I've been shooting real estate professionally for about 7 years. In that time, I've shot well over 5000 homes for hundreds of clients and today, for the first time ever, I fired a client.
Here's how it went down:
This client and I had always had a good working relationship but whenever my phone rings and I see her name, I know I'm in for a challenge. More often than not, the homes she hires me to shoot aren't ready when we arrive and sometimes the sellers aren't even expecting us. Despite having "the conversation" with her many times, it never seemed to sink in.
About a month ago, she booked me to shoot and measure a large home. The person who measures for me always shows up about half-an-hour before me, to get a head start. Just before I arrived at the property, I got a call from my measurer telling me that she's uncomfortable being in the home. She said it was filthy to the point that she worried about her health. On top of this, four individual tenants were giving her a hard time. At that point, my patience was pretty much shot, so I told her to leave and that I would talk to the client. I called the client and politely explained to her that the state of the property and behavior of the tenants was making members of my team uncomfortable and that we would not be shooting or measuring the property. I would’ve hoped for some understanding, if not an apology. Not her. She went up one side of me and down the other, then hung up. I thought that would be the last I'd hear from her.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and she called to book me for another property, with no mention of our little spat. So, I figured all was good and we were moving on. This property happened to be 45 minutes out of town and she insisted that it had to be shot on a particular day and time. I had to juggle family obligations but was able to accommodate her request. On the day of the shoot, I made the long trek, only to arrive at a vacant property with no lock box, and no one to let me in. I called the client and got no answer. I waited 10 minutes and called again. By the 25 minute mark, I decided to pull the plug. I got a call from the agent two hours later telling me she forgot about the shoot and wanted me to turn around and go back to the house (no apology, btw!) I told her I had other commitments and we would need to re-schedule. She blew up again and hung up for the second time in as many weeks. This time I thought for sure we were done... Nope!
Two days ago, she called to book a shoot. This time she was very pleasant and even apologized for how poorly she had behaved on the phone the last time we spoke. I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt--one more time. She went on to tell me that the property was vacant and that I could go anytime (my favorite type of booking).
I arrived at the property and was pleasantly surprised to find a lock box, so I let myself in. To my surprise, it was in pretty good shape. I went through and shot the main floor and then the upstairs without incident. Then I moved to the basement.
Like always, I walked around to get a sense of the layout, open doors, turn on lights, etc. When I got to the second to the last door, I announced myself and opened it up to find a tenant passed out on the couch (with no clothes on)! I was so caught off guard that I froze. As I turned to leave, hoping I wouldn't wake her up, a guy comes out of nowhere (presumably her boyfriend) yelling and swearing at me. Now I'm in defense mode, trying to gather myself and talk him down at the same time, while he chases me out of the house swearing and threatening to call the police.
Once outside, I called the client and told her what had just happened. Her response? Laughter. She told me she’d forgotten that there were still a couple of tenants renting a room in the basement. Her carelessness put me in an uncomfortable and dangerous position and apparently, she could not have cared less. At this point, I was furious! It took every bit of my self-control not to freak out at her. Instead, I calmly told her that there would be no photos to deliver and that she should never call me again.
This situation was an excellent reminder that going into other peoples’ homes on a daily basis comes with risk, and we need to be diligent with how we conduct ourselves. I gave this client too many chances and I almost paid a hefty price for it. I should have put my foot down after the second incident, If not the first. It’s a mistake I'll never make again.
Have you ever had to fire a client? If so, how did you go about doing it?