Friends Don't Always Make Good Clients

When Suzanne Tenney took on a listing from a friend, she was excited to help him out in his time of need. But when the deal fell apart, so did their friendship.

June 6, 2014

Friends and family members are often the first resources new real estate agents turn to for business. But you know what they say: Don’t mix business with pleasure. So if you’re going to represent a good friend, you better make sure that your relationship is solid. Otherwise, a deal gone bad could mean a friendship lost.

If only someone had given that advice to Suzanne Tenney, an agent with Century 21 DeNault Realty in Leominster, Mass. One of the first listings she got as a rookie agent last year was the home of a long-term friend. She would learn that trying to have a business relationship with someone whom she is personally involved with can cause a lot of problems.

“He was going through a divorce, which is why he was selling,” Tenney says of her friend. “I was told he was cleared to sell, but I learned later from his ex-wife that he was not.”

Under the impression that she was using her business skills to help a friend in need, Tenney poured her money and time into marketing her friend’s property. She spent $300 on mailers and two months attempting to set up showings. But her friend was standing in the way of making the listing successful.

“He wouldn’t allow me to show the home. He kept making up excuses,” Tenney says.

The listing languished, and after two months, Tenney’s friend took the home off the market. With it being one of her first listings, Tenney was left feeling defeated and thrown for a loop by her friend.

“It was very embarrassing,” Tenney says. “I was so excited and spent a lot of money preparing and marketing only to have him take it off the market.

“The whole thing gave me a lot of experience in listings very quickly, but I wish I had gotten that experience elsewhere so I could better deal with it from a friend,” she adds.

The relationship between Tenney and her friend has been strained ever since, and she says she “doesn’t trust him anymore.”

“You really need to handle all transactions alike,” Tenney says. “It’s business, bottom line. If they can’t respect my profession, then I need to move on and recommend another agent.

“People are people — friend or no friend — and everyone wants a deal. If you’re going to do business with friends, you have to be able to look at the relationship as business. If you can’t, don’t do it.”

Graham Wood
Senior editor

Graham Wood is senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at