Making Offers; Figuring Out What the Seller Really Wants

In my business, I do a lot of direct mail marketing to get my phone ringing. And like most real estate investors, I talk with a lot of sellers. One thing that sellers all have in common is they all have a story to tell. One of the hardest things to learn when you are just starting out is how to be a good listener; how to really listen to these folks. It’s vital that you develop this skill quickly, because you are going to need in order to figure out what the seller really wants before you make your offer.

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I am the first person to admit that this can be a painful process. The sellers will want to tell you the history of the house, the family history going back at least 50 years, and about all of their problems. Your job will be to sit quietly and listen without interrupting. Because at some point, they will tell you the exact reasons they need to sell the house. If you listen carefully, they will tell you what they need or want in addition to money, and there is always “something else”. This will be the key to crafting an offer that will get accepted.

What Is the “Something Else”? 

I have found that with probates it is almost always one of several things. The first thing that many families just can’t face is cleaning out the house. They may let things drag on and on just because of this. If you can offer to remove everything that is left after they have taken furniture and mementos family members want, that will often be the “something else” that they need to move forward. It could be they are short of cash and need you to pay closing costs and other expenses.

Many times these estates are left with back taxes, fees for code violations and other expenses that they just can’t pay. Once they understand that you will take care of these costs for them, they will often move forward rather quickly. It’s important that you discover these things before you make your offer so that they can be included in the price you offer. I have worked with a few sellers that just wanted to be able to break even after expenses. They just want to be free of this problem house that they inherited and the monthly costs that go along with it.

Absentee owners often find themselves with a house that has been trashed, is full of the previous tenant’s personal belongings and they just don’t want to have to deal with it from thousands of miles away. They have a problem, and they are looking for a solution to their problem.

I have made phone calls to turn on utilities, arranged for electrical inspections for vacant houses so the utilities could be turned on, and solved all sorts of other problems for the sellers. Each of these things only cost me my time, but they saved the sellers a lot of headaches and money in many cases.

Landlords may just be tired of dealing with property that needs repairs each time a tenant moves out and leaves the house a mess. Regardless of the type of seller you are dealing with, by the time they get to you they are all looking for one thing; a solution to their problem.

Always Remember What Business You Are Really In

Real estate investors are not in the “house business”; we are in the “problem solving business”. If you can quickly figure out what that “something else” is that the seller wants or needs in addition to cash, you will always be able to close more deals than the investor that thinks it’s just about the money. It’s almost never just about the money!


Sharon Vornholt has been investing in real estate since 1998. She is an experienced rehabber, landlord and is now a full time wholesaler and internet marketer. She also has a popular blog for real estate investors that you can find at: