The Moment Your Client Needs You Most

I'm a real estate trainer who travels the world teaching practitioners how to better their business. But when I played the role of the buyer this spring, I learned a few lessons.

I’m either your dream client or your worst nightmare. As a real estate trainer and speaker, I’ve spent the last 18 years teaching practitioners how to build their businesses. So when I found myself in the role of the buyer, my first thought wasn’t, “Which agent should I use?” Rather, it was, “Which agent is actually going to want to work with me?”

I didn’t initially intend to buy a house. I did what everyone does: I stalked the MLS daily like it was an ex-boyfriend. (Everyone does that, right?) I had recently sold a house that I loved and was renting short-term, which is basically the real estate equivalent of casual dating. I wasn’t even sure that I could love another house the way I loved my last one, figuring I needed to stay “house-single” for a while. And I certainly didn’t want to end up in a rebound house. But then it happened: a daily notification in my email, a click on the “see photos” button, and there it was. The One.

When they find out I recently bought a house, most pros say to me, “How did you ever choose an agent?” I laugh the question off — and then they say, “No, seriously, who did you use?” It’s par for the course, given that I know literally thousands of agents on a first-name basis. In this case, given the extreme seller’s market that I live in, I chose based on one thing: I needed a friend who understood exactly how emotional this would be for me. I needed a bulldog who would negotiate without emotion and firmly keep me where I belonged — out of the negotiations.

In my opinion, choosing a real estate representative is an extremely personal decision for a buyer. You want someone who speaks for you — as you — at the offer table, during negotiations, through inspections, appraisals, and all of the stressful moments. If I can give buyer’s agents one piece of advice, it’s this: Find out how your client communicates and realize that you are their surrogate in the home buying process. They want to know that you get them and are acting as they would.

My experience wasn’t all sunshine and roses. The listing agent lived a full 90 minutes away and didn’t know or want to learn how to use digital signatures. The negotiations took days longer than necessary, as everything had to be faxed from the seller to the agent, then scanned and emailed to my agent. By the final signatures, the paperwork was illegible. (It’s time to get with the times, people. This kind of behavior does you more harm than good.)

But in the end, I bought a house, and I love it more than I ever thought I would. I also learned a pretty big lesson along the way: Your job is not just to make the deal happen. It’s to be there in the moments of impact. It’s not just about the moment when the offer is accepted or at the closing table, when your client is the happiest. Those are the feel-good, slow-music, romantic moments. When I really want my agent is when the deal was tenuous and I was scared, or when the water heater isn’t working on move-in day and I just needed to vent.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: The biggest moment of impact is moving day. It’s that horrible, terrible day when everything I own is in boxes that have to be moved downstairs, across driveways, and back upstairs in a new house; when I am exhausted, broke, and would literally cut off my right arm for a pizza. That moment, my friends, is when you can shine. Show up. Text. Send a pizza. Be there. Because that moment is the absolute worst, and we always remember who was there for us in our worst moments.