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47 Reasons Sane People Sell A House Dirt Cheap

by Danny Johnson on December 26, 2012 · 21 comments


Are you apprehensive about marketing to motivated sellers? Do you wonder whether people actually exist that are willing to sell their houses for dirt cheap without being forced?

Join the club. I think most of us have these doubts when we got started. It’s only natural because we’ve likely never been in a situation that would make us want to sell under market value.

The more marketing I did, the more it became clear that people were more than willing to happily sell their house for cheap. Amazingly, it was hardly ever because of a looming foreclosure.

In order to help people understand why sellers call investors to buy their houses, I’ve put together a list. This list is full of reasons and situations that people have that make them want to sell quickly and painlessly.

The list is broken up into two sections. The first are the ones related to situations where the seller didn’t ‘earn’ the equity. They didn’t pay on the house for 20 years and then need to sell. The second section contains negative situations that people end up in that cause them to be willing to give up some equity.

You could and should use this list to help in determining where to direct your marketing.

    Unearned Equity

  1. Inherited the house and have no need for it
  2. Inherited the house and can’t afford it
  3. Inherited the house and are tired of taking care of it
  4. Won a lawsuit and bought the house
  5. Won the lottery and bought the house
  6. Payout from an insurance claim
  7. Divorce and got the house
  8. Parents bought the house for them
  9. Negative Circumstances

  10. Vandalized house
  11. Burglarized
  12. Fire damage
  13. Flood damage
  14. Mold
  15. Foundation problems
  16. Lead or asbestos problems
  17. Infestation
  18. Going into assisted living
  19. Death in the house – Stigma
  20. Death – Painful memories
  21. Drug addiction
  22. Tired landlord
  23. Don’t want to become landlords
  24. Skipping town
  25. Harrassment
  26. Going to prison
  27. Medical bills
  28. Owe Taxes
  29. Can’t afford repairs
  30. Facing foreclosure
  31. Need money for new business
  32. Outgrown the house
  33. City condemned house
  34. Military relocation
  35. Job transfer
  36. Don’t trust Realtors
  37. Don’t know how to sell a house
  38. Unsuccessful Sale – Agent
  39. Unsuccessful Sale – FSBO
  40. Neighborhood on the decline
  41. Schools on the decline
  42. Sex offender nearby
  43. Gang problems
  44. Unsavory new development nearby
  45. Bad neighbors
  46. Disappearing waterfront
  47. Dried up well
  48. Change in airport flight patterns

This is by no means all of the situations and circumstances that cause people to sell for cheap. I’d like your help in coming up with more. If you have one that you could add, please mention it in the comments below. Let’s see how many we can get up to.

Also, let’s have a contest to get a 1,000 facebook likes on this article. Nothing’s impossible. If we’re going to go big, might as well go HUGE! Help us out, click the ‘like’ button.
Photo: Barbara Piancastelli

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Melodee Lucido December 26, 2012 at 9:37 am

Wow, that’s quite a list; I like how you categorized it.

I don’t have anything to ad but am wondering how many of the list you’ve actually had the pleasure of doing deals with.

Thanks Danny.


Danny Johnson December 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Thanks, Melodee.

I too wish I had the numbers for which ones were from each. We’ve bought from a lot of these situations but just don’t have the numbers.


MikeG December 26, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Here’s one that’s a landlord type situation, but does not seem to neatly fit into “tired landlord” or “not wanting to be a landlord”. This seller owned a townhome and his girlfriend at the time lived with him there. Then they moved out to a bigger place, and rented the townhome out to two of her friends. Then the seller broke up with the girlfriend, got a new girlfriend and wanted to sell the place to get some extra cash. However, he didn’t want to have to deal with removing the tenants and thus have the possibility of negative blowback from the ex-girlfriend. So he just wanted to sell for cash to someone and let them deal with kicking out the tenants. The place was in very good shape and (according to him) the tenants paid regularly and were very nice, he just didn’t want to have to deal with the ex at all. He was willing to take a HUGE reduction in price for that peace of mind.


Danny Johnson December 26, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Great addition to the list, Mike.

What could we call this? Sell to avoid communication with someone? To break all ties with someone?

Thanks again.


