Whether you’re just starting in real estate or you’re a seasoned investor, it is imperative to have a connection with a motivated seller. It can make the difference between getting and losing the home of your dreams. At my workshops, it’s not uncommon for a student to ask, “Marko, how can I build rapport with a motivated seller in a short amount of time?”
Building rapport starts and ends with breaking the ice. You can’t connect with someone if there is an awkward, formal wall between the potential buyer and the seller. If you have limited time, it is especially important that you get the conversation flowing as quickly as possible.
When my students ask me about this, I tell them it all comes down to FORM, an acronym I like to use that highlights four key areas of discussion. Through this series of questions and topics, you can uncover the seller’s needs, wants, and uncertainties. These questions not only help you connect with the seller on a friendly level, but they also help you better understand what the seller is looking for in a buyer. So what does FORM stand for? Let’s review the questions you should be asking a seller.
F – Family. Family is the first critical topic to discuss with the seller. Some questions you should ask include, “Are you married? Do you have kids? How old are they? What are they involved in? Are you selling to move closer to family members?” These questions can help identify why the seller is selling their home. It can also help you connect with them. If they have three kids and you have three kids, you can talk about parenting and connect on a deeper level. If their child is heading off to college and yours is in high school, ask them how they are handling the big transition.
O – Occupation. It’s always great to know what the seller does for a living, especially because it may relate to why the seller is selling. Ask such questions as, “What do you do? How long have you been in your industry? Are you selling your house due to job relocation? When do you have to move out and start your new job?” These questions can help you understand the time constraints their facing and how involved they will be in the selling process. If they are unemployed, they may be more inclined to hold out for a higher offer. If the seller is a busy lawyer, they may be willing to sell for less in order to sell faster.
R – Recreation. This is one topic where you should tread carefully. Avoid this subject if the motivated seller is losing their home or is experiencing a really rough time. If it is appropriate, you could ask questions such as, “What do you like to do for fun? Any vacations planned? What do you enjoy doing on the weekends? Where did you go for your last trip?”
M – Money. Money is also another touchy subject, but there are ways to approach it delicately and tactfully. Consider asking simple questions like, “What are you planning to do with the proceeds once you sell your house? Do you need it to buy another house? Are you using a portion of it to help you move? Are you downsizing or upgrading?”
Remember, wait for their answers and avoid hurling question after question. You want this to be a conversation, not a rapid round of 20 Questions. These are all basic and simple questions to ask that can provide educational answers. The whole point of this process is to stick to the order of the FORM and focus on the seller and their thoughts. This technique can help you receive some great information that will guide you as you proceed in your negotiations, and it will also let the seller know you really care about them and their situation. I can tell you from my own experience that the FORM is very beneficial for every real estate investor.