Real Estate Advice: How to handle stress

By Kim Gellatly

With rising sales prices and very low inventory here in Portland, OR, I have been noticing a trend over the past several months of buyers and sellers who are carrying a lot of stress about the sale or purchase of their home. More transactions seem to be falling apart over buyer and seller differences, and more tense interactions seem to be occurring among real estate agents as they negotiate deals.

It makes sense: Stressful clients can easily make for a stressed-out agent. So, if you’re feeling the pressure of your local market, here are some tips and tactics I have used during some of my recent stressful sales to help ensure a smooth transaction for all parties involved:

  1. Give people the benefit of the doubt and listen to their concerns.

    When a buyer or seller is stressed, it often materializes in a late night angry call or a lengthy email. If you’re on the receiving end of these stress-induced communications, please remember what it’s like to be in your clients’ shoes. While we are juggling multiple home sales at once, this is their only home and it is everything that consumes their thoughts. This home is where they have built their memories and a lot of times grown a family, so it is a very personal experience for them. Most of the time our clients just want someone to listen to their challenges and empathize with them.

  2. Remember that for an agent, stress plays out in many ways.

    When an agent gets defensive in a transaction, please remember that many times this reaction could be triggered by something unrelated to the transaction itself. Maybe this agent is going through personal issues or had an argument with their spouse that morning or is dealing with stressed-out clients as well. More often than not, when my interaction with an agent is stressful, it has little to do with me. Be sensitive to the fact that their frustration isn’t a reflection of your abilities as a real estate professional.

  3. Always keep in mind that we are representing our clients’ desires, not our own.

    We may want to go to bat and fight with another agent over the giant repair addendum they just sent over, but if our clients want to move forward, then we need to humble ourselves and remember that we are working for their wants, not ours.

  4. Admit when you’re wrong.

    If an issue arises where you have fault, quickly admit it and don’t blame others for what happened. Honesty, integrity and humility are characteristics that are seemingly rare in our industry and incredibly needed. You’ll gain respect by owning up to your own faults.
  5. Stop and take a deep breath.

    Before you make a difficult call or begin a tough negotiation, stop to breathe first. Don’t react immediately; respond after taking time to remember what is most important in the situation. When we give knee-jerk reactions, we tend to grow the problem, not the solution. Thoughtful answers can are more easily found when you allow time to gather your thoughts.

  6. Take time for YOU!

    Get that massage once a week, go out with friends for some down-time, turn off your phone and have dinner with your family instead of immediately calling your client back. By filling your own tank, you are able to then fill others. When you are running on empty as an agent, you are no good to yourself or your clients. Relaxing and recharging will help you improve and grow.

I hope these tips have been helpful and you’re feeling ready to stay calm, cool, collected and the very best for your clients!

KIM GELLATLY is a REthink Council member and REALTOR® with Portland-based Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Real Estate. Visit Kim’s website or email her:

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