Here are 15 questions that I feel are essential to ask sellers when they contact you about selling their house. These are the questions that I ask each and every time I talk to a seller.
When I ask these questions, I am not just trying to find out the details of the house and how much they want, I am trying to find out how motivated they are and how willing they are to sell the house at a price that would make it worth it for me to buy.
We don’t want to ‘hard sell’ people and don’t want to come off as someone just reading down a list of questions. It’s best to try and make this as conversational as possible. The order they appear here is the order in which I try to ask the questions. The meat is at the end of the conversation. You don’t have to ask them in this order.
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Key points to remember: Ask open-ended questions. Listen. Listen. Listen. Let them do the majority of the talking.
We need to know who we are speaking to. I like to call them by their name throughout the conversation to help build rapport. Usually, I will tell them my name and then ask theirs if they don’t just come out and tell me at the beginning of the conversation.
This one is pretty important. It’s hard to analyze a deal when we don’t know the address. On rare occasions sellers will be hesitant and some will refuse to give you the address. I’ve never understood it, but it doesn’t matter because they are obviously not serious enough about selling their house. If I’m at my desk when I get the call, I will start pulling up the information for the property from the county appraisal district’s website (to find yours, just Google ‘[your county or area] appraisal district’. They usually are something like ‘bcad.org’.) This way I can pull up other information that a lot of owners don’t know off the top of their head and you don’t want to waste time asking them. I find the square footage, year built, the lot size, neighborhood, etc.
Should be straight forward. Try to make sure when they tell you 3 bathrooms, that it is not really 2.5 or that a 5th bedroom is not a garage conversion or something.
Ask about conversions, finished basements (don’t have many of those in south Texas), inground or above ground pools (I really dislike investment properties with pools).
This is a great way to find out what the house needs in the way of repairs, but also what it needs to make it desirable. Many times if you just ask the seller what repairs it needs, they will just think of things that are broken or some way damaged. They tend to not think about the fact that the house is terribly outdated. You want them to realize that the house may be in good shape, but may require a lot of updating and polishing.
Here’s a big one. This one requires some time and a great deal of open-ended questions and keeping your mouth shut so that they can talk. This is where the motivation usually becomes apparent. Sometimes the seller will be hesitant and only tell you they are moving. Don’t leave it at that. Ask them why they are moving?
Some people are afraid to ask this question for fear the seller will not appreciate it. In their mind, it is like asking what hand they are holding at the poker table. That’s not it at all really. I just want to know if they owe too much for me to be able to buy the house. I don’t want to waste my time going to meet with them if there is no way I would be able to buy the house for what I would need to buy it for. The way to approach this question, is to just ask it like you did the question about how many bedrooms the house has. Don’t make a big deal out of it and they won’t. It’s rare that someone doesn’t tell me how much is owed. If they don’t, they are not likely motivated enough anyway.
Notice the wording of this one. We’re not asking, “Are you behind on the payments?” That would be sort of like rubbing their faces in it. This approach is a lot easier for people to be comfortable with telling you. Of course, it also goes along the same lines as asking how much is owed and should be treated the same way.
Is their asking price in line with where you likely need to buy it? The vast majority of the time it will NOT be. So don’t worry about it. The asking price is just the price they are hoping to get for it. Most of the houses we buy, the seller asked a much higher price but knew they would never get it. I look at what is owed more than what they are asking. Now, if they spend an hour telling you about how nice the place is and that it is the biggest, nicest house in the neighborhood and are selling it because they want to buy a bigger, nicer house, you probably don’t want to waste much time with them.
How did they come up with that price? Did a Realtor pull comps for them? Did they see a house down the street for sale at that price? Is it because they are hoping to have X dollars to do Y? This can help determine more of their motivation for selling.
Another motivation building question. If they want to be done with it yesterday they will think about that while answering this question and will let you know that really just want it off their hands. When people tell me they just want to be done with the f&^#&* thing, I head over to see it as soon as possible.
