase — after all, this is a lot of money at stake– and emotions can run high. I expect people to be anxious, nervous, worried, and stressed and to need a fair bit of hand-holding. That’s part of the job. It’s when they make personal attacks on me (or in one case, on a lawyer I had referred to the client) that I draw the line.
I taught interest-based Negotiations at Queens and elsewhere for years, I trained people in Canada and internationally in negotiations, including the UNDP. I am an interest-based, not a positional, bargainer.
I want the best possible deal for my buyer, but the reality is that the seller has to find it acceptable too. I usually invite the buyer to imagine how the seller is likely to respond to what they may perceive as an unreasonable offer, so that we can look at other ways to meet the seller’s interests, for example, with an early closing or no financing clause, or perhaps starting at a higher purchase price but narrowing the wiggle room in negotiations. I do my homework and negotiate hard, but I do it respectfully.
I learned at Harvard in 1993, when I was being trained myself in interest-based negotiations, to “be hard on the problem, and soft on the people.” Because of it, I think of every transaction as involving long term relationships. I try to be open to persuasion, ready to take into account all legitimate interests, and problem-solve when I have to.
The prospective buyer who wants me to wave my tiny fists and threaten to do this or that to get the price they want, or else be fired, really does have the wrong agent. I can’t imagine how someone might think that unfounded personal attacks or condescension (such as I experienced with the client I let go) would motivate any professional to work harder on their behalf. Bullying is bullying, and no one should have to put up with it. (Not even a realtor.)