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Being in real estate has always required a certain level of hand-holding and diplomacy. Yet today, more than ever, those of us who work with sellers are putting our counseling skills to the test, due to consumer confidence that’s taken a beating in a down economy.

Before aggressively investing time in sellers who may never be ready to price their homes realistically for today’s buyers, get to know them and establish routine communications. If you connect with prospects effectively and provide a full picture of the market, the true sellers will eventually signal when they are prepared to make the move.

A key element in assessing client attitude is the level of service you provide. It’s only by staying in contact regularly and investing time to thoroughly explain your local market that you will earn loyalty and trust. Share market reports with clients at least weekly, as a gentle reminder that homes that are selling in their neighborhood are within a certain price range—and likely below what they initially envisioned.

Negotiate in advance for target dates at which you will consider a price change, based on milestones like a set number of market days. This will free you from having to visit price frequently in conversation.

Keeping your clients informed is easy today, with the housing market data available through your local REALTOR® association Multiple Listing Service and other resources. Be steadfast and earn your clients’ respect as a reliable and patient advisor. Consistency is critical. If you let even two weeks elapse without client contact – even just a quick check-in call—chances are you will have waited too long and lost their interest or loyalty.

Clients who receive regular attention and excellent service will reward you with signs when they are ready to act. For instance, you may notice that they become very cooperative and interested in your counsel concerning listing price. You may also notice that they’re willing to detach emotionally from the property and get excited about what type of home they might purchase next.

It’s not unusual today to meet potential clients who approach the prospect of selling with a nostalgia that won’t allow them to price right and sell right. Your knowledge is your power. By keeping clients consistently informed of up-to-date market data, there is no need to forcibly push your reasons for a price adjustment. By offering insight into local selling trends, there is no need to trumpet what you think your clients need to do to sell their house. They will let you know when they are ready – and, as they learn from your regular market updates — may even become enthused about their future new home.

Bob Floss is the 2011-2012 President of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®