I have a REALTOR® friend who fired a client a couple of days ago. It was a decision she’d agonized over and come to the precipice of doing several times over the last few months, but for one reason or another, just hadn’t yet. He was a “buyer” (yep, I put that word in quotes because he was one of those no-sense-of-urgency-buyers who is waiting for the right property to come along, AKA: Mr. Nothing Better to Do than Look at Property on the Weekend), and she’d been showing him property for the last year and a half. He had made several offers but hadn’t ever gone under contract because his offers were all laughably low. He was one of those guys who couldn’t be convinced that he was wasting his (and his agent’s) time with an offer $15K under asking when the property already had four offers on it, one of which was full-price and cash. In any other situation, people who can’t follow clear logic and make sense of an obvious foregone conclusion are “crazy.” In real estate, they are “deal hunters” and “bargain shoppers.”

I know that firing clients is part of any savvy agent’s arsenal. Not every REALTOR® can help every buyer or every seller. Sometimes a client is beyond help and sometimes he is looking to take advantage of his agent. Knowing this doesn’t make the act any easier. For me, the pain of firing a client is two-fold.

To begin with, the agony of letting a potential paycheck walk out the door hurts me in my most sensitive and delicate region: my wallet. I work hard and spend money to obtain new clients (not to mention all the general begging and calling in of favors I do to my friends and family to get them to refer me). Which all makes telling a client I already have to take a hike feel counter-intuitive, to say the least. Not to mention, of course, the (usually considerable) time and money I’ve already invested in this client for which I will never reap any benefit or even break even on if I let them go now. In a business where nothing comes easy or free, it’s hard to know when to cut your losses.

My conscience takes the remainder of the blow. I cannot help but feel responsible for carrying out the wants and desires of my clients, no matter how ridiculous and unachievable they are. “So you want a house with a unicorn farm out back, beach access, diamond-encrusted countertops in the kitchen and within a 20 minute drive of your office in Scottsdale, for under $125,000; is that right? I’ll get right on it!” And that family of six currently living in a three-bedroom, 1200-square-foot house in Maricopa who needs to switch it for something five bedrooms and in Chandler for exactly the same price really NEEDS my help. I have to be able to make something work for them, right?

But the point is: a client-firing is often in order. I know I have better things to do with my time and gas than shuttle around someone who will likely never make me a penny in commission. My agent friend who did it the other day came up with the perfect recipe for firing success, in my opinion: Facts, Ultimatum, Departure (or FUD, if you prefer, as in, “I’ve got to go FUD a client. I’ll call you after to autopsy the sitch.” But maybe that’s just us). Here’s how it works:

  • Facts – In the first step, you present the results of what you’ve already been through together as REALTOR® and client. Example: Bill, over the last eight months, I’ve shown you 352 houses, and you’ve never made an offer. We’ve looked in Chandler, Gilbert, Tempe, Avondale, Casa Grande, Queen Creek and Anthem. You’ve seen fixer-upers, move-in readies, single levels, two stories, condos; nothing was exactly right.
  • Ultimatum – During the second step you present the client with an outcome you can live with and ask them for a guarantee of this scenario. Example: “I can only continue showing you property if you can guarantee me that we will see 10 more houses next weekend and make an offer within 97% of the asking price (as that is what the average house is going for at this time in the market) on one of them. Do you see that happening?”
  • Departure – This is where you make your grand, but amicable exit. Example: “Since you don’t think that what I need out of our relationship is a possibility, I feel we need to part ways. I wish you good luck in your future ventures!” (At this point, it’s fine to think, “I hope the next agent you sucker into showing you houses eight hours a week for the foreseeable future has the good sense to get rid of you sooner than I did!” But generally speaking, it’s more graceful not to actually speak them aloud and slam down the phone.)

When done correctly, the firing of a client should be a relief that you’re only gladder you did with each passing day. A FUD done right is a beautiful thing.

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