Seller's Motivation

Everybody loves surprises don't they? Surprise birthday parties, surprise-wedding announcements, surprise centipede infestations. Wait! That last was is no good, that's a bad surprise. I don't love that one.

This may seem like a joke, but this is the reality that homebuyers need to be aware of. Every house, no matter how perfect it looks is bound to have a few surprises lurking in an unfinished basement, or up on the roof out of sight.

Your best defense against this is to discover the motivation of the people selling the home. Once you get in their head you'll be able to determine if you will feel the same way they do in a couple months or years.

Of course, in a perfect world, the home seller's would invite you in for tea, and immediately tell you about every leaky faucet, every neighborhood barking dog, and every squeaky door. This is not a perfect world, and with thousands of dollars at stake there is no room for error.


The key to negotiations rests on this principle, the principle of leverage. When you go into a potential new home, you want to find as much fault with the property as you can, in order to winch down the asking price. This takes some crafty maneuvers but it is well worth it.

But what if you can't see anything wrong with the home? In that case you have to come armed with a squadron of questions to unleash on the seller. Under disclosure laws, the seller is legally obligated to answer your questions truthfully, so the law is on your side.

The following is a list of the 10 questions a home seller does not want to hear. It also offer some insight into how you can phrase them to avoid insulting the seller but still get the information you need.

Why Are You Selling?

This one is quite possible the most important question. It is also the question that you need to really pay attention to not only the answer, but HOW the answer is delivered. Body language and idiosyncratic movements can tell you far more than words.

Desperation! If you even notice the slightest hint of desperation, this bodes well in your favor. This doesn't necessarily mean you can take them to the cleaners, but it does mean that they will negotiate fast and they won't spend the time trying to nickel and dime you.

For instance: If the seller is thinking about moving into a Condo because their children have left for college and their dog just passed away, these people have all of the time in the world to negotiate and they won't settle for anything less than what they are willing to sell for.

On the other hand, if the seller mentions that he is moving to Canada to start a new job he has already told you that he has to get rid of the property soon. He can't afford to pay the double mortgage. It also means that he'll settle for less, because generally buying a home in Canada with the powerful American dollar is quite easy.

This of course is a tricky question and the one, by law, that the owner does NOT have to answer. So try can be conversational and put the seller at ease when you ask the questions.

What Did You Pay?

First-off, what somebody paid for their home is public record, so you really don't HAVE to ask if you don't want to. However, how they respond to this question will tell you volumes about the property itself and how much it is really worth.

For instance, if the person doesn't not answer your question they provably have something to hides and you must press that advantage. If they do tell you, you have two options. If they bought it at an extremely low price, they probably purchased it a while ago and it has proven to be a good investment. It also means that they have built up enough equity to be satisfied with a price a little lower than market value.

If they bought the house recently they will most likely have lost money so far, so they'll be really tough when it comes to negotiations.

What About The Neighborhood?

Truly, a loaded question and one subjective enough that you'll have to be specific on certain things, and a little more flexible on others. Firstly, try asking open ended questions. You'll probably find out things that you wouldn't have thought to ask.

For instance, never ask: "How are the neighbors?"

This could get you the response of: "Alright."

What you should ask is: "What things bother you the most about the neighbors?"

They will be forced to give you some details. Of course you should ask specifics as well. If the person living next door appears to have a kennel you should try and find out if there are potentially dangerous animals nearby.

It is also essential that you do your own neighborhood research, in the library, on foot and by car. Make sure you know the location inside out.

How Old is the Roof?

This one is also potentially huge. If the roof predates the homeowner, they can simply say that they do not know. However, if they do know they are obligated to tell you. The roof actually ends up being a sticking point in many home negotiations. Firstly, the roof is one of the most essential parts of a home. The roof is also one of the most expensive to fix.

If you don't ask this question, you could have a $10,000 liability on your hands. Often you can negotiate to pay a little more for the home, if a new roof is installed before you take ownership.

When Was The Furnace Cleaned?

Furnaces should be cleaned every year. The damage caused by a poorly maintained furnace increases exponentially with each passing month. Also, if the furnace is cleaned regularly this is the best way to know if the other fixtures of the home have been well maintained.

Anyone can slap a new roof on, but cleaning your furnace every year is the mark of responsibility.

Is the Home Haunted?

This may seem like a joke but it is a serious condition for many people. Many people will turn heel and take off if they find out that the home has been the scene of a murder or a suicide. And in the case of disclosure laws, there is even a section detailing the notification of unidentified noises or apparitions.

Just try asking jokingly. If you are sensitive to that sort of thing it could save you some hassle in the long term. Boo!

Has the Property Ever Been Rented?

This is good to know, simply because rented property tends to be slightly less maintained than homes with owners who have been living there for quite some time.

What Are The Local Amenities?

The seller could be leaving the area because it is an urban wasteland. It might be best (although a little deceptive) to expresses concerns that are opposite to your desire. For instance, if you are looking for a good school for your children you can say: "There isn't a busy school near by is there?"

If there response is: "Yes there's a school near but it is two miles away," you'll know just how far away the school actually is.

Can I Conduct My Own Inspection?

If they have nothing to hide, the existing home owner should have no objections to this. If there is a problem you are bound to quickly find out at least a couple more problems with the home.

Doing an inspection before hand also saves you the trouble of possible litigation of there is indeed a problem with the home. You should check for:






Problems with the foundation Insulation

Can I Take A Look Around?

Again, like the inspection question, this one will tell you a lot about how confident the owner is with their home. Someone who lets you roam freely has surely taken care of their home, or at least is comfortable selling their home for a price that is fair.