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Top 10 things not to do at a first meeting with a client

How dating disasters relate to real estate

I came across an article recently about 10 dating disasters and immediately thought of what so many Realtors do incorrectly (or “do wrong” if you’re here in the South).

I thought I would modify the typical dating lists to read “What Not To Do Before or On The First Meeting With a Client” or in short “How Not To Screw Up…”

1. Do not have someone Photoshop your picture to smooth your skin, remove your double chin or give you hair. When your client meets you, they will be very uncomfortable because their insides will shake with laughter. If you’re ugly, so what? It’s a misconception that people hire Realtors based on their most recent mission to Plasticsurgeryville.

2. Do not wear a Hawaiian shirt on a first meeting, no matter how Rico Suave you are. Remember, Hawaiian shirt wearing is for the exclusive few that are (a) Hawaiian, (b) on vacation, (c) are fat and middle aged, or (d) my father.

3. When a local broadcaster or someone of local fame calls you, don’t rent an ultra-luxurious car and claim yours is in the shop! If you’re sportin’ an Escort, just give it a bath and let your client know you intend to roll the Escort until the wheels fall off (oh and make sure it smells nice, no one likes day old leftover catfish smell).

4. Don’t let your cell phone get in the way of your Realtor mojo. If you can’t have a first meeting without gabbing on your phone (and everyone is SO guilty of this), turn the dang thing to silent. Have a general VM that says “I am currently meeting with a valued client, but I have a great habit of checking my voicemail the moment I get into my car, so don’t worry- you’ll hear from me soon!” If you appear to love your Star Trek bluetooth more than the precious time with your client, you may never hear from them again.

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5. Don’t be late. Period. You are not the only one who values time and if you are late to a first meeting (or well, to any) it is a great sign of disrespect. Plan on being 15 minutes early, finish phone calls in the car and approach the door of your meeting destination right on time. When you are late, you explicitly tell your client that you are the center of the universe, they should bow because you have entered a room, and you believe that their time and business is of no consequence to you (unless that’s how you see it).

6. Don’t over promise. This is the cardinal sin in Real Estate, especially during listing presentations. If you don’t have a guarantee (see Russell Shaw’s website), don’t promise a home will sell in 6.34 days. Don’t promise to be “available at all times” when you know you don’t answer the phone when it’s dark, the game is on, you’re napping or you’re at your “day job” (which should be #7, but I’ll be nice).

7. You are not Oprah. Keep your bragging to a minimum. Bragging and presenting yourself in a factual manner are different matters. For example, “I’m Austin’s best Realtor” is lame, try “In this subdivision, I sold one out of every two listings last year.” At a first meeting, you are likely applying for a job with that client, so don’t bog down the “interview” with inflating or stroking your own ego. Don’t be bragadocious.

8. Don’t badmouth the competition. Dogging on other Realtors (typically local competitors) online can get you in deep dookie here in Texas, but doing it in person is just low. When someone talks about their past Realtor (operative word being “past” aka non-threatening, so shut up), refocus the conversation casually to you or their current home situation rather than noting “yeah, he’s an a-hole, he spilled a drink on me at this massive party just after admitting that he doesn’t work weekends and he dresses in drag when he’s alone.” Muy mal.

9. Don’t be inappropriate. This includes the joke about the dumb Aggie (they probably went to A&M, poor guy), the racist joke (their absent spouse is likely of that race), the Pope joke (I’m probably Catholic), or the handicap joke (their mom is probably paralyzed). It’s not the time or place. Making dirty jokes, using crude language, any physically inappropriate gestures or otherwise can actually put your career at risk and there’s nothing funny I can say about that. Don’t be an idiot- you’re probably not as funny as you think anyhow.

10. My favorite- don’t be cute. This applies mostly to you guys out there aged 40-55 who are clinging to that last hope that you are as cute as you were when you were president of your frat way back when. If your kids are in their 20s, I’m begging you- don’t flirt with your 25 year old female client- she’s not interested. Trying to bring sexy back during a first meeting can ultimately screw things up.

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Now it’s your turn- start adding to the list beginning with #11…

This article was originally published in July of 2007 on a now defunct blog. It came up in conversation recently, and a reader requested that I republish for all of you to see in all of its glory. For those of you who have been around for years and know the depth of “” politics, check out the comments on the original post, you’ll be tickled.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Andrew McKay

    June 23, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Damn I was doing ok till number 10.

  2. Joe

    June 24, 2010 at 8:31 am

    “Do not have someone Photoshop your picture to smooth your skin, remove your double chin or give you hair.”

    This is huge. The ugly person who shows up seems even uglier when their avatar or professional picture was doctored.

  3. Middleton WI homes

    June 24, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Do not overdo the use of cologne or perfume! Not only is it a distraction, but some people are actually allergic.

  4. BawldGuy

    June 24, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Why would anyone wanna add hair?

    • Shaz

      August 8, 2011 at 12:13 am

      Totally Agree …… the bald thing is always very cool… and sure beats the pretend i have hair look comb over by a monty mile.. hahaha

  5. Jason Improta - Calabasas Homes for Sale

    June 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I like the Hawaiian shirt one. Seriously. And I really agree with the ontime one. It isn’t that hard to be puctual. Wish more people were!

  6. Stephanie Crawford

    June 25, 2010 at 3:11 am

    #3 – LOL. When I was new to the biz I rocked a 12 year old Acura Legend. I was totally embarrassed about it. Looking back, it was a pretty decent ride. Now I’m an Acura believer.

  7. Matt Thomson

    June 27, 2010 at 1:56 am

    #11 Don’t try to make connections on every single comment they make. “Oh, you’re from Utah? I went to Utah once. You played softball? No way! I’m on a beer league team that took 4th last year in a tournament.”
    Some connections are fine (even necessary), but tone it down.

  8. Ken Montville

    June 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Forget Photoshop. Just use a photo that is more recent that your High School prom. Or none at all. If they don’t like the way you look, you won’t see them again after the first meeting. If they see an online or print photo of you from 15 years ago, they’ll know you’re either lazy ro dishonest or both.

  9. Charlie Pitkin

    July 6, 2010 at 12:25 am

    Maybe…don’t park in their driveway? If someone in the house needs to leave in the middle of your appointment, that’s an unnecessary interruption and potentially frustrating if they’re in a hurry.

  10. Chem-Dry Carpet Tech

    May 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Hhaha, not only is this extremely true, but its really funny.  You would think that this information would be a given in the industry, but unfortunately a lot of people are only out looking for number 1.

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