Every house hunter hopes to move into a new home with as few hitches as possible. And that largely depends on how eager (or, let’s be frank, desperate) a homeowner is to sell. And while it’s gauche to ask outright why someone is selling—Divorce? Job transfer? Downsizing?—there are ways to sniff out the answer.
Here are some subtle signs a homeowner wants to find a buyer ASAP—and hopefully that buyer is you!
Sign No. 1: The listing begs ‘buy me!’
Granted, it won’t say that exactly, but read between the lines and you can pick up some valuable clues. The most obvious, of course, is multiple price reductions. But there are other signs, too, like an asking price below market value or a note that the seller is looking to unload the home “as is.” Another indicator that bodes well for you? A note that the seller is looking for a “cash” transaction.
“That could indicate a homeowner isn’t willing to wait around four months for a traditional bank mortgage,” explains Lucas Machado, president of House Heroes LLC a real estate investment firm in Sunny Isles Beach, FL.
Sign No. 2: The curb appeal isn’t up to snuff
“A lot of times motivation for a homeowner really means distress,” says Ed Laine, a real estate specialist with Miller Laine Properties in Bellevue, WA. “And when someone is in distress, they’re no longer focused on maintaining their yard or picking up their newspapers, so much so that they even try to close out the outside world.”
You might see an overgrown lawn or garden beds that could use a good weeding. Or there might be more subtle signs like closed blinds, even on a gorgeous day, or a stack of unread newspapers on the porch.
Sign No. 3: The closets are only half-full
“When showing a family home with three to four bedrooms or a finished basement, I’ll peek in the closet,” says Bob Gordon, a Realtor® with Berkshire Hathaway in Boulder, CO. “If it’s partially empty and only has a man’s or a woman’s clothing, it can be an indication of a divorce.”
And while you don’t want to benefit from someone else’s pain, the truth is that “divorcing sellers may be in a hurry to unload and be apart,” Gordon notes.
Other signs your home sale may go quickly because of a broken heart? Mismatched furnishings or empty spaces on the walls where art was recently taken down.
Sign No. 4: There’s been an addition to the family
A crib that barely fits in the parents’ bedroom. A hospital bed or oxygen tank in the living room.
“Small homes where there has been a recent birth or a family member who’s moved in for medical reasons can create a sense of urgency,” says Glenn Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes Realty in Pelham, AL. Here’s a family that needs more room, and fast.
Sign No. 5: The property is listed by an estate
When a house is listed by an estate—that is, the people who inherited it from the original homeowner—you might find that it’s more eager to give it up. That’s because the estate is likely looking to liquidate assets.
“There are exceptions, particularly if family members are not all in agreement about the sale,” Phillips says. “But if the family members are all out of town, then they’re usually more anxious to get the property sold.”
If you want to confirm this detail, check public records—or politely ask the listing agent, who might be at liberty to share.
Sign No. 6: The homeowners answer questions quickly and candidly
So there’s a leak in the roof? The basement flooded last year? Home sellers are rarely eager to disclose such information—but desperates seller won’t beat around the bush, because they know this could come back and bite them later by slowing down the sale.
“A seller’s willingness to disclose information about the property is one of the strongest indicators they’re eager to sell,” says Machado. “For people who are truly motivated, there’s a problem they’re looking for you to help solve, and so they’re more willing to be open and honest about their situation.”
Sign No. 7: The seller’s already moved on
If the house is vacant and the owner has already settled into a new home, then most likely they’re primed to sell, says Sacha Ferrandi, founder of Source Capital Funding, which offers real estate lending in California, Arizona, and Minnesota.
“Often, when a seller buys a home without selling the old one, their new mortgage is contingent on selling their old property,” he explains, “and every day that their home doesn’t sell puts stress on their current financial situation.”