From Listed to SOLD - How to Sell Those Listings You Work So Hard to Get!


No More Burnout! It's Not Your Monkey!

The other day I had a three-way conversation with two agents who are in the middle of career crises. Both are trying to decide whether to stay or go, interestingly, for opposite reasons. AgentFriend1 has too much business and is burning out and AgentFriend2, well, doesn't. Have too much business, that is. And she's burning out, too.

We talked about burnout and both agents confessed that they become deeply involved in their clients' personal situations and get sucked into the emotional drama of it all. Which isn't uncommon in our business; after all, we ARE deeply involved in the whole mess - if our seller doesn't have enough equity to properly price; if our buyer's loan changes and they have to come up with an additional 5% down; if our listing doesn't appraise and the deal crashes... yes, these events DO affect us both financially and emotionally. And frankly, if they didn't affect us, we probably wouldn't be effective at our jobs.

But you can draw a line and preserve your sanity. Terry Watson calls it "the Monkey." He describes how we wrongly let others put their monkeys on our backs - even though we have our own monkeys to deal with, thank you very much! We real estate agents are really good at accepting our clients' monkeys as our own.

And you know what? Our clients are HAPPY to give us their monkeys and then blame us when things go wrong. Further, we accept that blame - which puts us in a position where we have to apologize for our inability to solve a problem that ISN'T OURS TO SOLVE.

Here's an example. The seller owes $415,000 on his home. The market value is no more than $395,000 and that's pushing it. In order to break even, the seller needs to sell at $430,000 at least. The seller "doesn't want to do a short sale," so he looks to his agent for another solution. What solution does the agent come up with?

1.       Price at $439,900 and hope for a miracle

2.       Reduce her commission to nothing and price at $420,000 (and hope for a miracle)

Of course, there are other solutions, but we monkey-acceptors want to please, so these are the ones we propose. (And then we're miserable because we have an unsellable product, but that's another story).

Here's another example. You interview for a tenant-occupied listing. The seller doesn't want to inconvenience the tenant, so he asks for a 24-hour showing requirement; for day-time showings only; that you attend all showings, and a 60-day possession. You want to please the seller, so you agree, knowing what he's asking will make the properly unmarketable... and you miserable.

Do too many of these deals and I think burnout IS an inevitability.

Of course, it's easy to advise "Well, just thank the %$SOB^# very much for the opportunity and walk away!" I hear that advice all the time, and sure, that's an option. But there's a better way... a way to respectfully decline the monkey and move forward without alienating someone who could be a wonderful client and future referral source.

Stay tuned...(actually, you might have to wait a week for the sequel - I'm heading out for my vacation tomorrow and have been duly informed that I will NOT spend my vacation on the computer. But maybe I can sneak it in!)

The Monkey Series
Part II Which Monkeys Are Yours? Which Aren't?
Part III Declining the Monkey Part III
Part IV What to Say (or not say) to Decline the Monkey
Part V A real world example of a Monkey Unnecessarily Accepted


It's Here!


The More Fun You Have Selling Real Estate, the More Real Estate You Will Sell! 
(True Story)
Order Your Here!









Comment balloon 50 commentsJennifer Allan-Hagedorn • September 11 2009 07:30AM


Great post! Thank you

Posted by Valeria Mola, 305-607-0709 SIB Realty Condos for Sale and Rent (SIB Realty - Miami, Sunny Isles Beach) almost 11 years ago

Another excellent post, Jennifer! I must say to my husband at least once a day, "That's NOT my problem and I don't have to waste energy worrying about it!" I'll be looking forward to reading your solution for declining the monkey!

I see that you followed your own advice to break post into shorter segments and keep them coming back for more....LOL.

Posted by Leslie Helm, Real Estate For Trail Riders (Tennessee Recreational Properties) almost 11 years ago

Leslie - Someone brilliant said "If I'd have had more time, I'd have written less." It's HARD to write less! Even this one is too long...

Valeria - You're welcome!

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) almost 11 years ago

Very nice!

