Realty Agents and Clients:Fine Line of Personal Familiarity


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Working with home buyers and sellers in the sale or purchase of their home, falls on the personal side of their life. But maintaining a professional perspective on all the information that we know about the private side of their lives, can make it difficult when working with them or after you have closed a transaction, on how to respond to direct or indirect information concerning them. What to do, especially when some clients are referred by other clients of yours who might have a more intimate or familiar relationship with them and information comes to you second-hand related to important life changes about your clients.

With today's melting pot of ethnic, racial and religious origins, blended and multi-generational families and an outwardly more open society, it pays to be extra careful when responding to client news of an personal nature. Before setting out to write this article I talked to many of my past and current clients to hear what they say on this important topic that can easily derail business relationships. Here are some guidelines on how to cope with and respond to touchy or tricky situations with clients.

-Client. A customer whom we have served in our real estate business.

-Acquaintance. One who is familiar to an agent.

-Friend. A trusted, ally and supporter of an agent.

-Weddings. Don't call and ask why you weren't invited. Due to customs or finances you weren't. Send a card (no gifts, unless you receive a personal announcement but not an invitation in the mail) after seeing an announcement in the newspaper.

-Deaths. Send a card after seeing a public death notice. If the notice contains wishes of the family, follow them. Don't call for details or ask heirs about timelines for selling the deceased's home, it's a difficult time.

-Divorce. It's not a fact until you her it from one of the principals. Don't discuss details if you know them with anyone. Don't be surprised if you don't get the listing, sometimes one of the parties wants to use someone that doesn't know them.

-Affairs, flings and general gossip. You sell residential real estate, not super market tabloids.

-Births. Send a card after seeing a public announcement. Send gifts only if you receive a personal announcement from the parents. Don't go overboard on gifts.

-Miscarriages. Don't touch it, unless your client brings it up. And still think long and hard about what you say.

-Substance abuse. Again, it's not a fact until you her it from the principals. Many people are very private about this issue, tread carefully.

-Criminal charges. Everything is an allegation until a conviction is handed down.

-Bankruptcy. Money is a major topic that people avoid, especially if it is embarrassing. Have a mortgage lender review with clients personal information of this type.

-Same-gender *** identification. Principals and their families appreciate deferring to them on the dissemination of true and accurate information relating to this topic.

-Membership in organizations. Just because you see Marion or Mack at Weight Watchers or Al-Non doesn't mean anyone else needs to know. outside of these meetings, don't bring up your common membership in social situations unless your client does first.

-Illness. Alzheimers, cancer, and Attention Deficit Disorder are very personal matters, don't pry or patronize. People approach these situations differently, take your lead from those directly affected.

-Graduations. Unless invited to a celebration or the ceremony, a card is enough.

-Holidays. Factor in religious beliefs and customs, remember some couples have different religious backgrounds or don't celebrate or enjoy holidays.

Mark Nash is the author of “Fundamentals of Marketing for the Real Estate Professional", “Starting & Succeeding in Real Estate", “Reaching Out: The Financial Power of Niche Marketing", and “1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home". Mark is a contributing writer for: Realtor (R) Magazine Online, Broker Agent News, Real Estate Executive Magazine, Principal Broker, and Realty Times. He contributes residential real estate analysis to Business Week, CBS The Early Show, CNN,, The New York Times, and USA Today. View his books at


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