Austin TX Real Estate - Hill Country Austin Lakeway Homes for Sale: The Buyer that Got Away

The Buyer that Got Away

I have been a REALTOR® for more than 11 years now. If I told you that I sold a house to every buyer I worked with, I would be lying. There are many reasons why a buyer doesn't end up buying with me, and the biggest reason is that some buyers just like to rent. They like to know if something goes wrong, they can call the landlord or management company and have it taken care of.  We call those people, "the eternal renter".

There have been a handful that went another direction for other reasons, like personality conflicts. If someone tells you they get along with everyone, they're lying!  We all have different personalities, and there is nothing wrong with not getting along with everyone. If everyone always agreed on everything, life would be boring.

There is one particular client that I sometimes wish I didn't let go. I was working up in Dallas at the time, and they were relocating to the area. They wanted to be in a price point that I had never worked before, up to $500k, so I was very excited to work with them! I was drooling over the potential commission since my average sales price at that time was just below $200k.

home buyer beggingThe wife was here in town with her two teenage boys, but the husband was not. That meant I had to show her houses and then later show him after she narrowed things down. This never works, and it didn't work this time either.  She wanted one thing and he wanted something else. They couldn't get on the same page. He was writing offers just for the sake of writing offers. They were low offers and they were on houses she didn't like. She didn't understand why he couldn't like any of the houses she liked.  She would get very upset.

After working with them for about 4 months and writing at least 10 offers, I finally told him that if he actually wanted to buy a house, he needed to have an actual conversation with his wife. I told him they were on two completely different pages of two completely different books.  He didn't understand.  I decided to be very blunt with him. I told him he was treating his wife horribly and he needed to be less overbearing and controlling, and actually listen to what she was saying.  I also told him that I wished him luck because I was not going to be working with them any longer.

He got very quiet.  He thanked me for my candor and that was that... so I thought...

A couple of days later, I got a phone call from Mr. Buyer.  He apologized for his behavior.  He asked me if I would work with them again. I asked a few qualifying questions to which he failed the answers to, so I stuck to my guns and said no.  He offered me a $1000 retainer fee to where I would get to keep it if they didn't buy a house within a specified period of time. I turned it down. We talked for over 30 minutes.  He literally begged me to work with them again.  I just couldn't. 

A few months later, I received a call from his wife. She thanked me for talking with her husband. She said that whatever I said to him must have worked because after several more months of looking at houses (with a different agent), he finally bought a house she loved.  She said they went through so many offers that she had basically given up finding a house and was very unhappy every time he suggested they look at more houses.

Am I disappointed that I didn't get that commission?  Sure, it would be silly to say I wasn't disappointed.  Am I disappointed that I didn't get to sell them their house when they finally bought one? No, not at all.  I canceled so many plans to work with these buyers. I even canceled a trip out of town because the husband just had to see this one house and that was the only time he could fly in for a couple of more weeks. I busted my hump for these guys, but they just weren't serious buyers. It took several more months and several more low-ball offers to get them to be serious, and that's not time I would have had patience for, and I have a lot of patience when it comes to helping my buyers buy a house they love.

This is a true story and it happened back in 2004. It's 7 years later and the conversation with both the husband and wife go through my head at least once a month. I replay the conversation, and I sometimes change the conversation to where I say yes to working with them... and then I play out the scenario in my head... I get frustrated every time, so it's good to know that I believe I made the right decision to not work with these buyers.

It's not all about the commission with me. It's about helping people who want my help, and even though the wife really wanted my help, the husband wasn't on board.

**Are You Packed Yet?**

donna harris Realtor Austin TX blog

Donna Harris, REALTOR®
RE/MAX Austin Skyline

Austin TX Real Estate

and the surrounding areas of Lakeway, Bee Cave, West Lake Hills, Cedar Park, Round Rock, Spicewood, Circle-C, Steiner Ranch, and everywhere in between... Hill Country Austin TX Real Estate and beyond. Whether you're buying or selling an Austin home, I'll be with you every step of the way. 

For real time Austin TX listings,click here.

** Multi-Million Dollar Producer Year after Year **

Copyright© 2011 By Donna Harris, All Rights Reserved. You may re-blog with links back to this post.
The Buyer that Got Away * was first published on


Comment balloon 15 commentsDonna Harris • December 14 2011 11:33AM


That is hard when you figure out you ar enot the agent that sold "your' buyer a house...I know there is a lesson in there somewhere.