Posted by Jennifer Starns (Re/Max CityView) almost 11 years ago

Jennifer- I think we can all relate to having taken the monkey on the back in real estate, especially when you are new. I had a life event a few years back that changed all that and even though the evnt was a pure tragedy the outcome of what it did for my thought process when it came to business was nothing less than a miracle. To emphatize is one thing, to sympathize is what puts the monkey there.

Posted by Martha Brown, Your Homes Around Annapolis Agent (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc., Annapolis MD 21403) almost 11 years ago

Jennifer, this IS an excellent post!  Especially this Spring, when every transaction was stressful and emotional, I had to keep telling myself that these problems were not mine and that the best thing I could do was help.  I will look forward to the next post.

Posted by Holly Weatherwax, A Great Real Estate Experience ( Associate Broker, Momentum Realty) almost 11 years ago

Terry watson missed his calling, he should be doing stand up, not RE!  He had me laughing so hard that it hurt!

Posted by Robert Rauf (HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ)) almost 11 years ago

Hi Jennifer, excellent reminder! I have been guilty to take on my clients problems in the past and that is not the way to go. Luckily I found a great coach and have overcome this mental block about not being "loved". Taking a deep breath keeping it nice but professional with options and the right answers. For what every reason I feel that more women encountering the "Monkey" Problem. Love the T-Shirt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Barbara Heil-Sonneck, Home Staging Atlanta (Design2Sell) almost 11 years ago

My husband, also my best friend, always gets an ear full when I need to vent.  Thankfully, he is really good at letting it go in one ear and out the other.  He just nods occasionally as if he is really listening ;)

Yes, we do need to set boundaries or we may become a monkey on someone else's back!

Posted by Stacie Colclasure, Realtor, Bethalto, IL (Gateway Holding and Referral Company) almost 11 years ago

It is amazing how many timewasters there are in real estate that we take on.  Thanks for the reminder that it isn't always our issue and we need to be realistic.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) almost 11 years ago

This is such a true post.  Thanks for sharing because it is so easy to forget to have boundaries.

Posted by Lisa Matykiewicz (United Brokers Group) almost 11 years ago

Been there done that.  I have too many of my own issues to deal with.  I cannot waste a lot of time with people who will not do what it takes to help themselves.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

Jennifer - Oh, you're singing to the choir girlfriend.  Whenever something goes wrong "its always the lenders fault" and the poor LO just doing their job gets blamed for everything.  Like you said, I've got my own monkeys, I definitely don't need everyone else's.

Good post and very timely too.  Have a good day Jennifer and a wonderful weekend.  :)

Posted by Donne Knudsen, CalState Realty Services (Los Angeles & Ventura Counties in CA) almost 11 years ago

Most people are wired, for self-esteem reasons, to find someone else to blame.  Healthy people learn to not volunteer for that mission!  But that is a skill most of us have not learned or took a long time to even become aware it was possible.  Looking forward to the next installment!

Posted by Glenn S. Phillips, CEO, Lake Homes Realty / (Lake Homes Realty) almost 11 years ago

Beautifully written at a time when many need to read what accept a situation with grace ...and moving on.

Posted by Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman, (RA) AHWD CRS ePRO OAHU HAWAII REAL ESTATE (Liberty Homes) almost 11 years ago

Boy Jennifer, this post couldn't come at a better time.  I did just let a client put a huge monkey on my back because they didn't want to make the right decision regarding a property purchase.  They were actually trying hard to make me feel guilty for theri decision.  Their decision.  Let me say that one more time, make me feel guilty about "Their Decision" not ot proceed on a deal they know deep inside they should have.

Thanks to your remender here I am giving that monkey right back before the close of business today.




Posted by Bob Murphy (Keller Williams Realty Consultants) almost 11 years ago

It is an easy fix not taking out someone elses burdens.  It is called front end loading and painting the pain on the getgo. For instance I may have the most perft borrower, with 20% down and 700 ficos with a 30% back end debt ratio.  Easy enough, right? I show them the difference between a 700 fico interest rate and a 720 interest rate, show them how to get to 720 and assume they stay at a 700... That way they keep their monkey and I deal with my own.

