By Guest Blogger, Gregory Martinsen, REALTOR.
Before I was retired from being a real estate broker, I was oftentimes faced with the difficult task of communicating unpleasant information to a client. In the time leading up to meeting with the client, the thought of sharing any type of bad news would haunt me.
Every time it was necessary to relay negative information, I would get nervous and think to myself, “How am I going to handle this? What am I going to say? What am I going to do?”
One day I had a revelation. I realized that it was not my decision. My job is to keep the clients fully informed by reporting everything to them, whether good, bad, or ugly. Then, it is up to the buyer or the seller to make a decision based on the information that I give them.
This seems so obvious now, but it took me quite a long time to understand and apply this idea to my career.
Imagine, if you will, that an agent divulging an issue to a buyer or a seller is akin to making a trip to the doctor’s office. When a person makes a visit to the doctor, there is a diagnosis that is presented to the patient. The doctor communicates what is wrong, and then it is the patient’s decision from that point forward to decide how they are going to navigate the situation.
This can be applied to any instance in which an unexpected issue arises during a transaction. Perhaps something was discovered during the home inspection that needs to be communicated to either the buyer or the seller. The agent’s responsibility is to disclose the facts; the buyer’s or seller’s responsibility is to make a decision based on these facts.
Internalizing this concept took a lot of emotional stress off of my plate. However, in order for this to work properly, I had to communicate it to whomever I was working with right up front. I made it a part of my introduction whenever I met with a client for the first time.I followed a loose script every time and I would say to the client:
“As your agent, I am just helping you buy (or, sell) your house. This is my role with you: I am here to help you with every part of the transaction, but it is my duty to disclose, and then YOU decide. I will keep you fully informed and lay out all of the options that you have, and then it is solely your decision to make from there.”
This method has worked well for me. I have instilled this method in all of my agents in my brokerage, and I truly believe that many buyers and sellers appreciate it because it helps them to understand the transaction process, and my exact role. It draws a clear line in the sand — this is my role, and that is it.
This is an important boundary that must be established with a client every single time. When an agent crosses the line and starts advising, they are taking a huge risk. If something were to go wrong, the client could (rightfully) blame it on the agent. This is a negative interaction that can be avoided entirely by taking caution and following this simple advice.
An agent has the fiduciary responsibility to always have their client’s best interest in mind. As an agent, you must be very specific and factual about what and how information is communicated. Remember: you may disclose the options, but ultimately, the decision is always in the hands of the clients.
If you have any other tips and tricks for those difficult conversations, we want to hear from you!