Thank you for this post - I love to read these and find the lesson, for me.

Posted by Linda Edelwich, Glasotnbury Office's #1 Top Producing Agent-not on (William Raveis Real Estate) over 7 years ago

You kind of sumed it up. You just can't work with everyone and you can't dwell on the ones that got away. Ran into a buyer last night that I had showed some homes to. He had money but couldn't qualify for a loan. Was a carpenter that worked off the books. No income stream. He finally bought a home for cash which he absolutely refused to do when I was showing. Just have to move on.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max Southern Realty) over 7 years ago

Move on over I have been there and done that as well.

Two buyers that did a private deal right after the agency agreement expired. You need to get past the point and keep going ahead or the business will chew you up and spit you out. I always look at the situation and spend only a little bit of time on it to see where and if I went wrong, than I move on.

Posted by Gary Kyte (Royal LePage ProAlliance Realty, Brokerage) over 7 years ago

Donna thanks for sharing, we can always learn a lesson from others.   What's done is done all we can do is go forward and be the best agent to our next customers.

Posted by Carmela Jacobs, Ventura Co., Los Angeles Co., CA, & Global Realtor (Cornerstone Community Real Estate) over 7 years ago

There are some buyers you just want to go away, after spending countless hours of efforts to assist them in buying.  You can never get them out of your mind, but learn from them and understand they are really the exception to buyers that want to work with you.

Posted by Dan Hopper, Denver Realtor / Author / Advocate/Short Sale (Keller Williams Realty Downtown LLC) over 7 years ago

Great lesson in this story Donna. If they can't agree with each other, they're just putting you in the midst of their chaos. I kept looking for your post - you were the very first person to comment on this contest blog. Thanks for entering The One That Got Away Contest.

Posted by Karen Crowson, Your Agent for Change (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 7 years ago
Donna, all we can do is our best and can't change others. It sometimes becomes a challenge to please everyone.
Posted by Barbara Michaluk, Top Producing / Full Service REALTOR in Marylan (Weichert Realtors | Silver Spring, MD Phone Direct 240-506-2434) over 7 years ago

Interesting story and I think it illustrates the need to sit down with both parties and go through a detailed needs assessment to make sure that they both know what they are looking for.   Good post.

Posted by Chris Lewis, I want to SELL your home, not LIST it! (Gracious Living Realty) over 7 years ago

Donna, thanks for sharing your story. You did more for the wife than was asked of you.  You helped her in a big way and the fact that she called you to thank you and with an update says already how much she appreciated what you did for her.  Hopefully, she remembers you too when it is time for them to sell their home.

Posted by Anja Kerstens, GRI, CDPE, CHS, ASP, Selling Silicon Valley Real (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 7 years ago

Hi Donna...Great Post, we've all been there too...I think the Best Buyers to work with are your Client that you just sold their for working with buyers, it can and is very time consuming, We all need to qualify Buyers better...if you can work sellers only... do so, Only work with these Folks as Buyers when they want to buy or referrals they send you.

Merry Christmas-Fred Carver

Posted by Fred Carver Personal Real Estate Corporation, Accredited Real Estate Consultant (RE/MAX Camosun Victoria BC Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Good for you... putting your foot down!  I am surprised the $1000 retainer did not tempt you-- but I'm glad you are pleased with your decision!  Great story!  Kathy

Posted by Kathy Schowe, La Quinta, California 760-333-8886 (California Lifestyle Realty) over 7 years ago

Donna - Establishing our work boundaries is an often neglected aspect of real estate, and kudos to you for discussing the issues with your clients and making a business decision to release them.

Posted by Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities, Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A. (Charlemagne International Properties) over 7 years ago

Wow! WHat a doozie of a couple.  Not everyone's personalities mesh, you are correct, I think you did the right thing as you would have been so frustrated with their indecisiveness had you continued to work with them!

Posted by Kristin Moran, San Antonio,TX - Real Estate - 210-313-7397 (Owner - RE/MAX Access - over 7 years ago

Donna- it is hard to walk away especially after spending so much time with clients--sometimes it just has to be done. Good for you.

Posted by Linda Urbick, Selling San Ramon Valley - 925-786-5132 (RealtyOne Group) over 7 years ago

Thanks for all the comments. Yes, it's hard to walk away after you've put so much effort in, but it's easier to walk away when you're leaving them frustrated each time, and it prevents you from sleeping because you keep playing the events in your head over and over again.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - over 7 years ago