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Do You Trust Your Clients?

Do You Trust Your Clients Too Much?

…Should You?

Most of us probably have never even thought about asking ourselves these questions, yet we need to know the answers.  We expect our clients to trust us, but should that relationship have trust flowing from both sides?

I am guessing most of you would first answer these questions with a resounding “YES”.  After all, good customer service is one where we trust our clients and they trust us, right?  Aren’t the best relationships built on trust?

Not exactly.  When it comes to a real estate related business, trust should mostly be a one way street.  There are businesses where trusting your clients is of utmost importance, but overtrusting in a real estate transaction can spell disaster.  Just take a look at your recent transactions and you will likely see what I mean.

Most of you have undoubtedly spent grueling amounts of time establishing trust with your clients.  You blog, excel in customer service, gather testimonials, and more in order to develop that relationship.  The key to a successful transaction rests in your client having complete confidence in you.  The overall transaction goes much smoother and your client will be much more stress free if they can trust you.

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Real Estate Agents

Now that you have established a trusting relationship with your clients, certainly you would like to trust them to do their part.  That would be misplaced trust in all likelihood, though. 

How many clients have you dealt with, especially in today’s environment, that simply waste your time?  You know, they are just “browsing” or are looking to time the bottom of the market.  Maybe they are low-balling constantly and never seem to find the right home.  Can you trust this type of client?

Then there are those that delay, delay, delay, for whatever reason.  You know the ones, they receive a counteroffer and sit on it for days, if not weeks.  You need to get in there and prod them constantly.  What about those who fail to contact a mortgage professional to obtain that pre-approval?  They lack motivation, so you have to be very motivating at times.  Can you trust them to do things in a timely fashion throughout the transaction?

The good thing is that once the Purchase Agreement is signed and the transaction has begun, you’re finished, right?  Hardly, as you all know.  You have to stay on top of your clients to make sure they are doing what they need to comply with the requirements of the contract, a constant battle, especially if their mortgage professional isn’t up to the task either. 

Mortgage Professionals

Speaking of mortgage professionals not being up to the task, let’s see where they tend to misplace trust.  Most of us (yes, I fall into this category) do not get involved in the transaction until the borrower comes to us.  How they come to us plays a big role in many of our opinions as to how much to trust this customer.  If they are a referral, hopefully we have already gotten some insight on how well this customer can be trusted.

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The mortgage professional’s role in the transaction could be considered the most important, after all, we control everyone’s money, including the real estate agent’s commission.  If we fail to do our job, or let the customer fail to do their’s, everyone suffers.  So, we cannot afford to be overly trusting of our clients or we, and everyone else, may not get paid.

As a mortgage professional, you undoubtedly will come across those who respond to every request in a timely fashion, some familiar with the way things work will even bring everything you need right from the start.  We all know that most are not very responsive and that “life gets in the way” more often than not.  That means we have to stay on top of the borrowers constantly, making sure we get the documentation we need, that everyone involved in the transaction is constantly updated, that the borrowers are getting the right inspections done on time, getting insurance in place, etc.  The mortgage professional should be the focal point of the transaction and cannot afford to trust his clients to do things correctly or timely.

To Trust or Not?

Certainly, the best relationships are built on trust.  However, in a real estate transaction, too many things can go wrong if any one person involved fails to do their part.  Since clients are usually the least experienced, placing too much trust in them can prove costly to everyone involved.  Some of you have long time clients who have done repeated transactions, such as real estate investors, and they can be trusted.  Do not allow yourself to get complacent or transactions with inexperienced clients can go horribly wrong. 

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Written By

Writer for national real estate opinion column, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.



  1. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 11, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Excellent points. Just because you are a veteran of the real estate industry, doesn’t mean you should think you are infallible.

    I use a checklist to double check that all items for each transaction are completed, and when able, that we have a copy of the relevant document for our records as reference. If we haven’t received our copy, emails/phone calls get placed until we get our copies.

    Does it catch all possible situations/circumstances? No. But it does help cover the most normal/common items that should be addressed from falling through the cracks.

