Real Estate Investors Association of Greater Cincinnati

Practical Tips for Building Instant Rapport with Distressed Sellers


Every investor has heard how important it is to build rapport with distressed homeowners. What we never hear about is how to do it. What is it about someone that makes us instantly like or dislike them? We do not really know what it is about that person; we just know it is something. 

Rapport is developed in the subconscious. We cannot quite pinpoint it, but there is something about that person that seems familiar and makes us feel comfortable around them. 

So…how do you establish rapport? Let’s start with a few basic tips. When I am looking for distressed homeowners, I like to knock on doors. It is the fastest way to get deals. If I knock on twenty doors over a weekend, I will have several contracts by Sunday afternoon. I would rather spend a day or two getting multiple deals instead of waiting for my phone to ring, hoping for just one deal. 

Here are some dos and don’ts when you knock on doors or meet a homeowner in person:

Do not wear sunglasses. Homeowners cannot see your eyes and subconsciously you seem suspicious.

Never wear a hat, like a baseball cap. Again, homeowners cannot see your eyes and are suspicious.

Always have a clipboard in your hands so that both of your hands are visible. If you tend to stand with your hands in your pocket or behind you, the homeowners will think you have a gun and are going to rob or kill them and will not hear what you are saying.

Never wear cologne or perfume. I know this one seems strange, but let’s look at it from the homeowners’ point of view. You’re a guy, and you wear Eternity. You show up at the door, and a woman answers. Her husband used to wear Eternity. He ran off with another woman, and she still hates him for it. You are wearing what the ex-husband used to wear, and subconsciously, you remind her of him. She now dislikes you without knowing why. The same goes for the girls, too. You do not want to remind the homeowners of someone they now dislike. 

Be aware of what color your clothing is. Green promotes trust, while red promotes dominance. I like warm colors like green, blue, pink, or brown. Stay away from reds and blacks. Dress casual but professional … no suits. Also, lose the jewelry. Homeowners losing their homes do not need to see that you own a Rolex. 

Be aware of what you are driving. If you drive a Rolls Royce, you may want to consider getting a middle-of-the-road car for meeting homeowners. Yes, homeowners need to see that you are successful to feel confident that you can help them. No, they do not need to see that you have become a millionaire from distressed properties. You never want them to wonder if you have taken advantage of others, and that is why you have so much stuff. People are leery to begin with; do not feed into it.

Be certain you are speaking to the right person. Instead of blurting out why you are there, ask if this is Mrs. or Mr. so and so first. Once you are sure, continue with your conversation.

Never use the “f” word … foreclosure. State that you were doing some research and see that they have a “pending problem with their property” and that you would like to help them. This puts the blame on the property, not the person.

Let’s look at establishing rapport over the phone.

Speak at the same rate of speech as the homeowners. For example, if the person who answers the phone speaks slowly, do the same. If they speak fast, do the same. People who speak fast think that people who speak slowly are stupid. Likewise, people who speak slowly think that fast talkers are slick and untrustworthy. Is it true? No, it is a subconscious thought that most people are not aware of. When you follow the homeowners’ rate of speech, you seem familiar to them and, again, they like you without knowing why.

Ask them to share a little about their current situation and listen with respect and empathy. Once you feel that they have properly vented, begin to ask details about their situation. Homeowners want to tell you what happened because they do not want you to think that they are losers. No one grows up with the goal of being in foreclosure. Something in their lives changed, and they want to be certain you know what it is.

Make an appointment to view the property then call back to confirm the appointment. During the second phone call, ask more questions. Be certain that everyone on the deed is home and willing to put a deal together.

When on the phone, listen for the objections you are going to get when you meet in person. For example, “we don’t have to sign a deed, do we?” If they ask questions on the phone, be ready to handle them in person. 

So, you see folks, it is not that difficult to establish rapport. Take the time to be approachable, honest, and trustworthy, and business will follow. Better yet … just be that way naturally, and you will reap what you sow.

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