Are there dangerous clients in commercial real estate? Absolutely; yes is the answer. You will come across them all the time. You must protect yourself from these clients that are out to manipulate the deal for themselves without true transparency.
Ethics in our industry is really important. Poor quality clients can derail your listing integrity and commissions. So the message is that you should keep to the rules in the industry that protect your actions and listing activities. Clients that are less than honest can destroy your business in many different ways.
So here are some signs to look for when it comes to client selection and communication:
- Watch out for the clients that will not sign an agency appointment ‘until you find a buyer or tenant’. The request happens all the time in our industry but you cannot and should not act outside of the laws of commercial real estate agency in your location. You are bound to act legally and with integrity; if the client wants you to ‘bend the rules’, they are not a client to have and you simply cannot trust them. In those circumstances walk away from the deal or the listing. Let some other agent waste their own time and risk legal action. It is not fun when legal claims are made against you.
- Some clients work with many agents. Now this is just fine if all relationships are ethical and legal, but your listing and negotiation information should be protected by a valid appointment to act and an established client and agent relationship. If you suspect that the client is sharing your ‘market intelligence’ with other agents, you could have a problem.
- If your client avoids giving you an exclusive listing, it can be a sign that you really do not have their commitment and trust. They could also be working with many other agents at this very moment in trying to sell or lease the property. Ask the questions and get to the real facts of the matter.
- A reluctance to give you full access to the property or comprehensive property detail is a sign that something is going on. A similar problem is evident with the client not disclosing tenant and income detail for the property. If the client is not being open and honest, step back from the deal until you know all the facts. Get copy of all current property related documentation before you go to the market, negotiate, or talk to other people. Understand the facts that are before you.
- Failing to put things in writing can be a big problem in our industry. Many conversations across the telephone happen every day. Always keep your notes of client and customer conversations and instructions. Evidence the matter back to the other party in an email or similar written or electronic form.
Lastly something should be said regards confidentiality. Know who your client is and what their instructions are. Keep client agent discussions and instructions confidential. Disclosure of privileged information can get you into a lot of trouble.