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“You can be honest,” a treasured client said recently to one of our Kindred team. We were near the end of a transaction and getting down to the devilish details that plague a closing.

By “honest” she meant, “You don’t have to do the whole customer-is-always-right thing and pretend that I’m not being a pain in the butt. You can tell me what you really think.”

But the truth is we Realtors can never be completely honest. In our business the customer IS always right and is NEVER a PIA. Real estate transactions are highly personal, highly stressful and riddled with holes through which desired and undesired dynamics ooze in or out like caulk. We’re attuned to that.

Troubles and surprises abound. Statistical analysis doesn’t help much. Tech-industry techniques don’t work. Retail rules don’t apply.

And there are limits to how much education we can offer our clients in order to prevent drama and stress, or to prepare them for the drama and stress inherent in a residential real estate transaction.

The bottom line is we can’t be honest and we can’t stop caring until (or after) a transaction closes. And, even then, we’re unlikely to ever speak the truth about a client’s impact on us. That’s the essence of our fiduciary obligation.

If a seller is upset because their frog statue went missing from the front landing of the house, we have to care. We can’t just say, “Oh, too bad for you. Your frog is gone. Shit happens.” If a buyer is mad because interest rates went up a half point just prior to locking in a contract, we have to care. We can’t just say “Oh, that’s unfortunate. Your monthly payment is going to be $300 more than you hoped for. Suck it up.”

Indeed, shit happens and buyers / sellers have to suck it up. Just like in real life. We have no control over the economy, the Fed, the actions of other agents, the desirability of a property, the weather, wildfires, or statuary thievery. Yet when our clients are disappointed or angry, we must attend, understand, be compassionate and say we’re sorry. We are often blamed for whatever went wrong (and we’re seldom thanked for what goes right). We’re accustomed to being the ones who serve as scapegoats or who listen with patience and respect while our clients vent at us about every little or big thing.

Do we like this? We do not. Are we treated with the respect and gratitude we deserve? Not as often as we’d like. Do our brows furrow whenever someone maligns our profession or doubts our good intentions? They certainly do!

The work of a residential real estate agent is incredibly demanding. We’re perpetually on call, and perpetually responsible, and **we care deeply. It’s part and parcel of the job and it’s why we’re paid handsomely when we’re actually paid. (Remember, we work for FREE until a deal closes.)

But if there is one thing I’d like everyone to keep in mind, it’s this: We are not medical personnel working in the emergency room. Your real estate need is not an emergency. And even though we care about you and even though we’re on call pretty much 24/7, please think twice before texting us at 8 am on a Sunday, or emailing us on New Year’s Eve, or calling on a Friday evening with just one quick question.

We’re only human and – like you – we have lives and loved ones. Like you, we need to rest. Like you, the end of the year has us feeling exhausted. So please don’t ask us to be honest about our experience of you. Instead, tell us if there’s something you appreciate about the work we do. That would be a gift beyond measure.

**If your agent doesn’t care deeply, you should look for a new agent (or call me).

Photo Credit: Kira auf der Heide

Author and RealEstateTherapy curator Cynthia Cummins has been devoted to homeowners and homebuyers for three decades and counting. Visit KindredSFhomes.com for more information on San Francisco real estate.