BEWARE! How Miscommunication Can Hurt Your Real Estate Business
July 16, 2022

BEWARE! How Miscommunication Can Hurt Your Real Estate Business

Miscommunication hiccups can happen to even the best of real estate agents – and it requires careful handling.   

I often say that we, as real estate professionals, need to police our industry in order to raise the level of integrity and respect from the general public. This includes being mindful of what we say and knowing how to respond to someone who oversteps. This article will dive deep into miscommunication, why it happens, and how to repair the damage.   

The Scenario 

A Power Agent® came to me recently to ask how to handle another real estate agent who had approached her seller after seeing the For Sale sign in his yard. This other agent didn’t disclose that she was a real estate agent and asked several questions to reveal that the seller had wanted to list their home for more, then told the seller that real estate agents are underpricing homes in that neighborhood. Even though this homeowner was already working with an agent, the other agent still had an informal listing conversation with them.  

The seller was now upset with the decision to list the home at a lower price and wanted to list it higher, despite what the market might indicate, now feeling justified, thanks to the interfering real estate agent.   

In an email, our Power Agent® coached this homeowner by saying that yes, they could list the home at the higher price, despite what the market was saying, but he had to agree to lower the price again if they didn’t capture any buyer’s interests. The homeowner didn’t respond.   

So, what went wrong? Here’s how we helped her to get back on track? 

The Psychology of Misinterpretation  

As a real estate agent, the client is your #1 priority. You want to ensure they are alright, particularly after things go sideways. The best way to repair the damage is to meet in person, or at the very least, have a conversation over the phone because many non-verbal cues can be lost over text and email.   

Psychology Today had this to say about miscommunication: “In the absence of facial expression, tone of voice, gesture or good old-fashioned ‘vibe,’ we have very little to help us discern what the other person is trying to tell us. Without these clarifying cues, we frequently ‘fill in the blanks’ with our customary worries and assumptions. So, if we are given to feeling criticized, we will read criticism into the words. If we are nervous about being rejected, ‘evidence’ confirming this will be easily discovered. If we are anxious about demands being made on us, many messages will read as imperatives. To complicate matters further, our relationship with the specific person who has sent the message—our particular thoughts and feelings about them—also informs the way in which we fill in the unknown or unclear parts of the communication, the blanks.” 

Related Reading: Psychology Today – Why Is There So Much Miscommunication Via Email and Text? 

Why Face-to-Face Is Best

Tone of voice and inflections are vitally important in performing damage control, and without them, you can inadvertently make the miscommunication worse. What you might think sounds “business-like” and “coaching” might be perceived as “bossy” and “controlling” or “giving an ultimatum.” This will only upset your seller and perhaps drive them away from doing business with you and into the arms (or contract) of the agent who interfered.  

To repair the problem, face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) and having a conversation to discuss the miscommunication and clarify the meaning will allow both parties to move forward. Getting back on track is much more difficult without understanding the tone and seeing the body language. 

Creating The Paper Trail 

Have you ever experienced two people telling the same story, but each person’s recollection of what was said and the events that happened were completely different? Even many law enforcement agencies will admit that eye-witness reports, while crucial parts of the investigation, are often unreliable.   

People’s impressions and interpretations of what was said can change over time, as can their feelings towards the situation, which then skews their memory. This is why documenting what was said in a follow-up via email is essential once you have fixed the problems created by the miscommunication. Summing up who said what, and outlining the decisions made for moving forward, will help everyone stay on the same page and give you a reference point later, should anything come into question.   

Now, you don’t want to make your seller feel like you don’t trust them. When you explain to the homeowner that you will follow up with an email, you can remind them that it’s for both of your sakes and blame your memory. 

You can tell your homeowner this: “Sometimes I don’t have the greatest memory, and I don’t want to forget what I said, so I’m going to send you an email that recaps this conversation so that we can make sure we’re on the same page and we remember what was said. When you get that, can you please email me back to confirm that I didn’t get anything we discussed wrong?”  

Giving them a chance to clarify anything you misunderstood will also help them feel heard and understood. Then, any time in the future when you are having a conversation with the homeowner and a disagreement arises, you can refer back to the email.

The Conversation With The Homeowner 

When you call or meet with your homeowner, this is what you can say:  

“My job is to help my homeowners get the most money for their homes. Sometimes, other agents will have a different opinion. Some of them are excited about the possibility of getting someone’s business, and they inflate the number, even though it isn’t the most accurate. There are many different reasons this other agent may have said what they said, and I would be happy to be wrong! So yes, let’s try it at this higher price and put those feelers out there. I’ll be honest with you, we should know how to continue within the first couple of weekends, but at some point, we have to agree that we’ve got to get off the dead horse, meaning, if it isn’t working, then why continue that. So, together, let’s agree on a time frame to try selling it at this higher price. Now, that agreement doesn’t mean it has to sell in that time frame because if we’re getting a lot of activity, and we’re getting offers, we’ll stay at that price, but we need to see interest from buyers to know if we’re right to stay at the higher price.” 

This conversation is one that you want to have face to face, and you are going to have all the paperwork there with you. Several things are going to be signed at that conversation: 1) the new listing agreement and 2) the post-dated listing agreement with the new price, based on the timeline that you discussed.  

Related Reading: The Price Discussion: How to Talk Sense (and Cents) With Your Clients  

Dealing with the Interfering Agent 

I fully believe we need to call out the behavior that gives real estate agents and the industry a black eye. What this other agent did was in direct conflict with several Code of Ethics rules. Trying to steal clients or interfere in another agent’s listing is a big problem, and my recommendation is to report them to your broker and file a complaint.    

In our scenario with this other agent interfering, she had not initially disclosed to the homeowner that she was an agent. She only admitted it once she started referencing prices and how the community is underpricing everything.  

This conduct is unprofessional and lowers the bar for the whole industry when we should be acting with integrity to raise that bar. We must demand better from other agents because if we aren’t, our homeowners and clients are the ones who are going to suffer the most.   

Related Reading: Standing Tall as an Agent of Integrity 

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