That Terrifying Moment When Newbies Talk to A Motivated Seller

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One of the scariest and most dreaded parts of this business for brand new real estate investors is taking phone calls; specifically what to say when a motivated seller calls. Some real estate investors just have the gift of gab and can “wing it,” but others find it more difficult to find the right words.

The first thing every new investor needs to understand is that most of us had the exact same experience. We were terrified to pick up the phone even after we spent a hefty sum of money sending out our first few direct mail campaigns or hammering up dozens of bandit signs. Whatever marketing strategy we have decided on, the end result was to get our phone to ring. We were looking for leads; for motivated sellers which we hoped would end up turning into deals. That always involves taking phone calls and talking to sellers.

Why is it that we can talk all day long to people about nothing in particular, but when we need to have an intelligent conversation about something we are passionate about, we tend to be at a loss for words? The first thing that comes to mind is what do I say to them when they call?

Related: Creating Your REI Story: How to Be “The One” the Motivated Seller Chooses/a>

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What Do I Say

Everyone wants to know, “What do I say when ….”

  • I answer the phone?
  • Someone asks me where I got their name?
  • They ask me right off the bat how much I will pay for their house?
  • A motivated seller asks why I am sending letters or postcards to them
  • I begin to gather property information; how do I start that conversation?

These are just a few of the questions that routinely come up.

Use a “Cheat Sheet”

Starting the conversation seems to be the hard part.

I need to stress that you want to be conversational when you are talking with a motivated seller. Even though I recommend using a form to gather the information, you should never seem like you are working from a script. If you have ever been on the end of the conversation with a newbie investor working from a script or a form, you know just how painful this type of conversation is.

It helps to put the seller at ease if you speak with confidence. Sit up straight, put a smile on your face and act as though you have done this a million times. If you appear confident, they will be OK. In other words they won’t know you are brand spanking new.

Related: Tips for Marketing to Motivated Sellers

What Should I Ask Them?

My goal is always to get them talking about the property and their particular situation.

The first thing you want to do of course is to introduce yourself. Next I ask them to tell me about the property. You want to get them involved in the conversation right from the beginning. As they start telling me about the property, I begin taking notes on my form.

Getting them to start the conversation does two things; it takes you off the hook and you get to find out about their situation and their true motivation. This is the time they are very likely to just tell you exactly why they need to sell NOW. It is your job to jump in with a solution.

Here are some things folks have said to me:

  • I have a house I must sell. It needs a lot of work, and I cannot afford to do the repairs. I just want out.
  • My dad owed more than 2 years in back taxes when he passed away and I just can’t afford to pay those.
  • My aunt was a hoarder and the house must be cleaned out before it can be sold. I just can’t face doing this.
  • The year before my mom passed away she went in a nursing home. It was a nice home, but we forgot to shut off the water before winter came and the pipes froze and broke. Now there is a lot of damage.

Can you see how they will just begin to tell you what their motivation is in addition to the cash that they want?

Once they have told you about the property, you can begin to fill in the gaps or the missing information on your form. I also pull up the house on the tax assessor’s site while I am speaking with them. That gives me an idea of what they think the house is worth.

My initial call with the seller is also when I begin to change the “seller’s expectations” about what they will get for the property.  I believe it is important to get this conversation going in the right direction right from that first phone call.

If you would like a sample Property Information Form to help you keep the conversation moving you can find one here in the file place.  Just click here.

 How did you get over the fear of taking with sellers when you were brand new?

About Author

Sharon Vornholt

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.


  1. I play the role of a call center employee reading from the script. This took all the pressure off me personally and the callers are just fine with it. Never lost anyone because of the call center script. It allowed me to collect a complete lead and reflect on the deal before I decided how to handle it.

  2. Carolyn Lorence on

    Thanks for the tips Sharon! It is one of the toughest hurdles to cross – especially for introverts. Perhaps we could host a group call or Hangout sometime for us beginners to role play with the pros for practice?

