Let’s be clear: A real estate deal is a business transaction. Period. Yet as a real estate agent myself, I can verify that my relationships with clients can get rather intimate. Even intense.
It makes sense when you think about it: Given the gravity of such an expensive, life-altering purchase as a house, the situation can get emotional fast, blurring the lines between professional and personal far more than might unfold when you splurge on, say, a flat-screen TV.
The homebuying process is also complicated, so depending on whatever real estate curveballs come hurtling your way, your agent will likely become your shoulder to cry on, shrink, perhaps even your 24/7 hotline when you discover an email at 3 a.m. that your mortgage approval fell through.
In fact, a new survey from Century 21 finds that a majority of homebuyers and sellers say they value and confide in their agents more than they do a therapist, and even feel they know them better than their own neighbors.
Surprised? Not me.
Why real estate agents end up as ‘therapists’
Real estate interactions demand financial transparency. As such, real estate agents are privy, by profession, to the dark corners of your past that few get the privilege to see—including every number and nuance in your bank accounts, dings on your credit score, skeletons in your marital closet, and so much more, not to mention your individual tastes and personalities.
What sets a good agent apart from a great one is empathic ability, and while I’m not ashamed to admit that my intuitive connection with my clients helps me guide them to the closing table, it can be deeply challenging.
For example, especially when I’m representing a first-time homebuyer, in the time between submitting an offer and waiting to hear whether it’s accepted, I am often as nervous as my buyer.
Given that my buyers are on the brink of a long-awaited dream and spending the most money they likely ever will spend on one thing, that’s an intense cauldron of emotions. It sets the stage for a fraught milestone moment.
And the same is true for the seller, in different ways. Here, there might be financial stakes that can make or break their life trajectory. Furthermore, they likely have strong feelings about a home they’ve lived in for years.
The selling relationship also places a huge weight on an agent’s shoulders: In 2022, owners expect their properties to move quickly, but the pricing and marketing have to be on point. It takes a lot to place their trust in an individual to sell their beloved home, and sellers don’t hesitate to let me know: It’s on me.
The emotional roller coaster of a real estate transaction
Here’s where things get sticky: There is no such thing as a simple real estate transaction, especially today. You can lose your fifth bidding war. Problems can crop up with your home’s title. Your mortgage broker might ghost you. The home inspection might find a portal to hell in the basement.
Such issues can lead to agents and their clients having lengthy and urgent midnight phone calls. Sometimes tears are involved.
Then there are the especially needy clients. Some people require more handholding than others, and I am always there for it. But I will never forget a couple who insisted on monopolizing my time, multiple times a day, at all hours. The husband and wife didn’t seem to communicate very often, so I was fielding calls from both of them asking the same questions and frankly, just wanting to chat. I went above and beyond to deliver the white-glove service I am known for, but when a deal breaker emerged with a house they were in contract to buy, they walked away from the situation without so much as a goodbye. (I was informed by their attorney.)
Not gonna lie, it hurt my feelings.
With another recent transaction, I was lucky that the clients were referred to me by one of my best friends. It was wonderful getting to know them, and we got to the right place at the right time. I found them a great deal on their dream home, which is rare these days.
We arrived at the final walk-through—I had an expensive bottle of Champagne to gift them; they had their U-Haul and furniture in tow—to discover 4 inches of rainwater in the basement.
To say we were mutually devastated would be an understatement. After the seller repaired the damage and underlying issue—and much drama and tension—we finally got to the closing table.
And on this note, I would like to deliver the following PSA: While an above-and-beyond agent will always make time for you, please consider that they are real people, with real lives of their own and multiple obligations. What they are not? Your personal punching bags or psychiatrists. Boundaries, people!
Then again, there are the really positive stories. I have been blessed with many treasured, long-lasting friendships with some wonderful clients over the years. Besides the pleasure of each other’s company, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship when you can be on speed dial to give recommendations and guidance to your buyers/sellers/buddies long after the closing date has passed, and your new “friend clients” are more than happy to not only refer you to their nearest and dearest, but also to keep you in mind for future transactions.
When I get to closing day, it gives me nothing but pleasure to congratulate a new buyer or seller on a successful transaction. As agents, we’re here to coach you through some very stressful and vulnerable moments, crushing disappointments, and hopefully, one of the happiest days of your life.
Written by: Erin Flaherts; Realtor.com