Austin TX Real Estate - Hill Country Austin Lakeway Homes for Sale: When to Part Ways with a Referral

When to Part Ways with a Referral

I recently received a referral from an out of state Realtor.  When she first mentioned the referral, I'm thinking "GREAT!"  Then she mentioned the area, and I was like, well, I don't really work all the way over there.  That's quite a drive, around 45 minutes to an hour away in good traffic. Over an hour during rush hour or any bad traffic.  She mentioned the price range and asked if I would make an exception because of the price range.  I agreed.

I spoke with the referral.  Turns out the situation was a little different than what the agent had described, but I still decided to work with her.  She does have a house to sell where she is, but she said she would entertain two mortgages.  I asked her if she would speak with one of my mortgage people to ensure proper education and information on what it takes to have two mortgages.  She readily agreed.  I passed her his information, and I also gave the mortgage person her information as well, with her permission.

Over the past month or so, she never once contacted the mortgage guy.  He left her several messages via phone and email, and nothing.  I then received a call yesterday saying she wants an apartment until her house sells.  I directed her to a great site online that will help her with an apartment, and show details of floorplans and is great for out of area apartment seekers.  I don't do apartments, I do residential real estate.  That's what apartment locators are for and there's about 2 apt locator companies on every street corner out here.  Very competetive.

I get a call from the referring agent late last night saying that the referral thought I was rude by referring her to a website for apartments when that's not what she wanted.  What?  She specifically said apartment.  The agent further explained she wanted a rental house up to $2500 a month.  $2500 a month in the DFW area??  She might as well buy a house and have the double mortgage!  I told her exactly how to find the good deals for rentals in our area, which is Craigslist.

The agent apologizes for the miscommunication.  However, the agent must not have called the referral back to explain things because I woke up this morning with a rude email from the referral about how she couldn't believe I would direct her to apartments when she wanted houses, and blah blah blah...

I responded back saying that maybe our personalities aren't a match and good luck with her move.

What would you have done?  Would you have continued to jump through hoops to please someone who can't be pleased just because it was a referral, and an above average price range?  I used to do that, because I know referrals are the blood line of our business, but I also know that I don't need to work with people that don't make an effort to work well with me.

Again, what would you have done?

Comment balloon 50 commentsDonna Harris • July 10 2007 12:13PM


A relationship with a buyer is a two way street.  You can only do so much - they have to do their part as well.

Do the apartment locators offer referral fees?  I know in this case it wasn't what she wanted, but if you could still get some $$ from the transaction...

Posted by Mike Fotiou, Calgary & Area Real Estate (First Place Realty) almost 13 years ago

Don't ever count on the other agent to communicate with the referral.  As soon as you know there is a problem, contact the referral immediately.  This could have saved the nastygram. 

There are times when you should FIRE a client and each of us have our own criteria for the termination.  I would have had to be there to make my own decision.

Posted by Richard Parr, Home Security Specialist - Greater New Orleans, Louisiana (ADT Security Services) almost 13 years ago
 You went the extra mile, I would have walked away too, politely.  LOL
Posted by Bob Sloop, Consultant, Indianapolis, IN (RS Mortgage Consulting) almost 13 years ago

Mike, Yes apt locators do referral fees, but the original agent would get that anyway, not me. But she doesn't want an apt, so that's not an option.  She wanted to rent for more than what her mortgage would be if she went ahead and bought a house.

Richard, In this situation, I had to count on the other referral because they've had a long term relationship.  She sold her the house last year, and it's currently been on the market about 4 months, and she told me she would call her.  I couldn't take the other agent out because she was very much involved. She would have been a fireable buyer if I continued to work with her.

