One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from investors and Realtors is how to start conversations with homeowners in distress. This is something that I have written about before and we cover in all of our webinars. It is also the genesis of our new print materials and marketing pieces that we have just introduced through RadarPrint.com.
It always shocks and saddens me when I hear people taking the “confrontational” approach. These are the folks that take “proof” of the foreclosure with them to knock on the door just in case the homeowner is in denial. I personally find this as offensive as taking someone’s photo to show them how out of shape they are because you are offering a free personal training session. You may be right but that is NOT how to start a conversation or build a relationship.
Sean O’Toole, the Founder of ForeclosureRadar wrote a blog post over 2 years ago about the 5 stages of grief. It was true then and it is very true now. The five stages of grief absolutely apply to homeowners in default. They start out in denial that they are going to lose their home. They may also go through an angry stage where they are angry with everyone from the government to the banks to the builder of the home. The bargaining stage is when they are willing to accept a modification that is really only extending the problem by taking them from a toxic loan to a toxic modification. They may hit that depression stage hard and ultimately reach the acceptance stage which is where they are finally able to discuss and make an informed decision on what they are going to do next.
I find that the best way to start a conversation with distressed homeowner is to tell stories or use your favorite sayings. I can tell you from personal experience that words of "hope" or "nuggets of wisdom" can have a tremendous impact since I am a foreclosure survivor from years ago. Here are my favorites:
"Homeownership is the American Dream but we are also the Land of Second Chances. You can go bankrupt today and start to rebuild your life tomorrow. Everyone loves a good comeback story in this country"
"The most important things in life are your mental health, physical health and family. The rest is just stuff!"
"The lenders are taking care of themselves. You MUST take care of yourself."
"They say there is no debtors prison in the US but the secret is that it does exist. The cruel hoax is that it is cleverly disguised as your dream home."
I have had people come back to me days, weeks and months later that have expressed how much these saying have meant to them. Sometimes it is just giving someone something to think about and always giving a message of hope. This is the way to start a conversation. I would bet that a few of these saying even made you think!!