When to fire a client

Firing Offenses

Last week, we talked about certain steps you can take to avoid firing a client. Read about it here. Because truthfully, firing a client should be a rare occurrence. As real estate agents, we are professionals and shouldn’t fire a client just for a petty personality conflict or because we are avoiding doing the tough (but right!) thing by being honest with our client.

That being said, there are times when enough is enough.

New agents tend to put up with a lot more, because they are “hungry” for any deals to close and they feel they owe it to their clients to provide the best customer service possible; even if it means letting the client walk all over them.

Experienced agents have learned that there are clients who suck dry your resources, energy and worst of all, your morale. Life is too short to continue to subject yourself to such abuse!

So, how do you know which types of clients to fire?

Your clients have unreasonable demands

Okay, so there are many buyers who have Del Frisco’s tastes and Whataburger budgets. Do your buyers understand that they absolutely, positively cannot get everything they want for their budget? There are no 4,500 sq. ft. homes with 5 bedrooms, pool, 4 car garage built in the last 5 years on 10 acres within a 15 minute drive of a Central Market for $150,000.  Sorry! That doesn’t exist here (the real world).

If you haven’t developed the skills to help them prioritize their need-to-haves vs. their want-to-haves, you will be doing a lot of showings without making a lot of offers. The National Association of Realtors says the average buyer looks at 12 homes before making an offer – something to consider!

Regarding listings, does your seller feel like they have the only rock star house on the block? Because, you know, upgrades. Have you accepted the listing with price that you know is not only out of the ballpark, but out of the neighborhood?

Script for firing unreasonable buyer:

As much as I’ve tried to meet your needs, it appears that I’m just not going to be able to come through for you guys and get you everything you want. Perhaps it would be best if you tried a different agent who might be better able to deliver for you.

Script for firing unreasonable seller (some of it borrowed from Mike Ferry):

I apologize and I’d like to release you from our listing agreement. The truth is, I wasn’t strong enough to tell you the truth that your listing was overpriced and will not sell at that price and I don’t want to waste any more of your time.

Interestingly, that last script often has the effect of shocking the seller into reality and they may agree to a price reduction!

They don’t respect you

Clients who are continuously late without calling you to let you know (or worse, stand you up!) are not respectful of your time. Clients who go around your back and call other agents are not loyal to you. Why continue to put up with it?

Script for firing clients who don’t respect you

Due to some restructuring of my real estate business, I’m no longer going to be able to represent you in your purchase/sale. It’s best you move on with a different agent and I wish you nothing but the best! 

The “restructuring” is that you’re no longer working with creeps!

They are verbally abusive

Nobody should have to put up with swearing or yelling, but home buying (and selling) can be emotional for the principals in the transaction. That’s why as real estate agents we have to remain calm.  Many times, you can use your customer service skills to diffuse the situation, but if it continues to occur or you’re the type who is letting it get to you, it’s probably best to sever ties before it gets worse.

Script for firing clients who swear or yell:

It appears we have a different way of communicating that makes it difficult for us to work together. Quite frankly, I don’t feel that I’m cut out to be your agent and your frustrations tell me that you agree.  It’s better that you move on in your home purchase/sale with a different agent and I wish you the best.

They lack integrity

If a client wants you to be unethical or even to break the law, the short term gain (a commission) is not worth the risk to your reputation or possibly even your livelihood.  Clients that you know are lying, cheating or otherwise unethical are to be avoided at all costs.

Script for firing an unethical client

As a Realtor, I’m bound by a Code of Ethics that prevents me from providing the kind of service you are looking for. It’s best if you move on without me.

One final note:  In real estate, we a have special consideration that professionals in other fields don’t.  We learned about it in real estate school but unfortunately, some don’t think about it much after that. It’s called agency, and as licensed real estate professionals, we have duties to our clients.

Additionally, as agents for our brokerages, our clients technically belong to the brokerage, so make sure you have the backing and support from your broker before you unilaterally fire a client.

Finally, there are contracts, such as Termination of Listing Agreement or Termination of Buyers Representative Agreement, that you may need to use to handle the matter properly and professionally. Check with your broker if you need help.

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