How to Terminate a Bad Client Relationship without Burning Bridges
By Maggie Wilson @ Real Estate Daily
July 27, 2018

It is never easy knowing when to end a client relationship in real estate. Honestly, it just isn’t profitable working with some of the most challenging clients, most of whom carry unreasonably high expectations and overbearing personalities.

Ending a client relationship, however, is a tricky process that can quickly become emotional for both parties. Maintaining a degree of professionalism should be a top priority for all real estate agents going through client breakups.

Key Takeaways

  • Maintaining professionalism is of the utmost importance when ending a client relationship
  • Never end a client relationship in the heat of an emotional moment; take a day to cooldown and plan a tactful breakup
  • Watch out for red flags like poor communication, overbearing expectations, and disagreeable personalities


One buyer’s constant indecisiveness led to a breaking point last October between the client and Justin Paulhamus, MRP, associate broker at M Squared Real Estate in Washington, D.C. Paulhamus showed the buyer about a dozen homes that matched her exact criteria. Still, she discarded every one and refused to look at 50 other listings Paulhamus had found on the MLS. “I asked questions differently and listened intently to her needs,” but no amount of diligence made the relationship easier, Paulhamus says. “It was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. I never experienced anything like this before.”

After numerous failed attempts to help the buyer find a home, Paulhamus lost faith that he could serve his client to her liking and decided it was time to end the relationship. But Paulhamus, who says his face is “very expressive” and sometimes betrays the neutral facade he endeavors to project with clients, found it difficult to manage his own emotions through the irritating ordeal. “Every time I met [the buyer], I had to consciously think about how I was carrying myself—thinking before speaking and ensuring my tone was as vanilla as possible,” he says.

Maintaining professionalism—even with a maddeningly irrational client—is of the utmost importance, Paulhamus says. So when he felt like firing his buyer on the spot after she rejected the twelfth home he showed her, Paulhamus let cooler heads prevail, taking the evening to calm down. They met for coffee the next day, and he explained that he couldn’t represent her any longer. After providing referrals to other agents, Paulhamus wished her the best and left. “I could tell by her face that she was a little surprised,” he says. “I was completely honest with her, and I could see she began to understand my perspective.

In some cases, clients may be up front with you about their picky or overbearing proclivities. This can be an advantage for you, giving you insight into their personality and the ability to make a quick decision about what you will and won’t put up with before the relationship gets too deep. Michael Hausam, team leader of The Hausam Group at Shore Capital Corp. in Huntington Beach, Calif., recalls a startling and somewhat hostile disclosure one client made to him in the spring of 2008 right after signing a service agreement. “You can expect that every single thing you do will be subject to a microscopic evaluation, and nothing escapes my inquiry and notice,” Hausam recalls the client—an attorney—saying to him. “I don’t trust you, nor anyone else, and as a result, I’m going to make this entire process of working together an absolute nightmare.”

The ink on the agreement hadn’t yet dried when Hausam suggested that he might not be the best agent to represent the client. He recalls couching the kiss-off like this: “You know what, I’m not sure that I’m the right fit for you. Thank you so much, but I think it might be better for you to find someone else who can give you exactly what you’re looking for.” Hausam says he didn’t specifically address the client’s attitude in an effort to avoid offending him and making an enemy who could possibly harm his business in the future.

Though it may hurt initially, firing a client is often for the best for both parties. “While you’re running yourself ragged for a client who doesn’t respect your time, your industry, or whatever else you may be going through, you could be missing opportunities to work with people who value you,” says Katie Messenger, a sales associate with Keller Williams Realty East in Louisville, Ky.

View the original article at Realtor Magazine