You already know that part of your job is asking your clients a million questions about what kind of real estate they’re buying or selling. But if you’re a broker or real estate agent, questions to ask clients should be aimed at more than just a better understanding of what your clients want out of a piece of property. Questions to ask real estate clients should help you better understand who they are as people and what they want out of life. If you know this information, you’ll often have a better idea of what your clients want than they do! Thus, asking the right questions is critical. Not sure where to start? We can help!
Before you even agree to take on a client, we encourage you to ask these ten questions:
#1: Why are you wanting to buy/sell at this time?
Client motivation is critical to evaluate. This can separate serious buyers from whim-followers. If your clients are about to welcome twins and need a house for the kids to grow up in, you have more of a chance at a contract than someone who replies that they just want to get out of their parents’ basement. Likewise, “I just got the promotion I’ve been gunning for, and I’m ready to live closer to my job” screams sale, whereas, “We were thinking about getting married and just curious what kind of home we might want if we do” does not. Adding the tag “at this time” is just as important as asking your client why they want to buy. They may have dreamed of having their own home since they were teens, but they clearly weren’t ready to buy then. Thus, “Why now?” is a question that again gauges sincerity and the willingness and ability to commit to the time, money, and effort it takes to buy a property.
#2: Are you currently working with a CPA? A lender or other financial advisor? Any other brokers or real estate agents?
If your clients haven’t been pre-approved for a home loan, this could be a red flag. Perhaps your client simply doesn’t yet know enough about the purchasing process to have taken this step. In this case, he or she needs to be directed toward a lender, and you would be doing them a favor to suggest one. However, it could also be that your client is not yet serious about purchasing, and this is something to suss out before taking on another assignment.
#3: Can you describe your ideal house? Yard? School? Neighborhood?
These questions come in many forms, including: “What excites you about the prospect of a new home?”, “What features of a house would you bring you daily joy?”, “In what kind of school or neighborhood do you see you and your family fitting in?”, or “What room(s) in your ideal house are most important to you, or will you spend the most time in?” All these questions are aiming at the same information: what your clients really want out of a property. If they go on and on about their excitement to decorate, then lots of long walls, niches, and decoratively angled rooms may be in order. If they talk non-stop about how critical it is that their children have a yard to play in and a decent education, then a home on an acre situated near a highly-ranked school system is a must. You can only find what your client is truly looking for if you get to the heart of what excites them about the prospect of owning their own house.
#4: What must your house have? What do you hope it has?
Often, clients can tell us all about their ideal house, but they have a harder time articulating what they want and what they can’t live without. The two lists often shift or start to run together. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hopefully, you can find a property that includes many of your clients needs and desires; however, since we all know that no one property can fulfill every wish, it’s a critical exercise for your clients to undertake to separate what they truly need and expect from what they merely hope for but could live without.
#5: What are instant no’s?
Especially if your client has a hard time discerning needs from desires, you should ask what will make them instantly walk away from a property. Often, clients can more decisively talk about deal breakers than the deal makers. Thus, knowing what your client definitely doesn’t want can help you get closer to what they do.
#6: How long do you plan on living in the next house you buy?
This question can, of course, be used to determine if your clients are serious buyers. But more than that, it also helps to determine how convicted they may be about their purchase. Perhaps they said that a pool was a must, but if they only plan on living in the house for 3-5 years, it may be that they are looking to quickly upgrade to another property. Therefore, they may be willing to compromise on the pool at this time if a property fits every other criterion.
#7: What is a range of monthly mortgage payment you’re willing to pay? Are there any features a house might have that would make you consider changing your numbers?
Questions such as these are direct and often appreciated by buyers who don’t want their time wasted looking at properties they never intended to afford. It saves you time as well to have a measuring stick for what your clients feel comfortable paying. Don’t forget to ask your clients a follow-up question about what may change their mind, however. It could be that having two master bedrooms or a spiral staircase or an open kitchen concept will push those numbers a little higher. If so, it doesn’t just affect your commission, which would be nice. It also gives you insight into what your client is really looking for, and how firm they are on price.
#8: What is your preferred method of communication?
This is so basic a question that it’s often missed. But don’t underestimate the importance of communication. To keep rapport between you and your clients high, you should plan on reaching out and responding to them quickly and efficiently. A good rule of thumb is to contact them in the same way that they contact you. However, this doesn’t mean they prefer a certain style of communication. For example, I may feel like the last person on earth who prefers to do business on the phone, but I don’t think I’m actually alone. Why risk it? Simply ask your clients how they prefer to be contacted, and then reach out to them using this method every time for maximum efficiency and smoother communication. Even if you already know the answer, asking is also merely a gesture of consideration… and that never goes amiss.
#9: What other costs are you prepared to pay in addition to the purchase price of the home?
So many clients are not aware (and therefore not prepared) for all the outlying costs of buying a home. At worst, it could even change your client’s mind about purchasing. Thus, it’s best to know up front whether or not your client has the means and the mindset to pay more than just a property’s sticker price. Also, you want to make sure that you’re showing clients properties in their real price range. It’s not fair, but when there are “hidden” fees associated with homeownership, such as homeowner’s association fees, the blame often falls on the agent or broker for “not saying so before.” Solve this problem quickly and easily by ensuring that your clients know the real cost of buying a house before they try it and embarrass or frustrate themselves… and you.
#10: If I found your dream home today, when would you want to move in?
Even if buyers are serious, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re prepared to roll into a new home tomorrow. Often, clients aren’t packed and waiting by the door. They usually contact brokers or agents tentatively to get a feel for the market before they commit to the idea of serious shopping. However, you can quickly get a feel for where your client is in the process by simply asking them. If they aren’t ready to move tomorrow, a few natural follow-up questions will determine if they’re in a position to get ready for a move, or if there’s dragging their feet for some sale-stopping reason.