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What’s the BEST QUESTION to ask your homeowner?

Services for Real Estate Pros with HouseTie.com

Have you ever had a homeowner turn down a perfectly good offer? Maybe they wanted to price a home ridiculously high with no reasonable explanation? Are they just greedy? Many times, no! Here's why...

In my years of previewing listings, I've seen some brilliant agents and some unbelievable train wrecks. The brilliant ones ask the right question.

The first time you walk into a house and ask, "Why are you selling?," or "Where are you planning on moving?," you are missing the boat! These are factual questions and you are going to get black-and-white answers, like "Financial," or "I don't know yet."

The best question to ask you new client is, "So, are you happy about your move?" This question reveals two secrets homeowners rarely tell you:

  • Their emotional state and
  • Their motivational level

3 steps to get inside the heart and mind of your seller

1. Give a positive first impression. Walk in the front door and compliment them on something. I don't care if it is a tree outside in the yard or the area of town they live in. If you can't come up with anything else, that will work. This gives you a positive first step in the door. (Train wreck Tim: "Hi, I'm Tim. Nice to meet you both. Well...let's see what I'm in for." Talk about a negative approach!)

2. Get the grand tour and have them tell you about their home. Then, listen to how they describe it. You will accomplish several things:

  • It cultivates trust. Showing your interest in them and their home helps the homeowner get comfortable with you in their space. This earns their trust through your sincere interest. So just be a guest and don't put on your agent hat yet.
  • You'll get to know your prospect as a person. Their speaking rate, length of the tour, and level of detail they go into will you will help you understand how you should communicate with them, their need for detail, and so on.
  • You'll understand how important their home is to them? Do they talk about what goes on in the home? Do they talk about the crafts and hobbies strewn about? The gatherings they enjoy with friends? Some people can't wait to get rid of their home; others will handcuff themselves to the front door.

3. Ask them the big question, "So, are you happy about your move?" Ask them as soon as the time is right, after the tour.

Case Study: Joan
Joan is a classic case.  I was called by an agent to consult with her and develop a plan on her house of trails. Clutter was everywhere.

I walked in the door and complimented her on her great curb appeal, introduced myself and said, "Okay, let's take a tour and tell me about your home."  She showed off her living room telling me about her antiques and how her family spent time in the room. After a few minutes of us getting to know one another, I casually turned with a smile and asked, "So are you happy about your move, Joan?"

Tears started up and she said, "Well, my husband died six months ago (emotional state), and this house is so big for just me, I can't keep it up. My kids feel I need to move into a retirement community (motivational level).

Would you have gotten that answer if you ask, "Why are you selling?" Nope. Now you know all the reasons why she is selling and you didn't have to keep prying to find the answers. What would she have said if you asked the two old questions? "Why are you selling?," and "Where are you moving to?" You would have heard, "The house is too big for me," and "Into a retirement community."

Not knowing that the kids are pushing her to sell as she's dragging her feet for the next couple months, you're either going to be confused on why she won't get things done, or worse you'll be throwing away time and advertising money, when she won't accept a decent offer. Joan cannot bear the thought of losing everything she has known for 40 years

Agents are shocked when they have been with me on a preview or consultation appointment and I've asked the big question. "I had no idea that was going on," said the agent with his mouth open.

The loss of a family member, divorce, job transfer, and financial issues are all reasons people sell. Learning how they feel about their situation before you put the sign in the yard will improve your relationship with your homeowner and help your listing go much smoother.

People who are emotional tied to their homes will often come up with a reason not to sell - even if it is in their best interest. Time and again, the agent is the last to know. As an agent you need to recognize when you are headed down that long, expensive, time draining road to an expired listing.

Remember to ask the right question, "So, are you happy about your move?"

Helping you get your listing SOLD!
Angela Voss
Designology Home Staging

Glenn Roberts
Retired - Seattle, WA

That's a great question and one of the best classes I've ever taken on listing real estate. Thank you so much.

Apr 28, 2010 11:30 AM
Angela & Stephen Hardiman / HouseTie.com
HouseTie.com - Spokane, WA
When first impressions count...

Thank you Glenn, I appreciate you comment.  Angela Voss

Apr 28, 2010 12:02 PM
David Stratuik
Century 21 Redwood Realty - Ashburn, VA

Great advice! I thought asking 'Joan' if she was happy about the move, although a subtle difference, was very insightful. I can see how homeowners would open up to you. Thanks!



Apr 28, 2010 12:43 PM
Elizabeth Bolton
RE/MAX Destiny Real Estate Cambridge, MA - Cambridge, MA
Cambridge MA Realtor

Hi Angela ~ Genius! Love the "are you happy about your move?" question. Definitely going to add that to my repertoire. By the way - welcome to ActiveRain!! I read and commented on your other post and didn't realize it was your first. Looking forward to more!


Apr 28, 2010 12:57 PM
Angela & Stephen Hardiman / HouseTie.com
HouseTie.com - Spokane, WA
When first impressions count...

David, thanks for your feedback. It really works. Give it a try the next time you are in a home and your questioning the body language. Angela

Apr 28, 2010 01:08 PM
Angela & Stephen Hardiman / HouseTie.com
HouseTie.com - Spokane, WA
When first impressions count...

Thanks Liz, I'm just getting my feet wet here on ActiveRain. I have been writing articles for my local agents for the last several months now. It is all the foundation for the book I am writing. Feels great to get all the feedback. Angela

Apr 28, 2010 01:16 PM
Robin Rogers
Robin Rogers, Silverbridge Realty, San Antonio, Texas - San Antonio, TX
CRS, TRC, MRP - Real Estate Investment Adviser

Oh, yeah. Wish I'd known to ask that question years before. Where were you, Angela?!

May 24, 2010 11:50 AM