Your deal is on the skids. The inspection was a massive failure. It’s been two months on the market, and no buyers are biting. You missed a filing deadline, and your client’s dream home may now belong to someone else. All constitute a very bad day indeed, but mistakes happen and you’re human. All that’s left now is to do right by your clients and break the bad news in the best way possible.

Prepare for the Big Talk

You’re about to tell someone something they don’t want to hear. The best thing you can do right now is to make sure you’re the expert on the entire situation. The client-broker relationship is built on trust, and you’re tasked with reminding the clients why they should have any confidence in you at all. Know their story and the details of the deal backward and forward, and be ready to answer questions galore — no matter how uncomfortable they might get.

Watch Your Language

Trepidation about telling your clients a bit of bad news can lead to tons of beating around the bush, and that helps no one. Vague language, wishy-washy emails and overly technical terminology muddy the waters instead of offering clarity. Keep the conversation concise and get to the point. At the same time, though, remember that your audience will take cues from your demeanor. If you’re panicked or act defeated, that’s a sign that you’re a) not quite as professional as they thought you were, and b) probably not equipped to help see them through this bump in the road.

Swap out gloomy verbiage like “bad news” in favor of “a new challenge” or “change in course,” and keep your vocal tone and speed measured and calm.

Avoid the Big Three Pitfalls

  • Don’t wait. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s part of the real estate agent job description. It’s not all contract signings and commission advances. Sometimes you have to be the person to rain on a client’s parade, and ripping off the bandage will hurt far less than picking at the edges — especially if acting immediately leads to a better solution that might not be possible if you drag your feet.
  • Don’t laugh. It can be tempting to make light of the situation, but when money and shelter are on the line, people tend to lose their humor. Be serious, but not severe.
  • Don’t over-empathize. You’re bummed, but this almost definitely doesn’t hurt you as much as it hurts them.

Wrap It Up on a Positive Note

Much like leaving a so-so dinner with the taste of burnt garlic still lingering in your mouth, driving away from a disappointing meeting without a feeling of resolution can lead to negative feelings that last for days (or even longer). Assuming you still want a working relationship with your client, do your best to outline the silver lining of the situation. If at all possible, go one step further and detail your plan for making sure this snafu never happens again. Having an actionable solution on the tip of your tongue could be all you need to pull glory from the wreckage.

Real estate clients are making what very well might be the biggest purchase or sale of their life. Under that magnifying glass, even small blunders can appear to be enormous. At the end of the day, your clients don’t care about your feelings, your commission advance or your reputation, and yet all three of those things could well hinge on your clients’ satisfaction. Learn how to deliver bad news with grace and develop better outcomes for all.