When your job is heavily tilted toward customer service, you know that you have to deal with all kinds of people – and you aren’t going to like all of them. That’s just part of life! But there’s a difference between having a slight personality clash with a client or rubbing each other the wrong way every now and then, and a client-agent relationship that is downright toxic.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a client is going to be a difficult fit or a downright nightmare for you. If you’re new to the business or just need a refresher, here are some big red flags that your seller client, in particular, is probably going to be the latter.
They don’t understand the market
Let’s be clear: By itself, this is not an enormous scarlet flag that should send you running for the hills. However, it’s usually one of the first indications that a seller doesn’t have the best judgment, doesn’t like to let facts get in the way of their opinion, has an ego problem, or some other more serious issue that could be a dealbreaker.
On the other hand, it could just be an indication that they haven’t been paying attention to the market and don’t know what to expect in terms of pricing or timing. So take this one with a grain of salt, unless it’s accompanied by several other questionable behaviors.
They think quirky renovations increase the home’s value
Every once in a while, a listing comes to market that’s so weird and out-there that the photos go viral on social media. It could be something as relatively innocuous as an, um, intimate dungeon in one room, or some rather unusual choices of color or decoration or what-have-you. And you know what, who should anybody be to judge? The whole point of homeownership is to have a place to call your own and shape into exactly what you want.
The problem arises when sellers insist that their interesting and not very common taste enhances the value of the house. Not only will some sellers refuse to shape their homes a little more closely to buyers’ tastes, but they might also decide to price their home well above neighborhood comps because “it has something none of the neighbors’ homes has!” That’s true, but so is the fact that not every buyer wants a house with a creepy mermaid mural in the bathroom or a stripper pole in the corner of the bedroom.
A job well done is a reason to complain
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to identify this seller until after you’ve done something amazing — sold their home quickly, and possibly above asking price. Even though they made the decision to accept the offer, they might decide later on that you advised them poorly and they could have made even more money if they’d decided to leave it on the market for long. Who knows where people get these ideas?
They can’t agree — with each other
Hopefully, none of your clients will be real-life incarnates of George and Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but it’s possible that you might run into a handful who clearly aren’t used to agreeing with one another and expect you to mediate their differences. Maybe one wants to sell quickly while the other is content to wait. Or one likes the idea of reducing the price and the other thinks it’d be better to just take the house off the market. You may have a lot of skills as an agent, but you’re not expected to be a marriage counselor for basic decision-making.
They look for reasons to personally dislike people they don’t know
If your seller suddenly starts to develop animosity toward the buyer before they ever meet face-to-face at the closing table, watch out. Unless the buyers are being the nightmare — it happens! — you may find yourself having to placate the seller and soothe ruffled feathers, or even convince the seller not to drop a nuke on the deal because they got an idea that they couldn’t work with the buyer. You need to be especially careful if sellers begin espousing ideologies and opinions about the buyers that could get you into Fair Housing trouble.
They think they know better than you do
There’s nothing new under the sun, including home sellers who seem to have an idea that they could do your job better than you, in fact, are doing your job. The attitude itself is common enough that you might not want to make it a hill to die on, sad to say — where it becomes a real issue is when your clients completely disregard your advice because they’re confident that they know more than you do. Why? Because that’s when you find yourself in a situation where a client is blaming you for an action they took against your advice.
Just about everybody has had a bad experience with a micromanaging boss who won’t let them do their job, and it’s more than probable you might end up with one of those clients eventually. Maybe they think the listing photos or marketing materials could be better and want to adjust the typeface or ask you to retake the photos. Perhaps they’re nitpicking a word choice in the listing description. Those things are more tolerable than clients who want to micromanage the contract or negotiations, areas where they really should be leaning on your guidance.
They don’t want to compromise
Whether it’s refusing to budge on the price, not wanting to work with buyers who ask about repair credits or other concessions after the inspection, or throwing a temper tantrum if the appraisal comes in below their contract price, a seller who won’t compromise doesn’t give you a lot of room to maneuver as the agent. Maybe you’re really good at getting deals done without wiggle room, but for some agents, this can very reasonably be a reason they don’t want to work with a client again.
They don’t want to spruce up … at all
This one is another flag that might mean the seller is a nightmare, but it could just mean that they aren’t in a financial situation to do much around the house. Usually, though, you can tell the difference between someone who has pride in their home but can’t afford the latest upgrades, and someone who simply doesn’t care that the walls are practically falling down around them. If the seller has the financial means to make necessary repairs but refuses to do it, or won’t negotiate on price even though the place is below the standards for most of the market, then you’re most likely working with someone unreasonable.
They find fault with everything you do
Selling a home can be a very emotional time, and when a seller nitpicks at you or berates you, it’s not something you ever have to put up with — but it’s also at least somewhat understandable sometimes. When a seller can’t help but pick apart everything you do to find fault with it, though, that’s a good sign that this relationship is probably going to be a lot more trouble and stress than it will be worth for you, financially and otherwise.
You aren’t comfortable
We don’t always pay enough attention to the alarm bells that sound in our head when someone dangerous or predatory is around, and hopefully, you’ll never encounter a seller who could fit that description. But … but. Real estate can be a dangerous business, and you won’t do yourself any favors by ignoring your gut instinct and hanging around a client who makes you uncomfortable. If alarm bells start ringing in your head and you get that “get out” feeling, you know what to do — get out.