Bob, Yes, THANK YOU!!  Working in an area that is way out of my target market (though I used to work over there when I chased every lead before becoming established) is just so hard to do.  Not only do you have to set aside time to show the house, you're setting aside over 2 hours just for the drive there and back.  That's an entire day appt each time she would want to see houses.  *arg*

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - almost 13 years ago
Now this is just plain weird!  I think you acted in an appropriate manner but sometimes people have different things going on in their own micromarkets.  For example, I do rentals but the coops are about half of what my commission was when I sold in Nebraska.  Not horrible IMHO.  Enough to keep me afloat in these times!
Posted by Renée Donohue~Home Photography, Western Michigan Real Estate Photographer (Savvy Home Pix) almost 13 years ago
Well each situation is different.  Again, I would have had to been there.  It sounds like for this situation you did all that you could.  Sometimes you just have to FIRE them.
Posted by Richard Parr, Home Security Specialist - Greater New Orleans, Louisiana (ADT Security Services) almost 13 years ago
I think you did the right thing some people are just hard to help. 
Posted by Vicki Bishop GRI - Alabama Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors®) almost 13 years ago

Donna I would have definitely parted ways.  I think you did just what needed to be done.  No matter what happened and no matter what you did, it probably would not have been satisfactory to her.   I haven't been selling real estate for long in Texas, but my broker has always insisted that we should take listings from people that we can work with and who will let us work with them.  She does not want us taking a listing just for the sake of having a listing. 

I had an instance a couple of weeks ago where my broker actually cancelled a listing agreement with a very difficult seller.  No matter what we did or said we could never make them happy.  At one point after they had been in our office, laughing and joking and eating candy, they left and called our home office telling them that we were not taking care of their listing like we should.  We had done nothing wrong and the home office verified that and told us that they thought the complaint was rather strange anyway.  At that moment my broker decided that she didn't want us working with people who would make pointless complaints.  We just did not need the listing that badly.  So, she called them and asked them to return to our office to sign the termination papers. 

We are professionals and if we conduct ourselves as such, we should be treated that way; just as we treat our clients.

Posted by Carolyn Shipp, Mineral Wells Texas Real Estate (Source 1 Real Estate) almost 13 years ago

I would have assumed that the other agent called their referral and explained the miscommunication as well. 

Regardless, I would have done the very same thing.  If the confusion and attitude has already started, and you haven't even met, then that's a good indication of things to come. 

Posted by Jim & Maria Hart, Charleston, SC Real Estate (Brand Name Real Estate) almost 13 years ago
I would have done the same things you described in your post.  I too do not take a referral lightly but I agree that there comes a time when you have to ask yourself whether or not this is working out.  It souds like you handled the situation professionally.
Posted by Cynthia Sloop (Community Association Manager) almost 13 years ago
Sometimes the chemistry is just not right. Or, as you mention, the logistics are such that is just makes no sense.
Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) almost 13 years ago
You can't please everyone. Walk away with grace. Maybe she will have an attitude ajustment and contact you. This may be a particular stressful time for her and she needs to get it together.
Posted by Rhonda Meredith (RE/MAX Top Realty) almost 13 years ago
Somewhere out there is a masochist that will enjoy the nightmare that this "buyer" will offer.  Personally, the match has to be right for both parties.  I would have cut the "buyer" loose after discovering that the loan officer wasn't contacted. 
Posted by Laurie Mindnich almost 13 years ago
THe key to success is to know when to walk away. The more time you waste with one client you could have closed 3 others. Let someone else deal with the buyer
Posted by Rebecca Savitski, NC Real Estate Listings (BSR Real Estate Group) almost 13 years ago
Donna, I believe business between 2 people must be mutually beneficial. that's not limited to just the financial part either. If one side is sucking the very life out of another then it is not mutual. I feel you did the right thing.
Posted by Wayne McMullan, Quinte Real Estate (Royal LePage ProAlliance Realty) almost 13 years ago


I believe this was a good move on your part.  You can not connect with every one and its better to cut the rope early and not waste anyones time.

Posted by David Keslar (First Call Mortgage Company) almost 13 years ago


I definitely think you did the right thing. We often go through a lot to keep our higher end clients happy, and then we think to ourselves, what are we doing? what is our time worth? are they really worth more than an average sales price client? (especially one who may treat us more nicely and be more of a pleasure to work with!)

Kudos to you for trying to make it work, but I definitely think you did the right thing.

