(This is Part 2 of a three-part series. Read Part 1, "Top questions to ask sellers at listing appointment," and Part 3, "‘It was never my intention to make you angry.’")

Are buyers really liars? Not usually — the challenge is you just haven’t asked them the right questions.

One of the biggest obstacles in converting leads into signed business is the agent’s inability to stay in question mode rather than tell mode. In other words, when agents pressure their clients to agree with them, they have fallen into the trap of having to be right. If you find yourself arguing with a client or trying to persuade him or her to agree with your position, stop immediately. To avoid this mess entirely, ask a question. Here are some examples:

1. What was your favorite house when you were a child and what did you love most about it?

Most agents ask buyers about bedroom-bath count, location and architectural style. If you really want to know what will motivate your buyer to purchase, forget what they tell you initially. Instead, ask about their favorite house from their childhood. This question works at several levels. First, when your client recalls something pleasant from the past, that pleasurable feeling is associated with you. Second, many people are unaware of the emotional triggers that cause them to purchase.

When asked about what they want as a buyer, they may say, "We want a one-story contemporary with great views." Instead, they end up buying a two-story brick traditional that reminds them of their grandmother’s house. By asking about their childhood, you will learn what their early anchors are. Pay special attention because these childhood influences can be powerful triggers for purchasing.

2. Do you have any pets? If so, what are their names?

For many buyers, their pets are even more important than their family members are. If you want to create strong connections with your clients that will generate referrals, find out about what matters to them. Don’t limit your inquiry to just their animals. Find out what they do for fun, which rooms they use most when they’re at home, as well as their likes and dislikes. The more you learn about them through the questions you ask, the stronger your connection will be.

3. Would you replace that feature or would you use something different?

This is the generic response to the buyer’s comment, "I hate … the wallpaper, the paint, the carpets, the flooring, or any other feature of the property." An objection is a buying sign. When you hear an objection like this one, you can close more effectively by asking a question that "moves the buyer into the property." In other words, ask a question that assumes that the buyer already owns the property and is going to handle the objection.

So when a buyer says, "I hate this wallpaper," the response is, "Would you replace it or would you paint?" When the buyer says, "I hate these Formica countertops," you would respond by saying, "Would you replace the countertops with granite, tile, Silestone, Corian or perhaps the new Quartz countertops?" If the buyer answers the question with what he or she would select, there’s a high probability that you may be writing an offer soon.

4. Are you going to write an offer on this house? If not, why not?

This is a fabulous closing question provided that you have set it up correctly. Before you take buyers out to look at property, it’s imperative that you take the time to interview them about what matters to them, the type of house they would like to purchase, how they spend their time in their home, what they like and dislike in a floor plan, etc. To use the question above correctly, you must obtain the buyer’s permission to ask it after each showing. The easy way to do this is at the end of your buyer interview. You can introduce this concept by saying, "In order for me to do the best possible job in locating the right house for you, I’m going to ask you after each showing, whether you are going to write an offer on the house that we just saw. If not, please tell me what you like and dislike about the property. Is that a strategy that works for you?" Not only does this process help you to close the buyer, it also helps to clarify where you may need to modify your search as well.

5. How much longer do you want to continue paying your landlord’s mortgage?

This is a great question for first-time buyers. The Department of Commerce reports that between 1995 and 2004, the average renter accumulated a little over $4,000 in net worth. The average homeowner accumulated $184,400. That translates into $180,000 more, or $1,500 per month. In other words, each month that the average first-time buyer continues to rent, it costs them $1,500 in lost wealth accumulation. Furthermore, renters are subject to rent increases as well as higher tax rates because they cannot take a mortgage deduction. Pointing out the cost of waiting to purchase is one of the classic ways to persuade reluctant buyers to take action.

Need more tips on how to close more and defend less? Don’t miss Part 3.

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of "Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters" and "Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?" Both are available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at www.LuxuryClues.com.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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