Understanding Your Clients: How To Work With Different Personalities

Real Estate

Owner and Qualifying Broker at Rhino Realty Property Management and Rhino Realty B&B, entrepreneur, investor, advisor, author and speaker.

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s rare in my line of work that the subject of firing a client comes up too often. In the real estate business, most leads or property owners tend to be highly valuable, especially if you are just starting out. However, as you begin to get more established and clearer on your strengths and weakness, you would be wise to take note of signs that an individual you are working with is a potential liability or disruption.

In many instances, the amount of stress it takes to please a difficult buyer or property management client far outweighs the reward. In any real estate transaction, you should always expect to work very hard; however, dealing with uncompromising people is never a prerequisite to success. Here are some potential warning signs you may see in your clients as you navigate the real estate industry.

The Demanding Attitude

Anyone who has watched real estate television has seen an example of a client who can appear demanding, cold, passive-aggressive or sarcastic. As a broker, it almost feels like they view you as second-rate at best. With a million-dollar listing, the struggle does seem to be worth the crucible, with commissions ranging in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. However, for most of us, the experience of handling nine- or ten-figure sales is rare.

This is a situation where you must decide if you want or are able to endure the endless demands of a client. Although the purchase of any home or the management of any real estate asset is typically the most expensive of a person’s life, it doesn’t give anyone the right to be demeaning or act disrespectfully. Meeting on the level is crucial for both you and your client, and it will lead to a better transaction and overall experience. Without mutual trust and respect, it will be nearly impossible to navigate tough scenarios when a deal takes a turn for the worse.


It’s essential that you provide your clients with outstanding service, knowledge and value. Doing so should earn your client’s respect and make you a truly trusted resource. If you have attempted to do this and are still facing major pushback from a client, there is nothing wrong with walking away. In the end, saving your time and energy for clients who trust your advice and don’t drain your resources will make for a better career and life.

The Know-It-All

A client who behaves as if they know it all tends to be quite controlling of the process and difficult to please. In my experience, this person may also use your advice or suggestions against you if they don’t pan out perfectly according to plan. Brokers and managers may find themselves the scapegoat for unexpected issues that will undoubtedly arise during a transaction or ownership. Many times, I’ve heard this type of client say that a broker or property manager’s job is not valuable, or that the only thing a broker or property manager brings to the table is access to a multiple listing service or a break from managing the client’s own property.

If you start to see or feel this type of behavior from a client, my best advice is to again consider if you desire and are able to tolerate this kind of relationship. If you don’t have thick skin, then it may be an easy decision, and passing on the opportunity would do you more good than harm. There’s nothing wrong with moving on to a more fitting client dynamic.

The Very Risk-Averse

Although there is nothing wrong with being conservative and risk-averse, not understanding just how conservative and risk-averse certain clients and owners can be may put a drain on you and cost more money in lost run. This type of client may, for example, always be looking for the “perfect” deal, need to return to the same property five or more times, write up several different offers or back out at the first sign of resistance. Again, unless you are new to the industry and building your book or you have a lot of time on your hands, you may want to think twice about working with this client.

To get ahead of complications, try explaining that there is always a risk involved in every real estate deal and that no deal is ever perfect. Part of transacting real estate is being OK with some degree of risk. And although you never want to lose money as a property owner/investor, it’s always a good idea to have another means of income or reserves available for when unexpected issues arise.

Of course, showing properties is also part of a broker’s job description, and you should expect to go to the same property several times, especially if the property in question is of great interest to your client. However, there is a limit to this principle as well, especially if there is no sign of an offer or if there are several more properties in contention for your client. This can be a touchy subject, especially when trying to remain professional. That is why establishing your boundaries and a workflow with your clients prior to commitment is important; it can provide both parties the opportunity to decide if the relationship is the right fit.

Being aware of different behaviors you might encounter in a client can save you and your clients time, bad experiences and potential lawsuits. There is nothing necessarily wrong with any one of these tendencies or personality traits, and there will always be a broker or property manager willing to work through any circumstance. However, being effective and efficient in a highly competitive industry is what separates the good from the great. Understanding the people you work with can give you a huge advantage and help propel your deal flows much more than just taking everyone who comes your way. It’s OK to be picky with who you want to work with, and it’s what true professionals tend to do.

Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *