Working With Conflicting Couples: The Role and Responsibility of the Agent

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 15 January 2019 15:57

In a perfect world, a couple looking to buy a new home is always on the same page in terms of what they both need and want in a property. Their lists of “must-haves” are the same and they agree on the major considerations including school zone, neighborhood, commute and more. Yet, even the most prepared real estate agent will occasionally encounter couples who aren’t quite there yet. Maybe one person wants a quiet house in the suburbs, while the other would prefer the proximity to amenities that the city affords. Or, maybe there’s a disagreement over budget, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms required, the amount of land desired, or other points of contention.


In these cases, what is the agent to do? Is his or her job to be a mediator, a bystander or a little of both? Today, we’re discussing ways that a professional in this industry can successfully navigate this dissent and lead the couple into a territory of agreement and open-mindedness.


Encouraging Communication and Open-Mindedness

One of the advantages of teaming with reputable real estate agents and brokers is these experts can often pinpoint properties that appeal to even the most divided couples. In many cases, the disagreements spur from each side thinking that their way is the only way and that a compromise or workaround isn’t available. An agent can take the time to hear both sides, listen carefully to the wishes that are outlined and use that knowledge, in combination with local connections and industry know-how, to find places that have a little bit of everything.


Take, for instance, a couple that disagrees on how much land they want to buy along with their home. Someone wants just a concrete slab in a neighborhood while the other dreams of spreading out on a few acres. A knowledgeable real estate agent will find properties that lie in the middle ground. For instance, the couple may tour homes built in neighborhoods where each home sits on one acre. This allows the first party to get that feel of community while also ensuring the other party that they won’t be living directly on top of their neighbors.


The same compromising tactic can be applied to myriad other dissents that may arise, from budget to square footage. The key is keeping an open mind while you listen to each side of the story, and encouraging the couple to do the same.


Ask Plenty of Questions

Sometimes, disagreements around a property might seem straightforward, but are indeed more complex and multi-layered than they appear. While a real estate agent shouldn’t take on the role of relationship therapist, it is helpful to ask as many questions as possible to allow the couple to open up.


For instance, you might find that one person is bent on living near the city, while the other can’t understand the draw. That’s all you know for a few minutes. Then, after further discussion, you discover that the first person really just wants to be near culture and music, as the arts are a priority. In this case, it might be possible to find a property in the suburbs that is only a few miles from the nearest symphony hall or concert venue.


Taking blanket statements such as “I don’t want to spend an arm an a leg” or “I just don’t see myself in the country” for their base worth and not digging into them could leave an agent challenged to find a property that meets expectations. Yet, when the layers are peeled back even just a bit, the bigger picture becomes infinitely clearer. Be careful not to let an agent/client discussion continue on for hours, however, as each side airs grievances. It’s wise to keep these conversations structured and even timed, if necessary, to make sure everyone stays on track and keeps the bigger picture in mind.


Don’t Be Afraid to Bring in Back-Up

Sometimes, a couple may use a new housing decision as a front to cover up deeper issues in their relationship. If you sense this might be the case, you’re within your rights to recommend a therapist or couples counselor to help them work through their problems.


Then, encourage them to come back to you once they’ve worked through their personal matters in a more detailed manner. Debating on white versus stainless steel appliances is one thing, and is usually a matter of personal preference. A couple that is having second thoughts about living together, harboring resentment over living closer to one side of the family, or disagreeing entirely on which county to live in might require a little more time.


Navigating The Role as Agent/Advisor

As a real estate agent, you see families, couples and individuals from all walks of life. It’s part of what makes the job so universally appealing, interesting and downright fun. Yet, this also means that you may encounter your fair share of conflict while on the job, and that can be an uncomfortable position to be in.


Rather than sitting down with the couple for hours and listening to them hash it out, attempt to create an environment of structured, timed conversation that allows both parties to be heard. Ask questions and encourage them to explore their reasonings as thoroughly as possible. Then, you’ll be in an ideal position to recommend compromises that may appeal to both sides. In the event that you’re unable to help them reach a common ground, you can help them find someone who can. Treat your clients with integrity, respect and patience and you’ll be that much more likely to receive the same treatment when it’s time to close on their perfect place.

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