Real Estate Clients – Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Agents will talk with other agents about it, but rarely speak publicly about it.  I’m talking about getting fired by a client.

As it turns out, sometimes things just don’t work out right.  For me it is terribly frustrating when it happens.  I’ve had quite a few clients that decide not to buy or sell, but I’ve also had a few clients over the years that have fired me.  They either choose to cancel their contract early (which I always offer to all my clients if they are dissatisfied) or they choose not to renew upon contract expiration.  This has happened for both buyers and sellers.

Truth of the matter is that while this is just the cost of doing business and I typically have not given much thought to it after it happens, there are a few situations that have really bothered me:

  • In one case the clients went and bought a FSBO without me and without giving me a chance to negotiate a commission with the seller.  It was after I had spent many hours showing them other homes and discussing the neighborhoods and market.
  • In one case we wrote an offer, the deal went sour, and then the buyer decided that they didn’t like Dual Agency, even though it had been disclosed and discussed months before and the deal fell apart due to the seller and buyer not being able to negotiate out the inspection, not because of dual agency.  In that case I asked them to let me show them more houses and offered to walk away if they decided they wanted to buy another house listed by my broker (1 in 5 chance), but they refused.  Bye-bye 6 months of a client relationship.
  • Most recently, I was working with a buyer for about a month.  We had made one offer that didn’t go through and were having conversations via email and SMS almost daily.  On Thursday we decided we needed to do another search for homes and I promised to email him some that night, but forgot.  I had a busy Friday and some personal and business activities over the weekend.  Monday morning comes and I get an SMS message saying: “Since you don’t seem to be interested in my business, I am going to find a different agent.”  Apparently the fact that he didn’t contact me to inquire about the email doesn’t seem to matter.

While there is a significant cost to that lost business… probably $15,000 in total… it is more a personal frustration than a financial one.  In all of these situations I felt that I had established a good client relationship with these people and that they would be loyal because they knew I was working hard for their best interests.  So that’s a total of three times in five years that I felt personally hurt… given the number of customers I’ve worked with, that is extremely low!  The problem is that even one is hard to handle, because I always want 100% customer satisfaction!

This is definitely a business, but it is a people business.  When you spend so much time with a client that you get to know them, breaking up is hard to do!


  1. says

    Refreshing to hear another agent is frustrated/hurt by the “breaking up”. My goal also is 100% satisfaction and I’m harder on myself than I am on anyone else when I can’t produce that satisfaction. That is one reason why listings are harder than buyers because I have less control over finding a buyer for a listing than I do over finding a home for a buyer client! I’ve had 4 firings in 14 years. They were all equally tough, but one especially was hard because 2 days before I was fired I got an amazingly flattering e-mail describing all of my good service and professional expertise. They had refused 3 full price offers prior to that e-mail. They went to an attorney and the attorney changed their mind about my services. I asked for suggestions for improvement, but they declined. I still don’t know what I did wrong. Colleagues think they used the attorney as a scare tactic to cancel the contract. They sold a month later with terms similar but $1000 less than the 3 offers they declined with me. That one was the hardest of the 4.