Elizabeth Weintraub • Sacramento Real Estate Agent: May 2007

Sometimes the Best Thing to Say to a Buyer is Goodbye

Alternatives to Shooting Your ClientsI’m not advocating that agents actually shoot their clients when relationships become strained, but I know a lot of them who get the urge. To be fair, there are likely a certain number of buyers and sellers who feel like shooting their agents as well, and I’m thankful there’s a waiting period for buying machine guns. Fortunately, there are easier ways to say goodbye than sprinkling rat poison in your buyer’s coffee. You could accidentally run them over in your BMW or, better yet, push them off a balcony. “Hey, look down below, naked people.” Oops.

People die all the time under unusual circumstances. The Associated Press reported last week that in Janesville, Wisconsin, a real estate agent unexpectedly stumbled upon a corpse in the home she was showing. The 55-year-old seller was in bed. Dead. Apparently, she had been dead for two weeks. My husband sent me the story and suggested I would be very upset if I were showing a home to buyers and found the owner dead inside. Not really. Well, I’d be upset if my buyers used that as an excuse not to buy the house, but I guess I’d understand if they passed on it.

That’s because when I’m in the groove and working, I am very focused on the job at hand. I shoot straight from the hip and don’t mince words. Part of the reason I’m so straightforward with people is if I made up stuff, I’d have to remember what I said, and at my age, I’m lucky to remember where I left my cell phone. The other part is I see no reason to be dishonest or untruthful with anybody, whether they are my clients or my sister asking me if she looks fat in those jeans.

But not everybody wants to hear the truth. Some people prefer to skirt around issues and ignore the white elephant in the room. Confrontation makes them uneasy. Back where I was raised, that type of non-confrontational attitude is known as “Minnesota Nice.” You might talk about neighbors inside closed doors to family or friends, but to your neighbor’s face you wave hello and pretend your dog didn’t just crap on their lawn. “That dog? I don’t think that dog looks like my dog, you think?” So it’s understood that your dog is not allowed to venture onto your neighbor’s lawn again until hell freezes over.

Me? I don’t tell people what they want to hear. I tell my buyers the truth in the way I see it. So, when buyers called me during the dinner hour, demanding that I drop my fork and dash over to show them a home they were standing in front of, I declined. I explained this particular house did not fit their needs because it was a fixer. It was not an updated, turnkey dream home they desired. I suggested they stand in the street and listen to the roar of traffic whizzing by. Did they want to buy a fixer on a busy street? No, it turned out, they did not. I sensed they were irritated that I was right.

Nevertheless, I showed these buyers homes for two months: during rainstorms, early mornings, late evenings and over lunch. During that time, the buyers wrote two offers, none of which flew because they were lowball offers in high-demand neighborhoods. The buyers did not want to hear that sellers weren’t going to bend or that comparable sales supported the list price. Because, after all, now that they were living in a rental, they were privy to the inside scoop on values in the neighborhood and had a better handle on the market than a resident professional. During their first offer negotiations, the sellers agreed to a deal at 2% more than the buyers wanted to pay, but still less than list price. The buyers refused to budge. Ultimately, another lucky buyer swooped in and bought the house at list price.

I tell buyers if they are interested in a home to write an offer. Especially in desirable, hot neighborhoods. Because in California, purchase contracts aren’t binding until the 17-day inspection period has passed and the contingencies have been removed. If it’s a hot new listing, it will sell to somebody else while buyers are taking their time weighing pros and cons. I explained this concept to the buyers, who implied I must be smoking crack because none of their friends ever had a real estate agent tell them they could cancel a contract. Which makes sense. Most agents won’t tell a buyer this because they want the deal to close. Agents want to get their commission and use it to buy tropical drinks on the beach in Hawaii.

In the end, we decided to part ways. I suggested they work with another agent because we were not seeing eye-to-eye and were not communicating. At first, they were shocked and refused to end our relationship. But when they had time to think about the situation, and talk to the neighbors — one of whom recently decided to sell his home and had not yet listed it — they handed me a Minnesota Nice excuse. It was our styles that weren’t meshing, they said. They said nothing about the for-sale-by-owner. That’s because they didn’t want to owe me a commission if they bought it, and they probably believed professional services were unnecessary.

I work my neighborhood. I hear what goes on. Nothing is sacred. Those buyers don’t know that I knew what they were doing, but I knew. It’s a small world, no matter where you live.

Finding the house is only half the battle, however. That’s when the real fun begins and an agent’s expertise pays off in spades. I say more power to them. Rather than argue and call them on the carpet, I cut them loose. Because sometimes you just gotta let ‘em go, nip your losses in the bud and get on with making other clients miserable; I mean, finding their dream home.

I just hope the for-sale-by-owner dude doesn’t own any handguns.

© Big Stock Photo

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Elizabeth Weintraub is co-partner of Weintraub & Wallace Team of Top Producing Realtors, an author, home buying expert at The Balance, a Land Park resident, and a veteran real estate agent who specializes in older, classic homes in Land Park, Curtis Park, Midtown, Carmichael and East Sacramento, as well as tract homes in Elk Grove, Natomas, Roseville and Lincoln. Call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916.233.6759. Put our combined 80 years of real estate experience to work for you. Broker-Associate at RE/MAX Gold. DRE License # 00697006.

Photo: Unless otherwise noted in this blog, the photo is copyrighted by Big Stock Photo and used with permission.The views expressed herein are Weintraub's personal views and do not reflect the views of RE/MAX Gold. Disclaimer: If this post contains a listing, information is deemed reliable as of the date it was written. After that date, the listing may be sold, listed by another brokerage, canceled, pending or taken temporarily off the market, and the price could change without notice; it could blow up, explode or vanish. To find out the present status of any listing, please go to elizabethweintraub.com.

Sometimes the Best Thing to Say to a Buyer is Goodbye
I’m not advocating that agents actually shoot their clients when relationships become strained, but I know a lot of them who get the urge. To be fair, there are likely a certain number of buyers and sellers who feel like shooting their agents as… more