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Real Estate 101 - Handling Tough Situations Gracefully

Over the years of my real estate career, I have grown a thicker skin, as it were.  In some ways it has simply become easier to accept when things don't work out the way that I had hoped.  I once lost a $213,000 commission when my buyer was snagged for money laundering.  After that happened, I told my partners that any other deal that I happened to lose would be easier.  Considering that it has been seven years since that transaction, I can safely say that this has remained true.

Last year, my business partner Frank lost a sale when the lady that he was working with had a sister who insisted on representing her, despite the fact that she had absolutely no knowledge of the Austin area, and she lived many hours away.  The buyer felt bad, but blood is thicker than water, and she allowed her sister to help, and Frank's work and time were lost.

Rather than bicker or make her feel badly, Frank told her that he understood, and that he was sorry that he wouldn't be able to finish the transaction with her.  He was gracious, probably more gracious than I would have been under the circumstances.

Two days ago, he received a call from this client.

She said that she felt terrible about what happened, and she needs to sell her house now.  Since Frank had worked so hard on her behalf last year and since he was so nice when her sister forced her way into the transaction, we will soon be listing her home, which is worth about $550,000 now (a bit more than she paid for it).  Considering that the average home price here is just over $210,000, this is a great listing for us.  The $16,500 paycheck will heal a lot of wounds.

This made me think in a more general sense about how best to handle tough scenarios that present themselves, especially when they have the potential to make you angry.  Although you may have something happen that causes you to scream on the inside, if possible, remain calm and kind outwardly.  This has its rewards, believe me. 

When I first started in real estate, I used to allow my emotions to enter the picture in situations like this.  Rather than taking the polite, measured, calm response, I felt the need to get a jab or two in when I heard this type of bad news. 

Now, I can't say that I ALWAYS take it gracefully, but I sure do try.  There are times when it is simply not worth arguing (most of the time this is the case).  However, there are blatantly rude people, too, and they are perhaps the exception to my rule, because I might actually be relieved to see them go.

Occasionally, I will provide lots of information and assistance to someone who is looking to relocate, only to hear back later from them that they have chosen another agent.  My response?

"I'm sorry to hear about that.  Thanks for taking the time to call/email me.  Could you give me any pointers on what we could have done differently to earn your business?" 

Generally, there is no good response to this, but I really do want the information.  I always end the conversation with something like, "Let us know if things don't work out.  We will be here."  Every once in awhile, I do hear back from them, if the other agent drops the ball.

Being gracious in defeat has brought back many clients in my career.  I am sure that a bit of guilt is at play, since it likely has nothing to do with me or my level of service. 

BONUS TIP: One important lesson that I learned the hard way many years ago is to immediately offer to pay a referral fee to the relocation company if the buyer says something along these lines:

"I may have to use the company Realtor since they are paying my closing costs/move/etc." 

I now instruct the buyer to tell their HR person that we will pay the fee, which is generally 30-35% of the commission.  I actually got TWO corporate relocation accounts this way, which resulted in tens of millions of dollars of sales for us. 

Thanks for reading!


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