- Ask them how long they’ve lived in the home. This gets the conversation going and starts the process of you gathering information from the homeowners. (“It seems like this is a nice area to live. How long have you lived here, in this house?”)
- Ask them if they plan on living in the same area when they sell their home. The reason for this question is that it gets them to tell you what their future plans are. Knowing what their plans on are huge so you know what to focus on when it comes to negotiation time. They may answer that they may be going to another state, another country, moving back home with parents, or moving in with a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend. There could be positive reasons or negative reasons associated to the area – for example, they may be divorcing and want to leave the area, which lets you know they are in a hurry to leave. (“I noticed a few shopping malls nearby, seems pretty convenient. Do you plan on living in this same area once you sell your home?”)
- Ask them when they plan to get the house closed by. If they give you a specific date, then this tells you a lot about their situation, whether personal or financial. They may tell you they need to close on April 1st because they need to pay tax liens on the property. They may tell you there’s no real fixed date in mind to sell and they’re just looking to see what the market offers. The answer to this question gives you insight into how motivated they are to close by a certain date. (“Is there a time-frame in mind for when you’d like to get this closed by?”)
- Ask them if they have a bottom-line price on the home. By getting an answer to this question you’ll gain insight quickly on what the seller has in mind in regard to price and whether you’re on the right track to getting a deal done. (“A lot of sellers I’ve seen recently, instead of doing the whole haggling-price thing, put a final and best price on the home and then put it on the market. This can often make the transaction process much more stress-free. Do you have a bottom-line price on this home?”)
- Ask them how much they owe on the property. Not all owners will answer this, but if you can get an answer to this question it allows you to follow up by asking them that if you can offer them their price if they can let you assume payments on the house for a period of a year or 2.
When asking these questions, don’t just ask the sellers one question after another, rapid-fire style. You don’t want to be an impersonal robot, you want to connect with them on a personal level. You want to engage the property owner in polite conversation, gaining rapport and gaining their trust. You want them to be comfortable with you – this allows them to open up to you and answer your questions truthfully.
If you notice the questions I’ve written for you above as examples, you may see that none have easy “Yes or No” answers. You want to ask open-ended questions. You ask the questions and then stay silent – let them answer, don’t fill the silence with chit-chat! You ask the question and then wait. By asking these open-ended questions you’re leading the conversation, but they’re the ones talking. Generally, you’re looking for a 70%-30% conversation split, with them being 70% of the conversation. Why would you want to blabber on and on – what good does that serve you? A hiring manager for a company would never dominate the conversation of a hiring interview, they ask questions and then let the applicant speak. Always remember that your outcome in this initial process is to get information on the property and on them as homeowners. You don’t want to blabber on and on about how great you think the tile is and it’s your dream home or other nonsense like this.
As a final note, always have your contracts and paperwork with you when you go to look at any property! You never know what can happen – you always need to be ready to take action if the opportunity arises.