~Maura Gebhardt

Posted by Maura Neill, North Metro Atlanta Real Estate (RE/MAX Around Atlanta) almost 13 years ago

I've learned to trust my initial gut instinct.  Every time I do something that I normally wouldn't just because of the price point, it always come back to haunt me.  If it's too far to travel for a low priced home, it's going to be too far to travel for any priced home.

Posted by Tim Maitski, Truth, Excellence and a Good Deal (Atlanta Communities Real Estate Brokerage) almost 13 years ago

Some so called "referrals" you're better off without.

I recently had one from a Realtor whose 'referral' was thinking of selling and moving someday maybe; you know one of 'those'.

He was also considering several parts of the country and had not settled on one yet.


Posted by Jim Lee, Portsmouth NH Realtor, Portsmouth, NH (RE/MAX Shoreline) almost 13 years ago
You did the right thing.
Posted by SHAUN WREN (LICENSE IS NOT PLACED) almost 13 years ago
Donna  - Those are the type of people who you let go and breathe a big sigh of relief!
Posted by Paula Henry, Realtor - Indianapolis Real Estate - 317-605-4174 (Home to Indy Team @ HomeSmart Realty Group) almost 13 years ago

WOW, I leave for a PAYDAY (closing), and come back to so many responses, I was like, Did I get Featured or something?  And then I checked and yep, I got me a star!!

Renee, rentals are definitely not worth it unless done in volume.  Most don't even give 50% like they use to.  We're talking like 25-40% of 1 month's rent.  For an average $1200 rental, where you have to show them the same amount of houses as someone BUYING a house, that's less than $500.  So not worth it!

Richard, Best Donald impersonation, "You're Fired!"

Vicki, Thanks!

Carolyn, I've done the same thing before.  Had a couple of sellers who wanted to sell their houses except they declined showings right and left.  I can't sell it if people can't see it, so I informed them they needed to find other representation because it just wasn't worth my time and energy anymore.  One took me several months to fire whereas the second one only took me a couple of weeks with the first experience in my frame of mind.

Maria, Thank you.  Yes, she seemed like she would have been a little (lot) difficult.

Cynthia, Thank you.  I just hate that I might not get anothe referral from her because she's already given me 2 others before. Oh well...

Steven,  Thanks!

Rhonda, That's what I have thought as well.  I've also though about what I would say to her if she had a change of heart... I'm not sure I would work with her.  She was just plain rude and unprofessional.

Laurie, I usually do cut them loose if they don't talk with my (or any other) mortgage person in a timely manner.  But, again, being a referral and knowing that she wasn't coming to town for another time, I was giving her time to make the calls... again, oh well...

Rebecca, I so understand what you're saying.  The closing I just got back from was just like that, but since it was parents of one of my other clients, I kept gritting my teeth and allowing things to frustrate me because of it being a referral.  If they were just someone off the street, I would have fired them a year ago... yes, worked with them for over a year!

Wayne, Thank you!

David, Thank you!

Maura, Yes, the higher end clients seem to be much harder to work, at times, than the average buyer.  I had to fire a $500k buyer last summer and my husband thought I was crazy.  They drove me crazy and I couldn't take it anymore.  The husband even called and we talked for 30 minutes about why he wanted me to continue to work with them, and I just had to stick to my guns and say no... very hard!

Tim, Yes, that makes sense, and I've had those thoughts before too... but I have a hard time saying no, so I said yes.  If was a lead from off the street, I would have passed her off for a referral fee.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - almost 13 years ago

Jim, Yes, I know one of "those" types... how can someone want to move and not know where?  It makes sense if it's within the same area and not sure, but I've had people thinking about Florida and AZ verse North Carolina... aren't all those places so very different?  So frustrating!

Shaun, Thank you.

Paula, I wish I could breathe a sigh of relief.  Instead, my blood is boiling and it made me so angry... but back to my mantra from yesterday's post, Breathe in, Breathe out, Repeat!

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - almost 13 years ago


I think that some people are just plain impossible and it seems that you did the right thing.

Posted by Colorado Springs Real Estate almost 13 years ago

I recently decided to not do business with a client.... was a realtor referral.

