How to Manage Buyer Expectations

How to Help Your Buyer Clients Navigate the House Hunting Process

Jacqueline Kyo Thomas

Jacqueline Kyo Thomas


When you become a real estate agent, one of your primary tasks will be managing the expectations of others.

Brace yourself.

While a few clients will know the basics of buying a property, most of them will not. And an unfortunately large number of buyers will have unrealistic expectations. Armed with anecdotal evidence from family and friends, many buyers think they can get more for less when the opposite is usually true. This often leads buyers to place unreasonable demands on agents and get discouraged when things don’t go the way that they were expecting.

To create a pleasant home buying experience for everyone involved, it’s up to you alone to set and manage expectations. But how?

In this post, we’ll share time-tested strategies to manage buyer expectations.

Listen to Your Clients

This may sound like basic advice, but not everyone truly listens to their clients. Sure, you may hear them talking, but inside you’re locked into what you think would be the best option for them. For example, you may be anxious to sell a hot, new property and you’re motivated to show it to all of your clients, whether or not the property is right for them.

Listening to your clients is the first step to expectation management. Your client is coming to you to meet a specific buying goal, but they may not articulate it clearly unless you do some prodding. Your job is to figure out exactly what they’re hoping to accomplish during your partnership. They want to buy a property, but not just any property. Save yourself unnecessary work by asking the right questions during your initial sit-down.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • How long have you been looking for a home?
  • Why are you looking to buy a home now?
  • How soon would you like to move into a home?
  • What is your favorite room in the house?
  • Have you ever purchased a home before?
  • What are your top three must-haves in a home?
  • Do you have any deal breakers?
  • Are you looking to buy a new home or are you okay with an older home?
  • What style of home are you interested in?
  • What are your top three favorite neighborhoods?
  • What is your budget and is there any wiggle room?
  • If you need financing, have you been pre-approved/pre-qualified for a loan?
  • What do you look for in a real estate agent?
  • What is your preferred method of communication?

In addition to these questions, consider asking your client to pin a few of their ideal homes and must-have property features to a Pinterest board. This can visually communicate what clients may not be able to express otherwise.

Explain the Basics of Home Buying

Many, if not most, buyers have no idea how to go about buying a house. They’re coming to you because you’re the expert and will act as a trusted partner and guide.

But this doesn’t mean that you should attempt to do it all alone without explanation. Educate your clients about home buying. Let them know what to expect during every step in the journey, from house hunting to negotiating to closing. When a client has a roadmap for what to expect, they’ll be more at ease and willing to trust your direction.

Help Them Understand the Psychology of Selling

One of the most common buyer mistakes is to make an unrealistically low offer on a home. Buyers who do this don’t understand seller psychology and will end up losing out on a house they love.

Most sellers, particularly those who are selling a private residence, have an emotional attachment to their property. A low ball offer is an insult that may not be forgotten or forgiven. Make it clear to your buyer that some sellers won’t even negotiate if they feel offended by an initial offer.

Give buyers advice on how to make the right offer. Also share with the buyer what can happen if they don’t give a reasonable offer initially.

Be Patient

You’ll need patience in extra supply when you’re a real estate agent.

It’s easy for buyers to overwhelm you during the house hunting process. They’ll ask a ton of questions. They’ll want to view a plethora of properties. They’ll call you at inconvenient times. You’ll need the patience of a saint to guide buyers through the process while also remaining professional and sane.

Remember that your client is trusting you with the biggest purchasing decision of their life. They’ll have questions and hesitations. They’ll vacillate between certainty and doubt. It’s normal for buyers to experience trepidation. Be prepared for it. Help your buyers progress from one step to the next by holding their hand (figuratively speaking) and showing them what to do next.

Be Realistic About Their Budget

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Buyers may not be realistic about how much they can afford, and that goes beyond the down payment. It’s up to you to make sure that the buyer knows and is financially prepared for the extra costs of buying a home, such as:

  • Home inspection
  • Appraisal
  • Attorney fee
  • Earnest payment
  • Escrow fee
  • Homeowners' association
  • Homeowners' insurance
  • Title insurance

Prepare your client for potential costs so that they go in with a sensible budget.

Focus on the Possibilities

Buyers often can’t see past paneling or awkward floor plans. Many buyers are looking for the perfect 10, move-in ready home. But finding a home at the right price in the right neighborhood with the right amenities can be downright impossible.

It’s up to you to show your client the property’s potential. Know how much it will cost to upgrade the kitchen countertops or complete the basement. Help them realize how to turn an almost perfect home into their dream. Before showing a property (especially one that may not meet the buyer’s expectation), prepare a list of reasons why you think this property will work. Carry optimism into your meetings by focusing on what can be instead of what has been.

Be Honest

Always be upfront about the home buying process— the good, the bad, and the ugly. Of course, you want the home buying process to be as smooth as possible, but it’s also important that you prepare your clients for the dark side of home buying, such as what will happen in the case of:

  • Bidding wars
  • Failed home inspections
  • Low appraisals
  • Mortgage denials after being pre-approved
  • Unfavorable market conditions

Best case scenario: Your client gets exactly what they want without any issues. But it’s always a good idea to prepare your client for potential roadblocks before they happen so your client isn’t surprised if the worse case scenario does happen.

Keep an Open Line of Communication

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The final step in managing your client’s expectations is to stay in touch with them.

In your first meeting, ask your client how they prefer to communicate, i.e. via phone, email, text, or face-to-face. Also, discuss how often you’ll stay in touch with each other. Will you contact the client randomly whenever you see a property that meets their needs?

Will you contact the client whenever you get a new property that meets their needs? Will you check in once every couple of days whether you have news or not? How often will you return calls, i.e. once a day at a specific time?

Another potential issue to discuss is whether the client will speak to you alone or will they sometimes speak with your assistant or fellow agent? Don't surprise your client with an unfamiliar, unexpected voice on the other end. This can derail their trust.

It's important to understand the client's communication expectations and explain how you work. Otherwise, you could overwhelm a client with too many text messages or frustrate them by not calling enough.

Next Steps

Before you go, check out these related posts:

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