  2. Paula Henry

    July 11, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Robert –

    I trust my clients, other Realtors and my mortgage professionals to get me what I need, when it is needed. Assuming my trust is misguided, they will receive gentle reminders through email and phone calls, until I do have it.

    Having systems in place, as Jennifer stated, is imperative to ensuring we are on top of each and every transaction. My clients trust me to do so.

    A great reminder we should always take a proactive position in our business and not leave the work to others.

  3. Matt Thomson

    July 11, 2008 at 10:31 am

    I guess I don’t see how trusting clients and growing complacent are tied together. I trust my clients because I’ve educated them on the process to the best of my ability. Trusting them means that I trust them to be upfront with me, to come to me with questions, and I trust them to trust me to do my job.
    Maybe it’s just semantics, but I believe that trusting your clients is a positive thing that makes all aspects of dealing with them more enjoyable.

  4. Ken Smith

    July 11, 2008 at 10:43 am

    You have to trust your clients, but at the same time you need to ask the correct probing questions or you will end up wasting a lot of your time with clients that really have no real motivation.

  5. Michelle DeRepentigny

    July 11, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I think I disagree with your definition of “trust”, what you seem to see as a lack of trustworthiness on the part of your client or indstry partners, I see as a failure to communicate or follow up on my part.

    It is my job to juggle all the balls and make sure none of them hit the ground and roll away.

  6. Dan Connolly

    July 11, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Well trust is a elusive concept. The clients should ideally trust us to take care of their best interests, and part of this means that since we know how things can go wrong, we need to remind them of what their part is. We need to trust (or understand) that they may have the best intentions, but since they don’t do this every day, they might not remember everything we have asked of them. We need to trust our own instincts and make sure to double and triple check every aspect of the transaction, and we need to trust that if things get screwed up, we will be held responsible. Trusting that the client or customer will do what they are supposed to do is not the brightest approach. It’s like trusting that a 4 year old won’t run in the street. Or like trusting that if you talk about someone “behind their back” that it won’t get back to them.

  7. Bob

    July 11, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Trust is over rated. Just ask the short sale buyers who trusted everyone in the transaction.

    Trust, but verify“.

  8. Dan Connolly

    July 11, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Reminds me of an old Arabic saying: “Trust God but tie up your camel”

  9. Eric- New Orleans Condos and Lofts

    July 12, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Most of the time things work out. Most people do buy at some time and you get referrals from people galore that you never expect. Ask yourself where else can you make a 6 figure income for the last 10 years and work for yourself. Compared to my previous jobs, real estate is great. Much more trust in this business than in the corp. world. Glad this is what I do. Also glad I saved much of what I made over the past 7-8 years cause feast and famine is part of life.

  10. Raymond Stoklosa

    July 13, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    It seems to be after 30 years in the business that we must continually test for motivation. Well developed interview techniques can save us all a great deal of time, money and anxiety. There must be a compelling reason to change, otherwise we are lying to ourselves. It’s not that our clients and customers deliberately lie to us — although some do — it is that they don’t know what they really want and often don’t know how to get there. Intelligent client management, careful counseling and a relentless pursuit of the truth will help put the “real” back into real estate.

  11. Eric Blackwell

    July 13, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    I’d agree with many here that trust does not equal not following up to make sure things are done.



  12. Holly White

    July 14, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Trust is something that is earned imo. This is why we all generally use or recommend the same professionals in our business, ie, mortgage brokers/lenders, title companies, home inspectors, etc. We’ve all gone through a multitude of business professionals we’ve worked with that just didn’t do what they said they were going to do and when we found those that did, or at least made up for their mistakes, they earned our trust. Once you’ve found those people you tend to hang on to them. We’re all in this together and each are a crucial piece of the real estate transaction puzzle. The puzzle isn’t complete if one of the pieces are missing. Now that I have a great group of people to work with that understands this, we all make sure we’re doing what it takes to get to a smooth closing. That also means that we are all on top of items that need to be taken care of by our clients. We all have to remember that we are here to educate and help our clients through the transaction. For alot of them it’s their first home (or it has been years and years since their last purchase) and they have no clue what is expected of them.

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