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Realty Resource

Relational Tools For Working With Sellers In Crisis

7min read

With Cole’s powerful lead lists, we help you find people who are ready to sell.

Even with the ups and downs of real estate, one of things that is a constant is that people need to sell houses. Sometimes it’s more and sometimes it’s less, but regardless of the market, people will always sell… but sometimes prospects you reach out to will be in a spot where they’re forced to sell. We’ve written this guide to give you some tools to help you not only win the sale, but to be remembered as someone who truly cares. And if there’s a better way to stand out from the crowd, we can’t think of it.

As a real estate agent, you get to interact with individuals across all stages and seasons of life. There are the starry-eyed newlyweds looking to find their first home, there are the military families looking for a house in an unfamiliar town, and there are the retirees looking for that lakehouse they’ve always dreamed of. Those are the highlights, the magic of getting to see new chapters and fresh beginnings.

In a recession, some of these highlights may fade. But people will still need to sell houses, and sometimes the seller will be in the midst of a painful transition or loss.

There will be situations involving heartache: an adult child in the position of inheriting a home from a recently deceased parent, or perhaps a wife who has lost her husband and is faced with selling the family home. Perhaps the person you’re working with is going through a painful divorce, has lost a job, has to move to take care of family, or is arranging the affairs of a parent who can’t live on their own. Each situation will come with its own set of challenges and will require care and attention to detail to navigate well.

With this in mind, remember that even in the best of times, for most people, selling their house can feel complex and overwhelming, but after a loss or a large life event, it can feel next to impossible.

To anyone who has experienced traumatic or sudden loss, it can feel impossible to think in any sort of linear way. Thoughts can spiral, and everything feels equally important. It’s hard to know where to start.

As a real estate agent, you have the opportunity to be a difference-maker and stand out from your competition. The person coming to you who has gone through a loss, is going to be looking to you as an expert and a trusted guide.

As you work with these people, remember that empathy goes a long way.

Humans first, business second.

Here are some ways that you can practice empathy:

1. Actively listen.

Being a good listener is a skill that will help you in all areas of your life and work. But when interacting with people who are going through a hard time, it is all the more appreciated.

Eye contact is important. It shows focus and attention and you can show you understand by nodding your head and using other nonverbal cues.

Don’t interrupt, and avoid giving advice (outside of real estate advice) unless they specifically ask for it. Let them vent and be heard. They are likely trying to process through quite a number of things, so having an outlet to talk about some of those things could be a welcome release.
Stay engaged and be present. It’s important to avoid all distractions while actively listening. This includes, but is not limited to picking up your cell phone, checking your watch, or having your computer open as they sit across your desk. This shows that you are honoring their time and that they are your top priority. If you feel the timing is right, offer comforting words such as, “It’s okay to feel those emotions.” Often mirroring back someone’s experience can be helpful saying things like “that sounds really challenging” or sad, difficult, etc.

Show you care by being willing to enter into a hard conversations and trying to quickly move on or change the subject. Do your best to not gloss over their pain to “get to business” or move on from the discomfort. Grieving people are in a constant state of discomfort, so having someone willing to join them in it means a great deal. Most people just want a listening ear, and someone who is willing to share their burden.


2. Move at the right speed

Yes, you want the sale, but connecting on a human level is much more important. A home is one of the largest investments a person makes, and oftentimes the emotional dynamic can make it difficult to be logical.

By taking the time to ask a few extra questions, your client will remember that you made them feel heard and understood, and be more likely to return for repeat business or refer you to their friends.

If the situation that has led to the need to sell their home was traumatic in any way, don’t be in a hurry to close a deal. Ask if time could help bring a little perspective. If time does allow, it could be wise to help them consider all their options before rushing into a decision. A big change on the heels of something life altering, could cause more harm than help.

Play the long game and know that by creating that human connection first, they will remember YOU and not the pushy salesman at the funeral when the right time comes to sell.


3. Make a plan and clearly communicate it.

Your client doesn’t sell houses every day. Don’t assume they know all the things that you take for granted. You are the expert in your field, so be proactive to set expectations, plan for roadblocks, and communicate in a timely manner! Also, don’t forget to explain terms and phrases that would be unfamiliar to your client.

Consider writing up a timeline of how long individual steps will take (approvals, inspections, etc. and help manage expectations of the process.) There are always things that come up, but knowing the potential pitfalls, and how to avoid them is a way to help keep you one step ahead and steer clear of unnecessary headaches.

In a typical situation, many of these things could be a conversation, but when someone is in the fog of loss and trying to make countless decisions at once, having a document they can refer back to is very valuable.

Compile a checklist of things they need to do and documents they need to gather, and then check in on them and refer to that list. Most likely, they have a million things running through their mind, so having an objective list of things to check off will be helpful. (This too, will help you get the things that you need on time.)


4.Things to NOT DO:

Anyone who has dealt with grief or loss will be able to tell you a long list of unhelpful things that people say. Most of it comes from a place of good intention, but grieving people don’t want to be told “it all happens for a reason” or how “it could be worse”, or “I also lost my dog so I know exactly how you feel.”
It’s best to not try and identify with their grief. Grief is deeply personal and unique. Each person experiences it in their own way. Don’t make comparisons to your own life or to the situations of other people you know. The dynamics of losing a parent or spouse are complex. There could be elements of guilt, estrangement, depression, blame, or any number of factors that make the situation completely different.

Don’t try to minimize their loss or attempt to get them to see “the bright side.” There is no timeline to grief and people don’t need the added guilt of “you should be over this by now” or “just be grateful you have XYZ”.

In short, when talking to someone who is currently dealing with grief, there’s not a lot that you can say that will make them feel better. There aren’t easy answers or simple fixes. In the case of a loss, there are often no solutions. However, it can mean the world to have someone who is willing to simply sit and listen and show they care.


As you enter into countless stories and create new ones, remember that one of the main ways to build a loyal client list, and to set yourself apart from the competition is to put your clients first and approach every sale with the care and attention to detail you would approach your own.

Chances are, they’re not going to remember most, if anything, of what you say, but they will remember the kind of person you are and what it was like to work with you.

To us here at Cole, that sounds like a great reason to stay top of mind.

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Call us to learn more about team pricing.


It only takes a few minutes to see how we can help you maximize your prospecting strategy!

A man smiling at his computer

Call us to learn more about team pricing.


It only takes a few minutes to see how we can help you maximize your prospecting strategy!