Here’s Ron LeGrand’s ultimate question. This is a must-ask question. It never ceases to amaze me how many people quickly and drastically reduce their asking price with this simple question. Here again, you want to play the quiet game while they are thinking about it. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable about the silence and make a comment to allow them to avoid answering it. This one is too important as it does the negotiating for you.
If they are somewhat motivated and/or at least have enough equity to be able to sell you the house for what you need to buy at, schedule an appointment with them. Sometimes I get lazy and tell them that I will research it and call them back to set up an appointment. That’s ridiculous and I know it. When I do that, sellers probably don’t feel like waiting around for me and continue calling other investors. Not a good thing. Make sure you schedule an appointment to see the house. In my opinion, most sellers will only talk with 1-3 house buyers when calling investors to buy their house. You need to be the one or one of the three.
We’ve got to know what marketing is working so that you can focus on the marketing that is pulling better. Keep track of this. You can use the FREE lead manager/deal analyzer to keep track of your leads and marketing.
I hope you don’t forget this one. You really need to know how to contact the seller again. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten off the phone and forgotten to write down the number they called from (or they call from a friends phone) and not been able to get a hold of them again.
So there are the 15 most important questions that we should be asking sellers when they call us. Thanks for reading.
-Danny JohnsonNext: Online Lead Generation Part 3: Pay Per Click for Real Estate Investors
Good information about qualifying potential “motivated sellers”.
Thanks for the questions. I ask these now but it is ALWAYS good to have more than one way to do it.
Site looks good. The one I am using now looks great but is not bringing in many leads and I am sure I am paying too much. Just don’t know much about how to create one and do the seo much less change it after it is up. Will try your investor website and hope it works better. Any other suggestions from you or the community will be appreciated.
Hey Lucky. Changing the site up was not too terribly frustrating. Of course, it was supposed to be click a button and you’re done. Well…I clicked the button and the site wouldn’t load. DARN. Simple fix though and we are good now. It was more scary than anything else.
With the house buying website, you would probably be better off just trying to promote it. Try writing some articles on ezinearticles.com.
Thanks for the resouces. Refreshing!
Wonderful stuff. I am keeping this for my use!
Please do. Glad to see you made it over to the blog.
Thanks Danny, great lead sheet list.
I also like the question “what will you do if you don’t sell the house?”. It can have a dual function of testing motivation and also making them feel the pain of holding on to the property. I think I heard it from Claude Diamond.
Great question to add. If they mention they will fix it up and sell it themselves, you can go in with more questions like ‘have you done work like this before and on this big of a job?”
Great list Danny. Number 12 is my fave, I used it last week twice, it really cuts to the chase. I’ve learned to really prequal the leads before I jump in my car like I used to. Its hard to not get excited when you get leads starting out. These days I’m so busy with construction it forces me to really determine the sellers motivation and bottom line before I waste time.
I hear ya. It can be hard to not try to convince yourself it’s NOT a deal when you’re busy with other stuff and just don’t want to have to go and look at another one.
Thanks for the list of questions. This will help me stay in control of the conversation & build rapport while getting everything I need. My lead sheet is long & it doesn’t flow like this.
Glad it will help. Thanks, Jennifer.
Thanks Danny great article. I’m just about ready to jump in But I have so many unanswered questions about finding buyers. I want to start out wholesaling but have no buyers? this is one of the missing pieces of the puzzle to me.
This is something I plan on covering in the near future. For now though, one of the best ways is to drive areas that you are going to target and look for houses that are being worked on. Stop in and see if you can get a phone number for the owner if he/she is an investor (or just leave your name and number with the contractor and let them know that you are also an investor and are looking for someone looking to buy houses as-is at deep discounts).
Great post. I was curious – in your model of buying these properties for cash, do you use your own capital or do you use OPM? If OPM, what do you use to source (private money, HML, etc.)
Do you ever hold or exclusively flip?
I use private money lenders. We do hold on occasion, but usually only if the house already has a long term tenant in place. We also sell some properties with owner financing.
Danny I’m looking to buy with owner financing, maybe you can help?
