AgentIndustry Voices

6 questions to ask sellers at a listing appointment

How to get a better understanding of your client's goals

Growing your client base is a fundamental part of building your real estate business. Although it’s tempting to accept every prospective client who reaches out about selling their home, it’s important for you and any seller to be on the same page before working together. That requires taking some time to get to know each other — and your expectations — better. 

Ultimately, you both have the same goal: to sell the home. But depending on the home itself, the market, and even the seller’s expectations, this listing may not be the best one to advance your career. 

Before you take on a seller as a new client, here are six questions you should ask during the listing appointment.

1. Why did you buy this property?

Knowing why a potential client bought their home can tell you a lot about them and what you can expect your relationship to look like. It can also give you valuable insight that can be used later to sell their home.

For example, if you’re working with empty nesters who bought the home because it’s within walking distance of parks, schools, and recreational activities, you’ll want to play up these features when you write the listing and give tours of the property.

If they bought the home for its investment potential, your sellers might be more particular when it comes to accepting offers. They’ll likely want the biggest return for their investment.

2. Why are you selling now?

There are many reasons why a seller might be looking to sell their home. Maybe they’ve been offered a new job in another state, or they’re expecting an addition to their family. They could be empty nesters looking to downsize. Whatever their reason, it’s important for you to know why as their real estate agent, since it will set the tone and game plan for how you list the home.

If they’re moving for a job out of state, a quick sale might be their most urgent need so they can avoid paying mortgages — not to mention utilities and taxes — for two homes at once. There’s also a good chance the seller might be out of town with limited availability. If you’re uncomfortable working with a client primarily through text messages, emails, and video calls, they may not be the best fit for you.

Timelines also matter if your clients are expecting a child or have put in an offer on a new home that’s contingent on the sale of their current house. In these cases, make sure you both have realistic expectations for the timeline of selling their home.

Empty nesters will likely be more interested in getting the best price for their home, as opposed to prioritizing how quickly they can pack and move. Depending on the time of year, you might recommend that they wait to list until the summer — when offers tend to be at their highest. You can work together in the meantime to complete any pending updates or renovations that will yield the best return on their investment and to get photos and videos for marketing the property.

3. What have you most enjoyed about your home, and are these same features important for your new home?

Finding out what your clients love about their current home could offer extra earning potential for yourself or a partner agent. If your sellers are still in the market for a new home, you might be able to act as their buying agent on the new property. 

Maybe these sellers love the open floor plan in their kitchen and living room in their current home, but they’re looking to upgrade or downsize. If you know of a property on the market that mirrors their wishlist, you can offer to show it to them or make a referral to a partner agent.

4. What kind of updates and repairs have you made to the property?

Any improvements a homeowner makes on their property can add value to the home that increases their asking price and helps you market the home to prospective buyers. Find out when renovations or repairs were made and what materials were used. A primary bathroom that was renovated last year with heated floors and a quartz countertop could be a major selling point.

While some home renovations and updates are obvious during a property tour, others might be harder to see but still give great value. If they’ve recently updated the HVAC system, rewired the home, installed new plumbing, or completed extensive repairs to the foundation, you can include this information in the listing to attract more buyers.

5. How much do you hope to get for selling your home?

A home is one of the biggest expenses people make in their lifetime, which means most people want to get the best possible return on their investment when it’s time to sell. During the listing appointment, find out what kind of price the seller has in mind. This will tell you if they’ve done their research on the market and if they have realistic expectations.

After you know more about their target price, ask what would happen if they don’t get the full offer within their target time frame. Find out if they’re willing to negotiate a lower price, or if they’re willing to provide a home improvement or inspection budget that might sweeten the pot for prospective buyers. If they’re drawing a hard line on the sale price, and they don’t show any room for flexibility, you might save yourself — and the seller — a lot of time and effort by not taking the listing.

6. What are your expectations from me as your agent?

Ultimately, the best way to know whether you’re a good fit for a seller, and if they’re an ideal client for you, is to find out what they expect from you as their agent. Most people only sell a home a few times in their lives, and they’ll rely on your expertise. Be honest with each other early in the process and you’ll both be happier in the long run.  

Luke Babich is the Co-Founder and COO at Clever Real Estate, the nation’s leading real estate education platform for home buyers, sellers and investors.