Do you get upset when a Realtor asks if you can pay today? Do you get upset when a Realtor asks how you will pay for a house?
If you do you’re not alone.
It’s the hardest question in sales to ask (also the most important), but it’s also the most botched.
The first time I heard it I was shopping for cars and…just as I was about to get in the car for a test drive…the salesman sprung the question. “If this is the right car for you are you ready to make an offer today?”
Whoa! I don’t even know if I like the car yet!
It really caught me off guard, and it put me on edge.
And it was a fair question, but the salesman’s timing was so awful it killed the sale. I assure you I did buy a car, but just not from him.
Why Salespeople Ask
Salespeople get paid on commission. In other words, they don’t have a steady paycheck to rely on at the end of the week. Yeah, I know nobody does these days, but salespeople only get paid when they make a sale.
So when a person comes on the lot and wants to buy a car, or contacts a Realtor about seeing a house, at some point the Realtor or salesperson needs to know if the person can afford what they want to look at.
There’s an opportunity cost for the salesperson, you see. If a salespeson takes a driver out in a new car, and it turns out the person can’t afford that car, then the salesperson missed an opportunity to sell a different car to a different person while they were out driving around. And if the salesperson doesn’t sell a car (or the Realtor doesn’t sell a house), then they don’t eat…and their family doesn’t eat either.
If Your Looking to Buy a Home, Sooner or Later You’re Going to Get Asked
So from that standpoint it’s a very important question to the salesperson.
So they ask it, and as in the case above it can be botched badly.
How I Ask
Real estate is a numbers game. I know that of the 10 people who contact me on the phone or email me about a property only three will turn out to be what I would classify as “serious” prospects, and of those three prospects, only one will actually buy a home.
So, before I take someone out to look, I generally ask, and I usually phrase it as, “Have you talked to anyone about a mortgage yet?”
It’s a gentle way to broach the subject and it gives my customer the opportunity to think about it before answering. It also gives them the chance to inform me if they are paying cash.
This question has a real world benefit to the buyer as well.
After all, would you want to spend all day looking at houses, find one you absolutely fall in love with, and then discover only after the fact that you can’t afford it? When you go out looking again in the price range you can afford, everything you look at will seem like a step down…even if the houses are just as good.
And Yet Sometimes We Have to Go All Hardball
Sometimes I do phrase it in the way that horrible car salesman did so many years ago, “If you see the home you like today are you prepared to make an offer on it?”
But I generally only do this when I already know the person can afford the house.
And here’s something that will blow your mind; I’m not asking it and then expecting them to make an offer today.
What I’m doing is mentally preparing the buyer to make an offer. As a salesperson in his 12th year, I know when a customer is at the cusp of making an offer. The thing is, the customer may not know. So this starts the conversation, and it gets them mentally prepared. When they see “THE” house it’s like giving themselves permission to make an offer.
And Some People Still Get Upset
I had a lady call me once and basically demanded to see a house over the phone. “I am the wife of doctor so-and-so in Orlando and everybody knows me and I want to see the house blah blah blah…”
People who try and bluster their way into seeing a house generally get told, “No.” But I was nice to the lady and eventually worked my way around to asking her about payment, and she was just as evasive about payment as she was insistent about seeing the house. So my answer was, “No.”
And I wasn’t selling my Seller short either. Because these people never buy. But if I was wrong and this person really was serious, they would eventually call enough other Realtors who would ask the same question over and over…and eventually this very insistent wife of doctor s0-and-so would capitulate and simply answer how she was planning to pay for the house if she decided she liked it enough to make an offer.
Another time (on the same house actually) a gentleman from Atlanta emailed me about seeing the house. I said, “Absolutley,” and as an aside at the end of my email added, “and do you mind if I get the name of your lender, there are some special issues with this home I need to talk to him or her about.”
I was being legit. This particular house was really more of a 2nd home or vacation home. And we had two near-miss offers on it already that got blown up by lenders. For example, people who were going to use the home as a second home came in pre-qualified for a 30-year fixed loan on a primary residence…when the offer hit the lender’s desk it blew up. So the next time (this was a potential next time), I was prepared to talk to the lender in advance, that way I didn’t waste the customer’s time by showing him a home he couldn’t buy, and didn’t waste my Seller’s time either.
But this guy, he blew up before there even was an offer. How dare I demand I ask to talk to his lender?
I explained, “Look, we’ve had some issues with this house on the way the deal is structured…I just need to make sure we aren’t wasting your time.”
He still kept blowing up, so I chose not to work with him. To this day I don’t know if he was a legit buyer or not…I think he was, actually…but he didn’t get to buy this house. And it was an AWESOME house.
How to Avoid the Question
If you’re really not in the market, say so, right up front.
These days when I go onto a car lot just to look (and who hasn’t looked at a new Dodge Challenger?), as soon as the salesperson approaches I tell him right away “I’m a suspect not a prospect.” That’s sales speak for “No Sale.” I get to browse in peace, and the salesguy knows he doesn’t have to waste his time on me.
Tell the Realtor the same thing. You may just be a nosy neighbor. You may be here on vacation and just want to know what things cost here. If you really must see the inside of the home, visit an open house, and tell them you’re a “suspect, not a prospect.”
And everyone stays happy!
Hire St. Augustine Team Realty when you buy or sell a home. We’re prepared to ask the tough questions. Just email us at ReQuestion@StAugTeam.com or call Broker Sean Hess at (904) 386-8327.