This guy was lieing on his loan application and I knew it!!! So I called the referral partner and told her that I was uncomfortable with the deal.
She appreciated the candor. Whether she dropped them too or referred them elsewhere, I don't know. But the key word is 'partnership'. <= not referer and referee(is that a word?).

Regardless of the source.... It is our choice whether to take the referral. Ther referring partner should understand that

Posted by Tom Burris, Texas/Louisiana Mortgage Pro - 13 YRS Experience (NMLS# 335055) almost 13 years ago
She sounds like she is just plain difficult. I think you were very professional and directed her where she was requesting.
Posted by Christy Powers, Pooler, Savannah Real Estate Agent (Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners) almost 13 years ago
She asked you for an apartment not a house....even if she had said she wanted to rent a house I would have sent her to a rental agent or website.  She obviously didn't know what she wanted and you should be ashamed of yourself for not reading her mind.  good luck
Posted by Klaus Nicholson, Realtor, Columbus Ga Homes, Fort Benning Homes (ROSE ANNE ERICKSON REALTY, LLC. Columbus Ga, Ft Benning, ) almost 13 years ago

Dan, Thanks! 

Tom,  I can't believe in today's market people are still trying to give false information on loan applications... what a "not so smart person".  BTW, Not sure if you recognized the situation, but this was one that I had sent you.

Christy, Thanks!

Klaus, You caught me there at the end.  I read the "you should be ashamed of yourself" about 3 times with my jaw dropped, before I continued the sentence... I've tried the mind reading thing many times, and it has never worked... I wish there was a real trick to it!

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - almost 13 years ago

Well, I see we have all wasted our precious time with "challenged" buyers. Sometmes they may work out, but most of the time we could be doing something more productive. It takes awhile, but we all learn to be discriminating and see a dead end relationship before we waste our resources. Regards all, DavidC

Posted by David M. Childress, I would love to be your Realtor® in Akron Ohio! (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) almost 13 years ago
Whether buyers or sellers, yes, of course we turn them down, even if they are referrals. If we aren't the right match for the client, we owe it to the referring agent to tell them that, so that they have an opportunity to find someone else who IS the right match.
Posted by Sharon Simms, St. Petersburg FL - CRS CIPS CLHMS RSPS (Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International) almost 13 years ago
My guess is that the referring agent didn't have the cajones to talk to the client and find out what was really going on-and if the shoe were on the other foot, that agent wouldn't waste time and gas money on a renter either.  I probably would have dropped them after not talking to my lender-but I would definitely drop by talking to the other agent first to protect the future referral business.  It's a good place to be in your business when you can turn it away.
Posted by Leigh Brown, CEO, Dream Maker - Charlotte, NC (Leigh Brown & Associates, RE/MAX Executive) almost 13 years ago

You did the right thing to dump them, but you just didn't do it soon enough.  The referring agent should have made it perfectly clear that the buyer wanted to rent first.  Then you would have the option of working with them or NOT.  Short term rentals are best found through the short term rental services.  Folks who want a "house" are not looking for a short term rental.  They're probably going to have to take a lease for a year.

Wonder when they were going to tell you about the Lab and the Shepherd and the Cat and perhaps a Ferret. 


Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 13 years ago
Since I'm new to the biz I'd probably stick with it, but I'm sure once I have more experience I'll be more discerning.
Posted by Julie McLaughlin (Staging Chico) almost 13 years ago

David,  Thank you.

Sharon,  Yes, I agree, thank you.

Leigh, No Joke!  PLus, that agent has an average price of $500k!  Big difference than my area.

Lenn, True, however I spoke with the buyer herself and she even said she wanted to entertain buying and doing two mortgages.  I even spoke with her about how a house would need a full 12 month lease if she decided the rent, and that's going to be $30,000 of wasted money if she did that, which made her want to buy a house more instead of rent.  The renting thing caught me off guard when I got the call yesterday.  I definitely agree that if it's truly short-term, a 3 month lease at an apt makes the most sense.  She should just hand that $30k over to me if she doesn't care about throwing it away!

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - almost 13 years ago

I wrote about this topic earlier in the week. The term of the day is Demon Customers and the trick is to figure out who they are and then fire them as quickly and gently as possible.