Joshua Dorkin December 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Great list, Danny, and in these cases, the seller is not getting taken advantage of by the buyer, as some may claim . . . they are setting a low price because that’s how you sell items quickly. I’ve sold property dirt cheap for several of these reasons — in the end, it was both to my advantage to get out, and the advantage of the buyer to get in, knowing full well my reasons for unloading.

Thanks for the post!


Danny Johnson December 26, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Thanks, Josh.

‘…they are setting a low price because that’s how you sell items quickly’

That’s one of the best ways I’ve seen that explained.

It’s amazing to a lot of people that sellers are actually very happy to unload these houses, even at these prices. I’ve been there before myself with rental properties.


Joshua Dorkin December 26, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Happy to offer my $0.02 . . . what amazes me is when people complain about their property not selling — they can never figure out what it is. Of course, they never even consider that they aren’t priced correctly…


Dennis December 26, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Let me add one more from a landlord’s perspective.

The house doesn’t owe me anything, or I made my money off the place, it is worn out, it is your turn to fix and milk it some more. Good Luck!


Danny Johnson December 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Great one. Thanks.


Karen Rittenhouse December 27, 2012 at 10:09 am

One of my favorites and one we get A LOT is convenience.
We can close on the date you want. Period. You move out and don’t have to do a thing. Done.

I call this the “drive through mentality.”
Hungry? Pull up to the window and get your meal.
Have a headache? Pop an aspirin.
Want to sell your house? Call me.

We live in a “drive through” society and we fill that need. Simple.


Danny Johnson December 27, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Hey Karen.

I like that. The ‘drive through mentality.’ Exactly what it is. They just want instant gratification.



Jann December 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm

How about thin walls? Not just because of noisy neighboors but heavy street traffic that can be heard all the time. My friend bought a condo in Boca Raton FL and turned it into a furnished weekly beach rental shortly thereafter because she bought before they were finished building and didn’t anticipate the noise.


Danny Johnson December 27, 2012 at 3:54 pm

That’s a good one to add. Thanks.


Nancy Roth December 27, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I object to the “drive-through society” characterization of the homeowner who decides to sell to a cash buyer. It’s not as if the seller is somehow lazy for choosing not to weather a stress-filled and uncertain retail marketing process. In my neighborhood are many elders who have raised their kids and maybe grandchildren in their homes over several decades. Maybe they have been maintaining the house but not necessarily updating it throughout, so their homes are not great candidates for the retail market. Then all of a sudden the elder resident needs to move due to a health issue, or some other vulnerability. It’s surely a difficult transition already, why should the seller choose the bumpier path? Chances are the seller will wind up selling to an investor anyway–but have to pay settlement costs plus 5-6% in agent commissions in the end.


Danny Johnson December 27, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Thanks for the input, Nancy.

I think what was meant was that some people do it for reasons that you suggested, but there are also times when a person really does just want to get cash as quickly as possible. It’s not to say that everyone that prefers to sell quickly just wants instant gratification. It’s to say that maybe some do.


Karen Rittenhouse December 27, 2012 at 9:21 pm

Hi Nancy:
What you describe is definitely not “drive through mentality”! I’m talking about something entirely different.
We have had people walk away from HUGE amounts of equity for convenience.
They don’t want agents listing their house; they don’t want strangers walking through; they want to know exactly what day it will close so they can move on the day of their choice.
We give them that, the convenience they want, and they pay us well for it. These people are not in distress and are used to living with convenience. Buying at 60-70 cents on the dollar works in every price point and a property can be in pristine condition and still sell at those discounts. “Needing” to sell and “wanting” to sell are two very different conditions!


Seth Williams December 27, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Wow, Danny! This is an awesome compilation. I love this kind of information because it reassures me that I’m not necessarily crazy for offering someone 20% of their property’s market value. I’ve encountered many of these same situations with the sellers I’ve worked with in the past, so it’s good to see that others have had similar experiences.


Danny Johnson December 27, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Thanks, Seth.

You ARE crazy for offering 20% of the market value. I’m thinking you meant 80%. If you really did mean 20%, my hat is off to you. :)


Michael January 1, 2013 at 9:12 am

I use to ask all the time WHY? I just don’t anymore. All good points Danny.
Happy New Year.


Danny Johnson January 1, 2013 at 9:56 am

Thanks, Mike.

Happy New Year to you! May 2013 be your best year yet.


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