Ideally, you should determine a buyer’s motivation and/or ability to purchase your home (or any home in the near future) before scheduling a showing.
Real estate agents pre-qualify potential buyers to avoid unnecessary traffic into seller’s homes and to prevent showing properties which are not suited to particular buyers. You should do the same to gage the seriousness of the buyer. You won’t have the time or desire to work with people not able or willing to purchase your home. If possible, ask these questions on the telephone before setting up the showing:
- How long have you been looking for a new home?
This will tell you if they are just beginning the search and are simply “window shopping” or if they have been looking for some time.If they have just started looking, it is unlikely they will make a commitment right away. They will still be seeking homes to review and investigating all of their options and all that the current market has to offer.
If they have been looking for some time, this gives you the opportunity to ask if they have made offers on any homes. You should follow-up by asking about the house or houses. This will give you an idea of what type of house interested them, and what prevented the sale. This will help you to better understand the potential buyer and their motivations, which will help you to tailor your approach to showing them your own home.
If they have not made an offer, you can ask if they have seen any homes that were close to what they were seeking. The details they give you during this conversation will help you to meet their needs or to realize that your own home may not be what they are seeking.
- Are you currently working with a real estate agent?
This will let you know if you may be expected to pay a commission to a buyer’s agent if they purchase your home. It will also let you know if there is an agent to do some of the paperwork and legwork for you.
- Have you been pre-qualified by a lender?
By asking this question, you will know how serious the buyer is and whether or not they are qualified to purchase your home. If they have not been pre-qualified, you need to be careful to cover that in any contract. You may say “If you are interested in this home, we request that you become pre-qualified before submitting an offer.”
You don’t want to be involved in a legal process that ties up your home and prevents you from showing it to others if the potential buyer is not qualified and will not, ultimately, be able to purchase your home.
- Do you have to sell a home before you can purchase?
If they do, you should find out if the home is currently on the market and/or if it’s under contract. This may give you an indication of how long you will have to wait to move from your current home, if you sell to this particular buyer.
- When you find the right house, when do you hope to move in?
If the answer is within the next couple months, they are motivated. If they have no particular date, they are still merely “window shopping.” If they are “hoping” to get a house in the next “six months or so,” don’t get your hopes up.