It happens only rarely, but you will encounter them in every sales role in every industry – difficult clients. Most often, the challenges that arise in client interactions remain minor, mere blips in an otherwise manageable, even successful relationship. Sometimes, understandably, the stress of searching for a new home, especially under a tight deadline, manifests some unsavory emotions or behaviors that get in the way of good communication and decision making (compassion and empathy will go a long way in these cases). In fact, assisting people as they work through these difficulties often makes the job more rewarding and meaningful.
A tiny minority, though, may exhibit more extreme traits, posing another range of challenges altogether, from the overly nitpicky customer to the extremely uncommon, mad-at-the-world misanthrope. Not even real estate can escape the occasional negative person for whom even the excitement of finding a new home cannot temper their dissatisfaction.
Thus, while the vast majority of our clients bring great joy to our lives and make the job worth doing, professionals working in sales need to establish a set of ready responses for coping with less favorable circumstances. So, what should you do when handling those more challenging customer relationships?
Our apartment locators offer some strategies, based on their own firsthand experiences, for what to do when you must navigate a tricky situation.
Tips for How to Deal with Difficult Clients in Real Estate
Be Clear, Specific, and Lay Out a Step-by-Step Plan
Some clients, especially people new to renting, just want to understand how the process works and make sure that their leasing agent has their best interest at heart. Thus, Lenny Harrington, an Austin Apartment Locator, recommends “asking lots of questions and establishing a timeline with time sensitive next steps that are actionable.”
Practice Radical Transparency
This particular tip will go far no matter what type of client you’re working with, but some customers, more than others, need to know every detail about what’s happening in order to assess whether their search is on the right track. For these people, Harrington recommends “really showing every part of the process and being much more transparent than usually needed, difficult clients just want to know what’s going on!”
Be Encouraging, but Also Realistic
Sometimes clients feel discouraged, and negativity begins to creep in. We reached out to Scott Bratt, one of our Denver experts, to get some advice for how to manage the range of scenarios in which clients begin to feel down or let their doubts take over. Here’s what he suggests:
“I try to back up and zoom out to the reality of the situation. It’s a tough market, so you have to be diligent and expect friction, but also know that you’ll ultimately find a place.
When it comes to analysis paralysis, I try to encourage the idea that no matter what, there are good options, and there will only be marginal differences between one and another when trying to decide—but all our buildings will be a good landing spot.
Many people also arrive with an impractical or unrealistic conception of what they want. Or, in most cases, a discrepancy emerges between what they idealize and what they truly want once seeing actual buildings and units in real life. For example, they come to the realization that they don’t actually need that island or south-facing window after all. So, I coach them on being more open and optimistic about the possibilities.
When a client feels fatigued or unmotivated, you just have to be a supporter and highlight the positives. Make sure they know they are not alone and have an expert on their side who wants the best for them and will stick with them the whole time.”
The source of a client’s discouragement will vary from one situation to the next and from person to person, but as Bratt explains, adapting and responding with care can turn the tone of the relationship around.
To Combat Sticker Shock, Negotiate and Educate
High rent costs and hidden fees can frustrate even our best clients. Even when we find excellent concessions, it can feel like that amazing apartment remains out of reach. The best methods for bringing clients back on track when sticker shock hits are to negotiate their list of priorities and educate them about how local rental markets work.
Scott Bratt, for instance, reviews a client’s must-haves versus their wants, and works on trimming down their expectations to match their budget: “When it comes to prices and not finding the right place, I try to impose rationality and create compromises about what sacrifices will still lead to a positive outcome. So, I work on identifying and narrowing down their true priorities.”
Curtis Crowell, a Team Lead in our Chicago markets, adds that “a lot of times clients are unhappy because of pricing, especially coming out of COVID and after receiving extra large concessions. The key is using the resources our site offers and our expertise as agents to explain how the market in Chicago or any other local market works.”
We all know that money is a sensitive topic, but resetting a frustrated client’s expectations with these methods can steer a straying ship back on course.
Know When to Break Up
On rare occasions, you simply won’t be able to help, and the earlier you come to that realization, the better. In other words, learning how to deal with difficult clients in real estate can mean learning when not to work with them. Bobby Brandt, one of our Austin Locators, clarifies the importance of learning when to break up with a client:
“Being very direct is key for dealing with difficult clients. Working with multiple clients at a time, sometimes dozens of them, can be very time consuming, and our time is very valuable. Difficult clients can take up a lot more of our time, so we have to be careful about not letting these clients take away from time spent helping others and doing other value-added tasks. It is important to determine early on in the process if a difficult client is going to be a good use of our time. We want to help as many people as possible, but if a client is not going to be a good use of time, you need to know when to move on.”
Show Clients What Makes AptAmigo Special
Not all brokerages are created equally, and that reality rings especially true in the rental world. For some real estate companies, leasing serves as more of a side gig for agents who prefer attending to home buyers and sellers. Others simply don’t apply the level of dedication to excellent customer service that AptAmigo prioritizes.
As a result, Curtis Crowell points out how “we come across clients who have had bad experiences with other agents in other brokerages, and I think explaining the benefits of using our site, with our up-to-date pricing and availability, helps us create a more real time and authentic client experience. That’s what separates AptAmigo from the rest.”
At AptAmigo, we work as a team and love to support each other’s efforts. Aside from teaching you how to deal with difficult clients, our career blog demonstrates how we stick together by offering advice for agents that helps everyone succeed. Hear from our experienced Apartment Locators on a wide range of industry topics, such as how to leverage your mentorship opportunities.
Work with the Best Clients When You Work for AptAmigo
Every job comes with its challenges, and in sales difficult clients will pop up from time to time. If you want to work with the best clients and receive the best mentorship in the industry, consider AptAmigo. We provide the resources, training, technology, and operational systems that will lead you to successful career outcomes. Review our job ads, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.
AptAmigo is proud to be an equal opportunity workplace and does not discriminate based on race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, genetic information, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law, in connection with any aspect of employment at AptAmigo.
Karrie Fuller earned her PhD in English from the University of Notre Dame. After a decade of teaching college-level writing and English courses, she brings a wealth of expertise about writing, editing, and content management to AptAmigo's marketing team.