The Art of Managing Client Expectations

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Has it been decades since your new clients bought and sold their first home? Did they conduct their only transaction in another state under a different set of rules? Are they first-time buyers who have studied real estate by reading every unreliable source they can find on the internet? Whether they’re first-time home buyers or they’ve been through it all before, buying or selling a home can seem mysterious and bewildering to some, and managing expectations is the antidote for misunderstandings.

Adopt a Beginner’s Mind: Your clients don’t know what they don’t know, and neither do you! Fortunately, you can educate them by asking the right questions. Ask them about their previous experience buying and selling real estate (if any), and assess their understanding of real estate fundamentals (pricing, negotiations, time-on-market, the closing process, etc.).

People often don’t speak up when they’re confused because they’re afraid of bruising their ego. Reassure them at every step, and remind them that there are no stupid questions. The more they understand, the easier your job becomes and the happier your clients will be working with you.

Be Honest: Do your clients have an overly optimistic perspective because their last transaction went off without a hitch? Author and real estate coach Kelle Sparta says that, while you don’t want to scare people by listing everything that could possibly go wrong, you do want to acknowledge the more probable bumps in the road.

Show Compassion: Emotions are powerful, and sometimes even the most rational people lose their cool, especially with so much money on the line. Sometimes you can do everything right and still end up with a panicked client, and when this happens it’s best to lead with compassion. Acknowledge their concerns, allow them to express their feelings, and then offer your expertise as a beacon of hope. If you bypass empathy and go straight into solution mode, they’ll probably miss the solution and continue to panic.

If you’re dealing with a common situation, such as a low-ball offer for a seller or a bidding war for the buyer, explain that this is normal. Give them examples of similar situations, and let them know that it’s all part of the business. Occasionally, of course, you’ll deal with a genuine crisis, but the same principles apply! Do your best to fuse honesty and compassion, and forge ahead. Human beings can be surprisingly resilient with a competent ally by their side.