Posted by Ricky Khamis, NMLS 173141 | CADOC 173141 - 480-339-1565 (Amerifirst Financial, Inc. (NMLS #145368)) almost 11 years ago

Jennifer - I have been pretty good about keeping the monkey off of my back.  I try and let my buyers and sellers know that I had nothing to do with where they are at currently, but I am there to help them get to where they want to go.  I do this as nice as possible, and it seems to work well for me.

Posted by Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807, Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor (Good Company Real Estate almost 11 years ago

That's good advice. I learnt that in this business too. Saved my sanity along the way.

Posted by Loreena and Michael Yeo, Real Estate Agents (3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Prosper TX Real Estate Co.) almost 11 years ago

OK, I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for the next installment.  I've taken on someone else's monkey waaaaay too often during my career.  I'm slowly learning, though, to not do that anymore.  I'm very straight forward about market conditions with my sellers and if they don't listen to my advice, I send them little love notes about what's new on the market that's priced lower and what's sold that sold for less.  Eventually, most of them wake up.  The ones that don't become a monkey on someone else's back.  Can't wait to hear your solution that doesn't involve cutting them loose.

Posted by Lisa Heindel, New Orleans Real Estate Broker (Crescent City Living LLC) almost 11 years ago

Morning Jennifer,  Such a well thought out and presented post !  Recently, a customer called to discuss selling a property they bought at the " peak ".  She wanted me to share in that purchase decision and propose some miraculous cure.  I wanted to help ( transfer the monkey to my back ! ) but thought better of it.  I can be far more effective staying at arms length !

Posted by Bill Gillhespy, Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos (16 Sunview Blvd) almost 11 years ago

Jennifer, great post and I'll add my 2 cents worth.

A good "friend" at church has a property to market, commercial, on the main thoroughfare, 2 acres with approval for restaurant up to 90 seats.  So, I will listen.  After ridding himself of the first agent who tried for 2 years to sell at $2 M, he now offers it to me to list at $1.5 M.  Good so far?  The Kicker- "I'll be willing to pay you $10,000 for commission!"  Now let's see- I take a $750,000 value property, turn it over at $1.5M and I get $10,000 rather than $150,000 at closing?  Do me a favor, friend.  Do you think my BIC went for that?

Posted by Wayne Palmer, Eddie Palmer (WNC Dreams Realty) almost 11 years ago

You're so right! It's especially hard when it's a friend who's house you're trying to sell.  I had a guy ask me recently to list his house for free and then I'd get the buyer's end of his next house.- His listing would have been $400,000, the new house would have been $200,000. Yep, I walked away. Not my monkey that he needs the money. So do I!

Posted by Linda Jandura, Realtor, North Carolina Buyer & Seller Specialist (Raleigh Cary Realty) almost 11 years ago

After 18 years as a criminologist, I became quite good at leaving the monkey where it belonged, but at the same time listening and empathizing with the monkey's owner about how needy the monkey was, how temperamental it could be, how taking care of the monkey was so much more complicated and expensive than they thought it would be, etc.  Then the conversation could move on to finding ways to more easily take care of the monkey.  Listening to someone's troubles doesn't have to mean taking them on, and helping someone come up with solutions to those problems is very powerful and liberating, provided we allow them the power to act on those solutions or not.

Great reminder, Jennifer.  Thanks.

Tanya in Montreal


Posted by Tanya Nouwens, Montreal Real Estate Broker & Stager (RE/MAX ROYAL (JORDAN) INC. / Tanya Nouwens Inc. almost 11 years ago

Hi Jennifer,  Great blog, seems that they do always want to put the "monkey on your back".  Well my back is full; I can take no more monkeys...grin.  thanks for sharing!

Posted by Ginger Moore (Wilkinson & Associates Realty) almost 11 years ago

Hi, Jennifer:

Terrific post! I reblogged it because I thought lots of other agents would have experienced the same feeling. I hope you enjoy your vacation!



