How Do You Fire an Awful Client?


We’ve all had them.

The nightmare clients. They say they want to buy a home, but six months later you’re still doing showings. They are slow to get their paperwork together. They call you constantly and refuse to respect boundaries. Unrealistic expectations abound.

Or maybe it goes a step further. Maybe they are trying to dishonestly hide problems with their home. Perhaps they are disrespectful, use crass language toward you, or make you feel unsafe.

Regardless, there are times the relationship isn’t working out. How do you tactfully let them go?

Screen Clients Carefully Before Signing an Agreement

One way to avoid awful clients in the first place is to screen them carefully before you work together. Real estate agents can definitely fall into the trap of being too eager and signing with new clients too quickly.

As someone told me early in my real estate career, “Buyers who buy, buy!” Essentially, if they are willing to move forward, they will do it quickly and decisively. So before you sign a buyer’s agreement, require them to be prequalified. Notice how quickly they move forward. Do they make excuses, delay, or drag their feet?

If so, you just found a “buyer” who probably isn’t ready.

With your listings, pay attention to how they talk about their home. Do they seem to have unrealistic expectations of a sale price? Are they listing their home simply to “kick the tires” on the market without any intention to follow through? Do they make the changes you suggest, such as decluttering, minor repairs, and yard work?

If they aren’t honestly going to sell, don’t spend the time.

Build an Exit Into the Contract

Both your buyer’s agency contract and your listing agreement should include escape clauses. This protects both you and the client from being stuck in an arrangement that isn’t working.

The contract can list specific reasons for termination, but there should be an allowance for unlisted causes as well. You’ll want to include a termination timeframe and require written notice, of course.

When the contract includes an out, you’ll never feel like you have to keep going with a bad client.

Let Your Broker Know

Unfortunately some agents try to hide their clients’ bad behavior from their broker and coworkers. While you certainly shouldn’t gossip, there’s nothing wrong with admitting things aren’t going well and you need help.

Sometimes a broker can step in and talk to the client for you, helping resolve a situation. Work with your broker to record what’s gone wrong and what remedies have been tried.

Keep Things Professional

No matter how angry or frustrated you are with a client, it’s important to take the high road. Keep things professional and stay in control of the situation.

If you have documented the problems and made good faith attempts to resolve them, and you’re still having issues, it’s time to move on. Arrange a meeting to let them know you will no longer be able to represent them. Stick to the facts of the matter and avoid personal attacks, no matter how the client responds.

You can have a cancellation of representation agreement already drawn up and ready to be signed. Be sure the cancellation includes another real estate brokerage or attorney who they can contact as an alternative. Give them a copy and keep one for yourself.

Be professional yet firm in the entire encounter. You don’t want to have the situation escalate or to go back on your decision. Be sure the meeting is in your office and that your broker is present.

Move on Professionally

Whew, it’s done! Once you’ve terminated a bad client you’ll feel a great sense of relief. However, it’s important to stay professional even after the termination. Don’t badmouth the client, gossip about them in the office, or share the story on social media.

Instead, get your marketing materials in order and get back on the road to finding profitable, easy-to-work-with clients!

How do you ensure your clients are dreams instead of nightmares? Share in the comments!