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Dealing With Difficult Buyers: The Married Couple Who Can't Agree

Even the most compatible couples can disagree on the house hunt. Good agents should help conflicting house hunters sort out their preferences along the way. Tour a wide variety of homes and make a list of buyer priorities to help narrow the field.

"I want a big backyard, but HE doesn't like to mow..."

"I'd love to have an office, but SHE wants a playroom for the kids..."

An otherwise compatible couple may have completely different views on real estate. Those contrasting preferences can quickly get in the way of finding a great home.

But by incorporating strategic guidance and patience, any agent can steer a conflicted married couple toward a home with universal appeal. Consider the following tips when working with a pair of difficult buyers.

Show a variety of homes

The best way to appease both parties is to tour a wide variety of homes. Make sure to pick homes that reflect each buyer’s wishes. Split your day into two sessions. Focus on one partner’s preferences during morning home tours, and give the second partner afternoon priority.

After buyers are more familiar with the market, they’ll generally tone down their list of “must-haves” and be more willing to negotiate with one another.

Give a homework assignment

Once buyers start looking at homes, reality will settle in. Couples soon realize that buying a home together requires compromise. It’s rare that couples have the exact same idea of a “dream home”, so finding a happy middle ground is essential.

Invite your buyers to try this exercise. Ask buyers to pick a room in their future home and separately make a list of “must-haves” for that room. Have your buyers compare lists and talk about the similarities and differences. Figure out what compromises can be made so that both buyers are satisfied.

Listen for priorities and give advice appropriately

It’s easy for an agent with good intentions to ruin a relationship by giving unwarranted advice. But by listening strategically, an astute agent can determine where to provide guidance that will be well-received.

The key is to focus only the major priorities held by each buyer. Tactfully alert buyers to any big conflicts. Is one partner’s price point impossible to locate in the other’s desired area?

Offer gentle and objective guidance. Many new homebuyers are unfamiliar with local markets, and simply need information. Present evidence to back up your advice, and avoid becoming impassioned or emotional.

Don’t pick sides

Be a professional when handling difficult buyers. Choose your battles carefully, and don’t pick sides. Only offer your advice when it’s crucial to success. By nitpicking at one buyer’s tiniest preferences, you risk making an enemy of one half of a couple. Let buyers wage wars about trivial issues without your input. Logical buyers will soon figure out what’s important and what’s not.