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Firing A Buyer in Real Estate

Firing a buyer is never pleasant and is one of the most difficult decisions a real estate agent can make. The concept of caveat emptor is as old as dirt and I bet there are few out there who are not familiar with its meaning. Real estate professionals are well aware of this phrase. Buyer beware. It is a simple concept that speaks to the need for due diligence prior to any purchases.

The burden of information gathering and sound decision making rests on the shoulders of all who find themselves in the position to buy something. But what happens when the real estate agent is the one who should beware?

In real estate, the nature of the contracts we use afford buyers numerous opportunities to make certain they understand every detail of a property. Home inspections are a key example of this. Buyers who choose to forgo a home inspection are the poster children for the buyer beware club. Most buyers are very diligent in their efforts when they are purchasing a home. It is my job as their Realtor to impress upon them the importance of home inspections.

This week I “fired” my first buyer. The experience got me thinking about the concept of Caveat Realtor. Realtor beware. When a buyer contacts a real estate professional they have an expectation that we will offer our services, time and expertise to help them navigate the often stressful and unpredictable road to home ownership.

First time home buyers are my favorite buyers to work with. They rely upon me to explain the process and help them achieve their dream of owning a home for the first time. They are often terrified but full of enthusiasm. There is no greater feeling than watching first time homeowners receive the keys to their first home. This is the feel good part of selling homes.

Other buyers can be a challenge. The ability to work well with different personalities is a critical skill and is not mentioned very often in the real estate textbooks. There are many kinds of buyers. Some are more active in their home searches, others take a passive approach. I have worked with them all over the years. I never thought that I would have to decline working with a buyer. I am very good at adapting to demanding and difficult personalities. Last week that changed.

The buyer was adamant about what she estimated the value of homes to be. My comps did not matter. For three weeks I did my best to educate and present information to support why her low ball offers were not being accepted. She required that I respond immediately to her texts, emails and phone calls. I complied. We looked at many homes and submitted a few offers, all of which were rejected. I was blamed for the rejected offers. The price range of the homes she was interested in made it worth my time to suck it up and deal with the demands. The entire time I was professional, realistic and accommodating.

She let me know that she was also conducting her own search and that if she found something that I did not show her that I would not be the selling agent.  I had hoped to convince her of the benefits of committing to one agent for her search, she was not convinced. She would contact listing agents directly on the properties that I had shown if I did not respond to her immediately.

It was a bit of a nightmare. A day after the last rejected offer, she called to let me know that she had found a for-sale by owner that she would be putting a contract on. I cautioned her about the risks and she thanked me. I was not surprised by this. I was disappointed, but not surprised. Mea culpa.

Three weeks after later she contacted me again to let me know that the FSBO fell through and that she wanted me to resubmit an offer on a HUD home. I told her that I would be asking her to sign a buyer agreement before we went forward. I explained that I had numerous buyers and sellers in my pipeline and I was unable to continue working with her if she was going to continue the search on her own at the same time. She refused.

Simply, spending the amount of time and energy that she required would not be the best use of my time if she found something on her own again. I got burned once before and it made sense to cut her loose. I gave it the old college try. I never like to end a relationship with a potential buyer. There was no other option with this particular buyer.

As real estate professionals we must be able to work smarter and harder, but not be willing to run in circles without a commitment from a buyer. There are exceptions to every rule and the vast majority of buyers we deal with are not like this one. However, understanding that there are times when the situation dictates letting a buyer go is the perfect illustration of Caveat Realtor in practice.