Six ways real estate agents can manage unhappy homebuyers

Having a dissatisfied client is normal, but how an agent addresses the issue reveals a lot

Six ways real estate agents can manage unhappy homebuyers

Being in a service-oriented profession, real estate agents deal with all types of clients on a daily basis. And one of the top qualities of a good realtor is the ability to consistently provide customer satisfaction. But even the best agents can sometimes encounter a client unhappy with their transaction, be it reasonable or not, and the experience is rarely pleasant.

“[Even] experienced agents can feel overwhelmed and put on the spot when confronted with a buyer who’s extremely upset and not afraid to let [them] know all about it,” wrote Chase Real Estate, a real estate agency based in Napierville, Illinois, in a blog post.

For some home buyers, the dissatisfaction can surface weeks or even months after the transaction has closed, which can hit agents unexpectedly. So, what can real estate agents do in this situation? Experts weigh in on how they can effectively deal with clients with an unhappy homeownership experience.

1. Understand the cause of their buyer’s remorse.

Buyer’s remorse, or what psychologists call cognitive dissonance, is that feeling of mental unease and tension that happens when you are at odds with your own thoughts and beliefs. Experts say that this persistent feeling of post-purchase dread is common, especially after a significant financial investment such as a home or a new car.

For homebuyers, this type of remorse may stem from finding out that the house they just bought is not as perfect as it first seemed, after discovering unexpected repairs, missing features, or rowdy neighbors. It may also result from concerns about the future such as meeting mortgage repayments if their financial situation changes, or when interest rates go up.

“Every buyer is different, but the big reasons for buyer’s remorse tend to stay consistent across time and space,” Chase Real Estate wrote. “If you, as the agent, understand why buyers tend to be unhappy in the homes they purchase, then you might be able to thwart any future buyer’s remorse well before it sets in and avert the situation entirely.”

The agency added that some of the complaints “are workable, if not entirely fixable,” and the agent can offer realistic solutions to the issues. Some solutions can include refinancing to help homeowners access a better interest rate or their property’s equity, or renovations that can make the home’s layout more appealing. 

2. Make the client feel heard.

According to experts, one of the smartest things an agent can do when they have an unhappy client is to make them feel heard.

“For whatever might be applicable, always remember to listen carefully, so that you may reflect back the information in order to check that you have similar understandings on what your customer is trying to say,” wrote the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors in a blog post. “In doing such things, you are deepening your understanding of your client’s point of view.”

In another blog post, Glenwood Agency, a North Carolina-headquartered real estate agency, wrote that listening to an unhappy homebuyer “isn’t an admission that you did anything wrong” or “that you have do anything moving forward to rectify the situation.”

“It’s connecting with them as a human and telling them that you understand that they are upset and why – that’s it,” the agency added.

3. Assess your responsibility.

After listening to a dissatisfied client, experts also suggest that agents take time to reflect on what the client has said and “minutely and ruthlessly” assess their behavior during the transaction.

“It’s possible that you could have done more in your service to them as an agent or preparing them for the realities of homeownership, or that there’s something you can do today to help them (or both),” Glenwood Agency wrote. “It’s also possible that you did everything you could have reasonably been expected to do (and then some) and there’s really not much you can offer them in terms of rectifying the situation.”

The agency added that having an unhappy customer does not make one a bad real estate agent but ignoring a buyer’s concern and acting like “it wasn’t your fault when you know you could have done better” is certainly not the mark of a good agent, either.

4. Discuss the situation with your broker.

It would also be helpful if the agent can discuss the issue with their broker, according to experts. Brokers might have policies in place on handling unhappy homebuyers. They might also be able to provide solutions or help agents determine the limits on the measures they can use.

5. Offer a reasonable solution.

“If the buyer’s ask is something within your power to execute, you’re willing to do it, and you can deliver the result with a level of polish and silver-tray execution that puts a smile on your buyer’s face, this can be a big opportunity to salvage the scenario,” Chase Real Estate wrote.

But the agency cautioned realtors to “not lose sight of what’s reasonable within your scope of power.” It added that some requests are plain unreasonable and not workable.

“You want your clients satisfied, of course, but you also don’t want to throw good time after bad if there’s no end or resolution in sight,” the agency added.

6. Learn from the experience.

Although the experience is unpleasant, experts say that encountering a remorseful homebuyer can also be a good learning experience. It gives agents an opportunity to assess the process, determine where the disconnect happened, and find ways on how to prevent similar instances from happening in the future.

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