Posted by Robin Rogers, CRS, TRC, MRP - Real Estate Investment Adviser (Robin Rogers, Silverbridge Realty, San Antonio, Texas) almost 11 years ago

The timing of this is spooky! A good agent friend of mine had to give me a pep talk the other day telling me to stop taking everything so personal. She said "It's Real Estate, that's business!" My husband is going to the grocery store to buy some bananas to feed the monkeys on my back! I automatically take the responsibility for EVERYTHING and beat myself right into the ground. I'm going to cut, paste and print this post and wear it on my shirt everywhere I go. Hopefully, one by one, I can give these critters back to their rightful owners. Jennifer, I'm staying tuned for the sequel. 

Posted by Terri Poehler, Coral Springs Real Estate Agent (Realtor) almost 11 years ago

Not some much with Real Estate, but saying "NO" to friends and family is sooooooooo hard and I nearly always get bit in the butt in some sort of time crunch continuim

And for a good laugh...


Posted by Steven Pahl, Real Estate Consultant Tampa, FL 813-319-6423 (Keller Williams Tampa Properties) almost 11 years ago

I couldn't agree more with this post and am anticipating the next part...I too am guilty of  "monkey" business...I have to tell you that my last two "transactions" have just worn me out, and they haven't closed as of yet. The Buyer in one transaction is very needy and the Seller in the other one is very needy... It's really good timing to have the blog, have a great vacation and hope that you can "steal" a few moments to come back with the sequel.

Posted by Janet Zasada, PA (A Delta Realty) almost 11 years ago

Thanks for all the vacation well-wishes! And I'm so glad this post was timely for so many of you. But yes, please do check back (maybe this week??) for ideas on how to decline the monkey without being snotty about it... yes, it can be done with NO hard feelings!

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) almost 11 years ago

Stay off the computer!  It's a vacation!!!  Great post, and so true.  I have become involved in my clients dramas to the point where I almost got an ulcer on one deal.  I was getting horrible stomachaches daily.  A couple others I got such high blood pressure that the thought of the escrow made my blood pressure rise and I'd get red in the face!  How's that for UNHEALTHY!


Posted by Kerry Jenkins (Prime Properties) almost 11 years ago

Some Agents do okay with a monkey or that isn't theirs, but when they start carrying the music box and a coin change belt the Agent starts to stoop over with the weight.  Not a pretty site!

Posted by Evelyn Johnston, The People You Know, Like and Trust! (Friends & Neighbors Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

Thanks for this post! This is exactly what I needed to hear/ read right now. I have a big monkey on my back at this very moment. One of my closest friends has way to much Debt to Income and cannot seem to get another loan for a home. She keeps on making offers on properties asking for the sellers to owner finance and then today she called and told me about the Obama Distressed Home Buyer plan and that she should be able to get a loan on an REO and I should be able to figure it out for her.....well.....I am a great Realtor and good at what I do....but it is NOT my moneky that she cannot get a loan due to her bad decisions, not my Monkey.


Thanks for the post!


Hope you are having a good day!



Posted by Alisa Stone Herring, CRS, GRI (Stone Real Estate Group, LLC) almost 11 years ago

Wow.  I need to stop monkeying around.  Can't wait for the next installment.

Posted by Margaret Mitchell, Seacoast Maine & NH Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Yorke Realty) almost 11 years ago

I'm waiting with bated breath for the sequel.  I want to learn how to rid myself of monkeys!

Posted by Barb Mihalik (RE/MAX Elite) almost 11 years ago

Oh...oh....oh.....I NEED that MONKEY ADVICE!  I will stay tuned for your next post!  Doggone it, I DO get too emotionally involved and want to please FAR too much.  Terrible character flaw in this business.  Hope you have a GREAT vacation, "my real estate mama!"  (even though I'm way older than you are!!!

Posted by Melissa Brown, Realtor - South Charlotte NC Homes for Sale (Helen Adams Realty) almost 11 years ago

Melissa - it's NOT a character flaw!!! But you can get out from under the stress and your client will think you're fabulous... even more fabulous than if you take the monkey.

Barb - Me, too. Guess I better think of something. jk

Margaret - Ditto

Alisa- perfect example

Evelyn - GREAT visual!

