Tell the Truth – And Solve A Problem

Working with buyers or sellers in a challenged economy takes a lot of effort and communication is key. From the time you start to interact to the final customer survey you should be sending to them. Often we are afraid or uncomfortable communicating clearly with the seller. We need to get over that unless we want to court a LOT of disappointment.

Real estate professionals too often tell people what they want to hear. I’m not sure why. Possibly they are afraid they won’t get a piece of business, or they just don’t want to face a possible conflict with the client or the other agent. But in any case, postponing conflict, or trying to avoid it, does not resolve it. And without resolution conflict just waits and grows until it is a larger monster than it needs to be.

When an agent sits before a seller who wants to ask too much for their property, or has an unreasonable expectation about what the process will be like, they have a responsibility to tell them the truth. To share with them the information that we have, and our knowledge of the process. And if they cannot grasp the necessities of the market, then perhaps we need to walk away from that piece of business, so that we do not do a disservice to them and ourselves by taking a listing that we cannot sell.

It seems so easy to say, and yet every day real estate salespeople take listings with the thought that maybe it will sell, or perhaps they will come to reason after they have been on the market for while – but in those cases, that conversation often takes place int he agent’s mind rather than with the client – because the conversation might be too hard to have.

But by not having the conversation, the seller’s expectation is that you’re going to sell the property for the higher price, or that the process will be somehow different from what the reality of your market is. Then the lack of an offer, or your failure to call them once a week, or the fact that more co-op agents show the property than people from your office creates a lack of faith in you, and a distrust of you that eventually will sour what should have been a good relationship.

So here is your permission to tell the truth to all of your buyers and sellers.

  • Let the buyer know that, though the market is burdened with inventory, they still need to be within the parameters of your local market – that they may be great negotiators, but some people negotiate so well that they never buy a house.
  • Tell your sellers if their price is too high. Perhaps they are not motivated to sell. Perhaps they just want you to “test the waters”. I give you permission to explain to them that this process is like ordering a complex and expensive dish in the finest restaurant, and then when it comes to your table, saying “Just Kidding,  I really didn’t want eat, I just wanted to watch you do the work, and see the results of your work before I went home to do something else”.
  • If you enter the waters of a short sale, remember that the value of the property is the value – not the debt . Be realistic in setting your seller’s expectations, and help buyer’s agents set their expectations properly as well.
  • Its OK to tell buyers and sellers both that the job is not just winning the negotiation, its buying or selling the house. Too often, people are so involved in negotiation, that they lose sight of the ir goal and hurt themselves rather than helping themselves. Some people negotiate so well that they never buy a house.

Agents also have a need to face the truth throughout the transaction, and be as open as possible about what’s happening.  When things start to go bad, or a problem occurs, too often agent tries to “work it out” without bringing the problem to the attention of their manager,broker or co-op agent. Perhaps it’s because they made a mistake, or they don’t want to be seen as weak, or they just don’t want to admit to themselves that a transaction is falling apart. It really doesn’t matter – they’re all bad reasons, because they truth of these matter always comes out at some point, and hiding it or ignoring it only makes it worse.

The problem is always closer to resolution when it is recognized and brought out into the open, and all of us can use a little help. The agent may be too close to the transaction – personalities might be influencing problem analysis, pride might be getting in the way – or any of a thousand other possible reasons might come into play. The broker or manager (who is may also be more experienced)  should be able to be more detached and analytic,allowing them to offer some solutions or perhaps some insight into how to fix the problem.  Maybe, like Alexander the Great who cut the Gordian Knot, they might just see an easy solution to a difficult problem like terminating the agreement or firing the client. Or maybe they are just a sounding board for working out a solution to the problem.

Whatever the situation, whether a tough client or customer, or a problem in a transaction, approaching your problems in the most open way possible allows people to see you as a facilitator and a problem solver. One who recognizes issues and meets them head on with courage, ingenuity, and integrity. And by doing so enhances your professional efforts. I have often turned down a listing from a seller whose price position was unattainable, only to be the second or sometimes third listing agent on that property  – and most importantly, being the listing agent who got the property sold. Of course you could choose the be the listing agent that “rolls the dice” to see if the market will accept the higher price or the unreasonable terms.  Which listing agent would you rather be?


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