20 Questions – Don’t Make Your Realtor Guess What You Want


Did you ever play the game 20 Questions as a kid? If you could identify what your opponent was thinking within 20 questions, you won; otherwise your opponent won.

Well, in real estate sometimes Realtors feel like they are playing 20 Questions with their clients. They really want to meet or exceed their clients’ expectations, but their clients either forget to mention critical information or they leave out details. Sometimes clients believe the details are irrelevant; other times, they believe the information is too private or embarrassing to share.

While I don’t recommend sharing information that feels overly personal, I definitely recommend sharing information relevant to a real estate transaction such as being behind on child support payments or having significant credit card debt. While embarrassing, it is far better for your Realtor to know where you stand financially than for him or her to set up a transaction that is doomed to fail.

Good Realtors do their best to come up with creative ways to make sure every important issue is revealed early in the home buying or selling process. (If they don’t, find a new Realtor.) They often ask these 20 questions (or ones that are very similar):

  1. What is your main objective when buying a home? Are you moving to accommodate grandma?
  2. What game plan do you have in mind?
  3. What is the biggest problem you currently face? Baby on the way?
  4. What are you doing now to help solve the problem?
  5. What other ideas do you have about the home you want to buy? Is a view important?
  6. Who else is involved in the decision? Is down payment coming from mom and dad?
  7. What do you like most about the idea of owning a home?
  8. What is your biggest fear when it comes to owning a home?
  9. If you could have any house that you wanted, what would it look like? Don’t worry about color. Paint is cheap.
  10. Why are you motivated to buy a home now?
  11. What has been your previous experience?
  12. How would you feel if you did not buy a home?
  13. What is your budget? What is the max you can afford? What is the max you are comfortable with? What is your future income and expense probability? Child on the way? Promotion?
  14. What financing alternatives have you considered?
  15. How would buying a home benefit you personally?
  16. How can I help you with the home buying process?
  17. Is there anything that is keeping you from buying a home? Down payment, credit, job stability.
  18. What do you see as the next step? Get pre-approved!
  19. Are you working with a deadline? In before school starts?
  20. In a perfect world, what would you like me to take care of for you?

Not all questions will apply, but this list is a great place to start. Unlike the childhood game of 20 Questions, your Realtor’s game of 20 Questions may lead to several additional questions. Your Realtor is not being nosy; he or she simply wants to provide the best possible service. For example, if you’re a buyer and you say you’d like to be near a school because your children play sports, the Realtor doesn’t know if you want your children to walk home (so you need to be within walking distance), or you plan to pick them up (so you need to be within a 5-minute driving distance). When they start asking clarifying questions, it’s usually in your best interest to answer them. Remember, your Realtor only wins if you successfully sell your house or find a home you love. Your Realtor only wins when you win.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.




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