Kind regards linda
Great questions here Danny, I’m loving #12 – that’s powerful stuff. I really like Dave Tower’s supplemental question too (above), I’m going to start including these points in my evaluation process. Thanks for the pointers!
Number 12 is also my favorite. It’s amazing how effective it is.
Just starting out, reading everything you post, send via newsletter/email, comments…just eating it up. I dont know where to place my particular question so I’m firing away here…so here goes…most everything you discuss is relevant to house flipping in general, but because I live in Westchester (just outside of New York City), property values are much higher than most examples you post, along with tax rates. Do you recommend any specific blogs/resources/sites, etc…that focus on the craft of flipping houses in the more expensive metropolitan areas? Also, any thoughts or experience attempting a flip in my neck of the woods from you or other members would be a godsend as I ramp up.
Thanks for all you do Danny…I havent made a penny flipping yet and I am already in your debt!
Thank you for the compliments, Adam. I appreciate that.
Thanks for being a subscriber.
My advice would be to start by finding and talking to other active investors in your area. Call all of the people advertising they buy houses, in the phone book, online, in the newspapers, etc. See if there is a Real Estate Investor Association in your area and make it a point to find out who the serious buyers are and try and talk to them. Find out what criteria all of these people use to buy houses. Make note of what they tell you. Then pick the most conservative criteria used by people in your area and start with that.
If you don’t have much money you should start with wholesaling. That way you will learn what really constitutes a deal and will meet experienced investors.
Hey Danny! Two other questions that I think are good are:
– Are you the sole owner? If there’s more decision makers, you’ll want to know upfront, right?
– Is there anyone living there now? If there’s a tenant or something, that would be important, I imagine. Also can tell you if they’re out of state, which shows motivation.
Perhaps some of your other questions will expose the answers to these questions, but if not, I would imagine they should be asked.
Thanks for all the excellent info!
Great questions. Yes, these are worth asking.
I’m going to see my VERY first sign-a-deal today. I will be sure to ask him question #12. Thanks, Danny
Yes. That is my favorite question out of all of them. Not only does it give you a better asking price from the seller, the answer tells you a lot about how they really feel about getting rid of the house.
Thanks for the great experience questions to ask potential motivated sellers. Looking to do my first deal. Thanks once again!
No problem, Damon. Go get ’em. Make 2016 the year you break through and build momentum.
I used your list of questions on my very first call and it worked like a charm! What a great guide, thanks!
Awesome! Glad to hear it. 🙂
Fantastic information Danny! Thank you so much for putting this out there!
awesome tips Danny! Thank you for very much for the information! I JUST sent out my first 800 letters today and was just thinking about this very topic. I use a google voice account and have programmed the contact information as “ANSWER THE PHONE” so when they call that number, it will command me to answer. Hopefully it works!
Hey Garth! That’s a great idea. I might have to use that one.
I appreciate the phone script, easy and simple conversation
Will keep this next to my phone when they call.
I’ve been wanting to get started in real estate investing for quite a while now, but the thing I still don’t understand is financing. Most people are eager to sell if the buyer has cash, but how do you purchase your first investment property? I own my primary residence now, would I have to take out a second mortgage or go through a hard money lender?
Yes, you will need a source of funding. Most investors either get started with hard money or partnering. You can find out more by listening to my podcast episodes with the tag ‘Funding’ here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/flipping-junkie-danny-johnson/id1048631778?mt=2
Thanks so much. Very nice.
Great steps and enjoyed reading them.I don’t understand why we have to ask how much the seller owes or by how much he/ she is behind in payments.
This helps us to understand whether there is enough equity for a potential deal.
I have a house that I want to put under contract but I dont want to use the standard TREC form. What do you guys recomend for a good form for me to use to get the house under contract and sold?
I’ll send you an email. I see you are a LeadPropeller customer. I’ll send a single page contract you can use.
I have a home that also want to put under contract. Can I get a sample contracts
This is great! Thanks for putting it all in one simple list.
Hey Greg! Glad you like it.
Thank you guys! This helps. No beating around the bush, just hardcore info. I love it.