The Short List: Christi Borden’s Tips for Managing Clients’ Unrealistic Expectations

by James McClister


Christi Borden is HAR’s 2013 Realtor of the Year and a Realtor at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Green working in Houston.

Every week, we ask a real estate professional for their Short List, a collection of tips and recommendations on an essential topic in real estate. This week, we spoke with Christi Borden, a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Green, who shared her tips for managing clients’ unrealistic expectations. 

I have had the pleasure of serving Houston area buyers and sellers now for 10 years, and one of the most important roles of a Realtor is to help manage expectations of our clients. Unrealistic expectations can actually keep a buyer or seller from realizing their dreams and achieving their real estate goals. The most crucial meeting I have with my clients is the time we spend up front going over their expectations of the process. This helps me make sure I can meet those expectations. And if not, then I work hard to help the client understand the reality they face.

5. First, it is very important to determine how the clients actually set their expectations. Was it from friends, family, co-workers, past experience… television? I love real estate television as much as the next gal, but we all need to realize that it is for entertainment purposes only and rarely has a connection to reality. Determining the root of the unrealistic expectations will be helpful in working with the client so that they can revise expectations to match the reality of the situation at hand.

4. Fully explain what is going on in the market at this time so that you can help the buyer or seller understand the challenges they face. For buyers in a seller’ market, there are no “deals” to be had. Buyer needs to be prepared to bend to the seller’s terms. International buyers usually have to face an adjustment of expectations due to cultural negotiation differences. For a seller in a buyer’s market with stiff competition, sellers must be prepared to do all it takes to entice his or her buyer away from the competition.

3. Demonstrate first-hand the “reality” of the market by showing buyers’ homes that have just closed similar to what they desire, and sharing the market values of those purchases. For sellers, I often take them around to view competing properties so that they understand what they are up against. Many people have to see, touch and feel what you are trying to portray, so any time spent doing so will help them better understand and accept the new reality.

2. Explain to clients the necessity of compromise. In our market, a strong seller’s market with very little inventory, a buyer will most likely have to make a compromise on either desired community, desired home or desired budget – at times, this may include a compromise of all three. Basically, if you want the best community, you will compromise on the property and budget. If you want the best house, you will compromise on the community and maybe budget. If you want the best budget, then you compromise on community and property. I also discuss with them the potential negative ramifications of these compromises for when they wish to sell in the future.

1. And finally, sometimes you may not be able to help this client understand that their expectations are unrealistic, and they may need to wait until the market better fits their needs. I have talked a lot of clients into waiting until timing was better suited to their individual situation.

Helping a buyer or seller set realistic expectations and strategies for achieving their dreams is so important and should always be the first step when working with a new client. This can and will save a lot of time, headaches and heartache when reality inevitably bumps up against the wall of unrealistic expectations.

A world traveler and Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene, Christi Borden brings a unique perspective to the Houston real estate market, which has helped her stand out as a top producer and garner recognition from the Houston Association of Realtors, who named Borden its 2013 Realtor of the Year. 

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