A great way to build equity and rental portfolio in a competitive market is to find a motivated seller. A motivated seller is someone who doesn't want to sell, but needs to sell due to their personal circumstances (e.g. death, divorce, inheritance, debt, etc.). Chad Carson wrote on the BiggerPockets blog on the importance of hustle by sharing the following metaphor: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning, a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle, or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or gazelle. When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.“
Similarly to the lion or gazelle that is running, a savvy investor must be on the lookout for great deals through their marketing efforts in identifying motivated sellers. Once you have found a motivated seller through a lead generation software (e.g. bandit signs, flyers, postcards) or referrals from brokers or property managers, having a motivated seller questionnaire or intake script is useful for screening those leads.
A big mistake made by newbie real estate investors is not being able to filter out the warm/hot leads from the cold leads and end up wasting valuable time with a person that will end up keeping their property.
Below is a list of information you want to document during the initial screening process:
Spouse/Partner Name (if any)
Property Address for Sale
How did you find us? (Used to understand marketing efforts)
These are the basic information you need to ensure that you can get in contact with the seller in case they hang up accidentally and to follow up periodically. Next you want to screen them for motivation for selling their property:
Is property currently on the market?
If yes, how long has it been listed?
Why are you selling?
Have you listed your home with a real estate agent?
What is your plan if your house doesn't sell?
Do you have any written offers yet?
Who lives in the property right now?
Are your mortgage/tax payments current?
Potential problem with co-owners? (Divorce, business, etc)
Any known severe property damage?
Other need for fast and immediate lump sums of money? How much?
These questions cut to the meat of why a motivated seller may decide to work directly with an investor rather than a conventional method of selling through the MLS with an agent.
Property style: (Single Family, 4plex, ranch style)
Age of property
Neighborhood Quality scale
CapEx useful life (Roof, Foundation, HVAC, electrical, plumbing)
Any other improvements needed?
These questions ask about the physical condition of the property and to a certain extent, the neighborhood. In most cases, the investor should already be knowledgeable about the surrounding areas and rough ARV to be able to quickly determine if the seller is in the ball park of an asking price. Motivated seller screening involves knowing how to ask open-ended and probing questions about the property, to get more accurate and time-saving answers. For example, instead of saying, "How is the roof? Good? Bad? Ugly?", you should ask instead, "When was the roof last replaced?"
Some landlords and property owners will call you assuming they can scam you into overpaying for their property. These people may become motivated sellers later on, but at the moment, they are not worth spending too much time with after the initial screening calls.
Mortgage loan balance and interest rate (Lender information)
Any 2nd mortgage on property? (HELOCs, Loans)
Mortgage loan terms and conditions
Are there any other liens or debts on your properties?
How much rent per month? Request rent rolls (if rental property)
Any non-rental income from property? (laundry, pets)
Any HOA (Homeowner's Association) fees? How much are HOA payments
How much is monthly PITI (Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance) payment?
Utilities costs (Gas, Electric, Water) for the past 6 months (Statements)
In conclusion, using a motivated seller questionnaire can help guide your interview process, and gives you a framework to make the screening as conversational as possible. This information will help you determine the best way to structure this deal (wholesale, lease option, seller finance, or cash purchase) for a flip or rehab and long term hold. Using the information on this page, investors should be able to work out win-win solutions for your sellers and yourself.
As always, please make sure you do your due diligence and talk to your CPA/Attorney/Financial Adviser before making any investment decision.