Managing Clients’ Expectations in a Seller’s Market: Part 1/2

Selling Real Estate Residential Real Estate Lawyer

Most real estate clients start out happy. And if we’re good, most of those clients who start out happy will end the transaction happy also, which of course is the foundation of a successful career in any service business that requires referrals to grow.

But what about those real estate clients who end up dissatisfied, and unwilling to recommend us to others? Or, worse yet, who actively discourage other potential clients with their “bad experiences” with the real estate professional. I began thinking about this recently when a returning client called me to represent them in the sale of a condominium that they had bought with my representation a few years ago. The broker who referred me the client originally was not on the new deal, and the client was quick to let me know why. “He lied to me,” offered my client, referring to the broker who introduced us two years ago. I had not asked why they were not using this broker, but the client was quick to offer me their dissatisfaction still fresh in their memory even though the original transaction closed over two years ago.

It turns out the “lie” that caused this repeat client of mine not to be a repeat client of the broker was, in fact, not a lie at all. Turns out the broker had told this first time buyer that since the apartment was on the top floor of a 10 unit building, he could build the roof into a roof deck, he would just need to “file some permits” and “get permission from the board”. The client explained that he fell in love with the apartment without any interest in building out the roof and never raised the roof issue with me because, frankly, he didn’t really care about it and had no interest in incurring the expense to do so. But a month after moving into the apartment he had another resident in the building over for drinks, who happened to be on the board, and after mentioning casually what the broker had said about the roof was surprised to hear the board member state – unequivocally – that the board would never permit any use of the roof because the building engineer had already determined that it was structurally risky to have even limited use of the roof as an outdoor space.

It occurred to me that the broker was merely suggesting a possible use of the roof casually, but without any inquiry into its likelihood of approval. And, more importantly, the result for the client would have been the same with or without the comment about the roof: the client would still have bought and had no intention to develop the roof notwithstanding its likelihood of approval.

Are there some rules that real estate professionals can follow to avoid the same result? Next week I will share a few rules with you that I think will help.

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