4 ways to manage challenging clients
Some clients just make agents' jobs harder — either intentionally or through lack of experience. But those challenges can also be opportunities for growth.
You would instantly recognize the names of Rick Chimienti's clients. That's why he can't share any of them.
And while he has helped those clients buy and sell multimillion-dollar homes most people can only dream about, some have also caused their share of headaches.
Challenges, whether due to a hard-to-sell listing or an unreasonable buyer or seller, can make or break an agent. But those difficult clients and troublesome listings also bring lessons that can help agents hone their expertise.
Hold firm on your commission
One client stands out for Chimienti, an agent for 35 years based at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Beverly Hills.
He picked up a listing that had been with another agent, but expired. Chimienti found a buyer for the house, but the sale fell out of escrow. Two weeks later, he got a certified letter that he had been fired by the seller.
The buyers came back, still wanting the house, and the seller accepted the offer. A happy ending, it would seem — but then, with no explanation, Chimienti got an email from the seller, a music executive, saying he was cutting Chimienti's commission by $25,000.
"I said no," Chimienti remembered. "And the seller said, 'You will lose this deal over $25,000.' And I said, 'No, you will lose this deal over $25,000.'"
The house sold, and Chimienti got his commission. It turned out the buyer was short on cash, and the seller wanted Chimienti to make up the loss. But he stood up to defend himself, and his worth.
"It was also about the [client's] approach," Chimienti said. "You don't ask a surgeon to give you a discount. The more we give in like that, the more we become less of a profession."
Stand up to stubborn clients
Jill Flink of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Raleigh, NC, has been selling homes for 37 years, and she still remembers the time she was caught in a web of multiple sales, prior to changes in dual agency rules: She had a listing for a seller, a second listing for the buyer's home, and then a third for the person who wanted to buy the buyer's home.
"So I was in the everything position," Flink said "And your liability goes through the roof."
A repair issue came up with the initial property, so she called the buyer, who wasn't negotiating — and who was trying to use his position to gain leverage.
"I am in charge of all these sides, aren't I?" he said to Flink. "I am sitting here in my rocking chair on my porch, in the unequivocal power position."
Flink reminded him that if he didn't negotiate, all the sales would come to a halt. That worked, and he relented.
Give inexperienced buyers tools to succeed — and a reality check
In Seattle, where inventory is low and bidding wars are the norm, Kimberly Reidy of Pointe3 Real Estate has had to calm the nerves of numerous clients.
She remembered one couple who stood out for their lack of knowledge about homebuying. Their anxiety was palpable.
So Reidy suggested they slow down and take the time to educate themselves about the market. She connected them with a mortgage broker so that when they wanted to make an offer, they understood the process — inspections, contingencies, loans, titles, closing, the works.
Then they went to an open house with 80 other interested buyers. Reidy's clients knew enough to ask the seller's agent "a ton of questions" — including if there was a specific sales price in mind.
"With my buyers being fully educated, we were able to put together a really great offer with the magic number," Reidy said, "and instead of them waiting for the review process, the seller accepted ours."
Another pair of Reidy's clients was experiencing sticker shock but still "hoping for the needle in a haystack" — and for the market to come down. They couldn't believe they couldn't get everything they wanted.
So Reidy had them create a "wish" list, as well as a "need" list of what they had to have in a home. She took them to different areas, and suggested a different style of construction — a townhome instead of a single-family home.
"They had to make some compromises to get their dream," Reidy said.
Don't get emotionally caught up in transactions
There will always be challenging listings, and clients, Chimienti said. But with them comes experience.
"If I had to mentor a younger agent, I would say 'Don't become the buyer and don't become the seller.' You're not a party to the transaction." Because, Chimienti said, "at the end of the day, we're nothing more than the hired help. And I believe that you have to work hard and be transparent."
His final piece of advice: "Say what you mean, mean what you say, and say it when you know it."
Follow those adages, and your challenging clients may be few.