 Sprint just fired their 1,000 worst customers, they all called customer service over 25 times a month. Who is wasting your time?

Posted by Tom Royce (The Real Estate Bloggers) almost 13 years ago
I would have given her one more try by calling her and letting her know that it is important you and her to make sure each other understands want is expected of each.  Also would prefer to correspond by email so both of you have a paper trail of what has been said.  If that didn't work then.... Bu Bye!
Posted by David Slavin, CDPE, ABR, SRES Keller Williams Premier (Keller Williams Premier) almost 13 years ago

Tom, That is great that a company like Sprint can cut their losses like that.  I had not heard that.  Thanks for the information.

David, Thank you.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - almost 13 years ago
Donna, glad it wasn't me.  I was starting to wonder until half way down the post.
Posted by Missy Caulk, Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate (Missy Caulk TEAM) almost 13 years ago
Hey Missy!  I was thinking about that about 20 minutes ago thinking you would think it was your guys, but then I knew you would realize you didn't call me last night!!  Your guys are still coming into town this weekend, and I'm looking forward to meeting them!
Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - almost 13 years ago
Sounds like this referral has no idea what they really want. Maybe it would have been best to give her a call and tell her what you do and the type of people that you work with. If its not a match, its not a match. With more sellers then buyers it is never wise just to end a relationship that can be saved. I wouldn't jump through hoops with a client that is unwilling to be civil though.
Posted by Jeremy Redlinger, NMLS #627335 (Guardian Financial) almost 13 years ago


Hi Donna


I would have done the same thing! As a Real Estate Professional you have to set up some criteria for a prospect to qualify to become a CLIENT. All we have is time and that's irreplaceable.     

Posted by Freddie Moorer (Weichert Realtors) almost 13 years ago

I think dealing with referrals is very difficult when you find that the referral is not a good fit!  I try to let the other agent know right away -- It's good to interview the referral like any other client and see from the beginning whether they have realistic expectations --

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) almost 13 years ago

LOL, I recognized it....

I promise, I am not bad luck!


Posted by Tom Burris, Texas/Louisiana Mortgage Pro - 13 YRS Experience (NMLS# 335055) almost 13 years ago
Can you say Bi Polar?????LOL Cant ever make em all happy
Posted by Tom Engelhardt (First Choice Mortgage) almost 13 years ago


I wrote a very similar post myself. There are definitely times to "fire" your client. Sometimes it's just not worth all that stress for the money. There are more jobs out there that are worthwhile.



Posted by Cindy Lin, Host, The Home Staging Show podcast (Staged4more School of Home Staging) almost 13 years ago
Sounds like you did the right thing. There is only so much you can do.
Posted by Bob & Carolin Benjamin, East Phoenix Arizona Homes (Benjamin Realty LLC) almost 13 years ago


You did the right thing...If she was this much trouble before a transaction, imagine what this person would have been like during a transaction.

When I need to "fire" a client, my response is, "Maybe I am not the right agent for you"  It works every time.

Posted by Harold Watts, Palm Springs Real Estate Blog (Teles Properties) almost 13 years ago

Brian Buffini says it is a good thing to release some prospects back into the marketplace and say, "Swim free little fishy.  Swim free."  Of course, wishing them all the best while you are doing it.  If this client was getting that bent out of shape because you wouldn't assist them with something outside of your field of expertise then you are better off without that piece of business.

Some business will suck the life out of your whole business.  At least you were smart enough to see it.

Posted by Virginia Halter, ABR, CDPE, CRS, GREEN, SFR, SRES (RE/MAX Signature Properties) almost 13 years ago
There are some people I would have difficulty "wishing them the best" - if I had to get to the point of actually firing them. Just smile and grit your teeth and be glad they are gone! =)
Posted by Maura Neill, North Metro Atlanta Real Estate (RE/MAX Around Atlanta) almost 13 years ago
You can only do so much for some clients.  Not all clients, via referral or not, will work out.  The ones that won't...cut your losses!
Posted by Kaushik Sirkar (Call Realty, Inc.) almost 13 years ago