How to Deal with Difficult Agents

by Peter Thomas Ricci

Though we’d like to think that everyone is real estate is wonderful, there are undeniably some bad apples out there; here’s how you can deal with them.


Real estate is a buzzing, active industry with a wonderfully diverse group of professionals leaving their mark, and for the most part, the industry those individuals are highly pleasant, competent people.

However, as with all industries, you’ll inevitably encounter some bad apples in the group, and those transactions will be more difficult than others.

If you’re dealing with a difficult agent, though, particularly one who is dismissive, irritable and unmoved by your efforts, how should you respond? Here are three suggestions to consider:

• No Stoopin’ – Above any of the other suggestions we make in this post, the most important is to not stoop to the level of the difficult agent. Though our pride may try to get in the way, it’s a far more beneficial position to take the high ground and be the adult in the room. Along with the purely ethical reasons for that strategy (because let’s face it, will getting into a shouting match with another agent sell a home any faster?), you’ll also strengthen your relationship with your clients immeasurably by showing yourself to be a professional, focused agent worthy of their business.

• Keep Your Client Informed – Also, throughout this process of working with the difficult agent and trying out any other approaches, you’ll want to keep your client abreast of the situation, so there is no misinformation being transmitted of why the transaction is being held up.

• Contact the Agent’s Managing Broker – If you’re being professional and staying focused on the transaction before you – yet, the fellow agent’s behavior has not improved one iota – there’s nothing stopping you from discussing the matter with the agent’s managing broker. After all, the managing broker is there to ensure smooth working relations among the office’s staff, and they could be exactly what is needed to bring order and civility to the transaction.

• Get Thee to an Association – But if even that doesn’t work (and especially if the agent runs their own brokerage), you’ll have to consult your Realtor association. If the agent’s troublesome behavior is truly compromising the chances of your deal, then let’s face it, you have no excuse not to file an ethics complaint. As we reported in our Association cover story, ethics complaints make up a hefty share of Realtor resources, and if you’re a due-paying member, there’s no reason not to take advantage of that resource and protect you, your client and your transaction.

Michael Parent, the managing broker of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in St. Charles and the 2012-2013 president-elect for the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors, said he stresses to his agents to keep everything in writing, so they’ll have a better case to make for their association.

“The biggest thing you can do is keep things in written communication,” he said, adding that from emails, to text messages, to other written documents, anything in writing will make a stronger case than a he said/she said scenario.

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  • Dawn Ohnstad, Realtor, CRS says:

    When emailing a difficult agent we include Read Receipts in email settings as well. When touchy issues are discussed I then follow up with a bullet point recap and ask the agent to confirm, correct, or amend to ensure that no miscommunication has occurred. This saves us from misunderstandings and provides a more “sane” unemotional avenue fir keepong things moving along.

  • Fran Griffin says:

    I doubt Michael Parent can can produce even one example of anything being done about a “difficult” agent. Nor to a managing broker, anyone. As long as their fees are paid, no one cares. I have dealt with agents who lie about anything and everything, refuse to present offers, fail to respond:: blatantly break every ethical and legal rule. You can document everything, nothing will happen. The “Managing Broker” will defend them, make excuses, or try to blame others. As long as an agent brings in money, nothing will be done.

  • Jeanne Cadwallader says:

    I think there is a lot to be said for bringing the “human” factor back into our relationships with other agents. I like to meet the agent, and hopefully the buyers/sellers that we are working with so that I can use kindness and humility to start the transaction off with a softer touch. Don’t kid yourself there is a spine of steel and strong business skills behind this kindness but working “together” is much easier when you can put a face and a smile into the transaction. It’s worked for me for 35+ years 🙂

  • Kathy Repsis says:

    I agree with Mike Parent, unfortunately we have to document everything nowadays, it has become more and more a legal issue. There are times I feal more like a lawyer then a realtor, I keep many notes right on the transaction folder noteing date, time and who I spoke to or if you feal the transaction may turn ugly a ‘NOTE TO FILE’ journal may be in order
    Kathy Repsis Coldwell Banker/Elmhurst

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