Amy. Calm down, girl

Thanks, Erica, I intend to.

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) almost 11 years ago

Empathy, not sympathy.

Be supportive; not a crutch.

This is their life; this is your business.

Know the difference.

Posted by Beverly of Bev & Bob Meaux, Where Buying & Selling Works (Keller Williams Suburban Realty) almost 11 years ago

You are so right, it is so easy for us to think we can solve all their problems even when it is impossible.  We have to stay professional in our behavior and consulting, especailly as we empathize with their situation.

Posted by Jirius Isaac, Real Estate & loans in Kenmore, WA (Isaac Real Estate &TriStar Mortgage) almost 11 years ago

Enjoyed this post Jennifer, as well as your other links!  You present a difficult position to be in because taking a listing such as you described is a 2 way street whereby the agent then takes on the responsibility of marketing a listing that has little chance of success.  That basically amounts to doing a lot of work for "free" and no one wishes to work for free (including that potential client)!

Posted by R.E. Renée Hoover, Salesperson, Poconos, Pike, Wayne, Monroe Counties, PA; PA/NYS (Century 21 Geba Realty, Milford, PA; Licensed in PA & NYS) almost 11 years ago

Jennifer. I am a big softie at heart when it comes to other people's monkey. This is why I force myself to hand them off to a coworker who I label "distressed property specialist." Really it is just that I hate giving bad news and I will pass it on to someone who can tell them the truth and give me a 30% referral in the process.

Posted by Mark Velasco, Top Producing COMMERCIAL Team 30+ years experience (Sharpstone Commercial) almost 11 years ago

An old phrase for a reason, it's been happening with realtors for a long time.  We offer so much in an effort to help that we take on too much responsibility of others.  You have to throw the ball back where it belongs.  I think when people are new in the business, that is the hardest point to learn.  That's why newbies only spend 5 years or so in the business in my opinion.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) almost 11 years ago

Point well taken. There is a BIG difference between serving someone and pleasing them. 

Posted by Anonymous almost 11 years ago

Jennifer, Your absolutely on the button:

To empathize is to understand how the feel, to sympathize is to feel the same way they do.  To put it another way; to empathize is to cry with them, to sympathize is to cry for them..

We always want to be sympathetic for others, we just simply can't afford to do so.  To the extent that we are in a personal relationship, such as a family member or a very close friend, we might make the emotional investment but we need to understand that our emotions are a finite resource and we need to be wary of how we choose to expend our emotions.  Too wide and too thin and we have burnout. 

Can't wait for the next post!

Posted by Eric Cavanagh almost 11 years ago


There is such a thing as boundaries and they need to be established right up front. Your clients will respect them if you do!! Thanks for some great the post.

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) almost 11 years ago

Jennifer - good point, if you take on too many of those items from your sellers, their property won't sell which only makes the situation worse. It really is better to be very up front with these sellers, even if they don't like the hear the truth.

Posted by Monica Bourgeau, Business Coaching almost 11 years ago

Another great post Jennifer! Will be looking forward to hear whats next as I don't take the kind of Monkey's your writing about but I do handle things for clients that I think sets me apart but is causing me a lot of stress. I also get informed by my husband to stay off the phone or computer of phone but I just can't help it, my business doesn't seem to care if I am on vacation:)

Posted by Jami Van Den Bogaert (RE/MAX House of Brokers) almost 11 years ago


I agree with your post. As the professionals, we set the expectations on what we can and can't get involved in. Unfortunately, I do find myself stressing (and losing sleep) over things I have no control over. How do I get some therapy? Great little series. I can see agents discussing these items with their clients so that everything is "on the table."


Posted by Patrick Randles (Nova Home Loans) almost 11 years ago

Just read your post on this.  Do you have a book solely on this subject?  I'm faced with making a decision about this exact thing this morning.

Posted by Blake Farley (Real Living Hacienda Realty) almost 10 years ago

Nope, no book! But there are five or six blogs in the series!!!

Feel free to write me directly with your situation - maybe I can help!

Posted by Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn, Author of Sell with Soul (Sell with Soul) almost 10 years ago

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