      • Carolyn Lorence on

        Indeed, Sharon – I am a long time subscriber to the LGREB! You’ve been one of my earliest teachers by way of your blog and newsletters – especially valuable for women entering this business. And, I love what you and Bill Walston are doing with your coaching calls, too. Although I missed the most recent one. It is very helpful to be involved in a two-way conversation with the ability to have Q&A.

        Let me know if I can help organize a call, topics, etc. I’d love to learn and help at the same time.

        • I’m sure Bill and I will be doing more of those Q&A calls.

          I am pretty busy right now rolling out some new coaching programs. If you want to organize a hangout, I could come on and we can talk about taking calls, role playing etc.

          Give it some thought.


  3. Carolyn Lorence on

    That sounds great! When you have a better idea of your availability, let me know and I’ll schedule around it far in advance. I know you have a full plate right now!


  4. Thanks Sharon, Getting the seller to sign the contract is my problem. I’m techie not sales you know the difference and my challenge.

    Issues; I want contract verbage that helps me keep my earnest money from going hard. I also need to be able to extend the contract now and then, any contract verbage to help that?

    • Curt –

      I would try having a conversation with them. Try to figure out their motivation before you go to the property. Look at the property and once again try to get a feel for their motivation. There is almost always “something else” they want or need other than just the cash.

      They will often tell you what that is in the course of a normal conversation. Once you have looked at the house, tell them you want to go back to the office and put some numbers together and you will call them tomorrow. Get their email address if they have one.

      Call them up the next day with your verbal offer. If they tell you they can’t or won’t, try to figure out what they want. Sometimes there is a small difference, but more often it is a big difference. You will make a lot of offers until you get one accepted, but practice makes this easier.

      They key here is to sound confident when you talk with them. I’m going to do a training on this in the future.


  5. Great post Sharon!
    I am curious what verbage you use to begin to change the sellers expectaions. This is by far my weakest link in dealing with leads. There is a delicate dance that goes on and I find I am still on the bench waiting to dance. Not good.
    Thanks again for the post.

    • Elizabeth

      When they throw out a price that is completely out of the ball park, I will try to guide them to what “fixed up” houses are selling for in their neighborhood. This is after I have gotten an idea of what the repairs will be (and they are always more than what they say). I want to get them thinking before I ever go out to the house that their price isn’t going to fly.

      Like a lot of other investors, if they dig in their heels at this point I’m not going to drive out there to look at the house.

      I will ask permission to keep them on the list in case their “plan A” doesn’t work. Then I will continue to follow up with additional mailings and check in by phone in a month or two.

      For the vast majority of folks, you just need to plant the “reality seed: in their mind. Changing their expectations in most cases is a process. I plan to do a training in the near future on this topic.


  6. Great tips, Sharon!

    I think everyone has a different style and way of doing things — it’s definitely depends on personality. Personally, I never liked submitting offers without first getting to know the person. It does seem old-fashioned but it’s worked for me. I like to get to know the person I may or may not do business with!

    When I was in corporate sales, one of my mentors taught me a different way of looking at things — first figure out if this person and/or company is a right fit. If there is a need and we get along, we can move forward. If not, it’s best to move on and find someone or company that does.

    Unfortunately, many beginners try to push the concept of selling themselves and/or their ideas too much which is a big turnoff to sellers. As the old adage goes, “People like to buy but hate to be sold!”

    Sometimes you can get along with a person but it may just not be the right place or the right time. And, that’s OK. Folks call because they want to know their options. If we can give them more options, it’s up to them to choose what they want to do.

    All in all, the majority of deals I’ve made are emotional decisions — folks just like working with people they know, like and trust.

    Just my thoughts, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • I agree completely Rachel.

      One of the big “guru” guys says that he would never leave the property without making an offer.

      But like you, I want to get to know the people and find out what problem they need solving. I never make an offer on the spot now unless they throw out a really low price that I know is a smoking hot deal. Then I just say OK. LOL

      I always tell them that I will go back to the office and put together an (intelligent) offer after looking at the numbers.

      I think people appreciate that, and I have never lost a deal because of this practice. I like what you said; “People like to buy but hate to be sold!” I’m not going to “sell” someone on my offer. It either works for both of us or it doesn’t. Thanks for your comments.


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