How to approach someone about selling their house?
April 12, 2007 7:08 AM   Subscribe

There is a house of considerable architectural significance near to where I live now that I have been lusting after forever. It is not, however, on the market. I have found the owners of the house through a public record search-they are the original owners since 1957. What is the best accepted way to approach them about selling? I don't want to seem too forward or intrusive.
posted by gogomickey to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This was the situation when I bought my current house. The owners had tried to sell it previously but no one met their price; a few years later I was working with a realtor and found out about the house; she set up a visit and then worked on them for about six months to convince them to put it on the market. They did and within three days we had agreed on a price and signed a contract. So my suggestion would be to get a real estate agent to approach them. I imagine it is not an uncommon situation. Just be aware that you won't have a lot of bargaining power when it comes to price if they know you want the house so much.
posted by TedW at 7:22 AM on April 12, 2007

I bought my house after leaving a note in the mailbox for the owners, an elderly couple who'd lived there forever. I apologized for being presumptuous, told them how much I loved the house and that if someday they wanted to sell to please have their agent or themselves call me. They called 90 days later, we did the deal with a realtor, no problem. They were thrilled their home was going to someone who appreciated it.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:36 AM on April 12, 2007

Ted is right but I would try a personal approach first.

I would drop in their mailbox a letter saying more or less "I am your neighbor since xx and live xx zz av. Each time I walk by your house, I admire the architecture and would be delighted to know more about its history and maybe visit it."

I would guess that these people love their house and are proud of it. If they wanted to sell, they would probably choose to sell it to someone who would love the house too. If they respond to your letter, you can drop a question about it during your visit. If they don't respond, you can try a realtor next.

On preview: thinkpiece is even more direct.
posted by bru at 7:48 AM on April 12, 2007

It's a tried and true method for obtaining the house of your desire, but you might have to wait a few years until they are ready to sell.
posted by caddis at 8:23 AM on April 12, 2007

Keep in mind you may run into heirs to the house that might be an obstacle. About ten years ago our elderly neighboors agreed to talk to us about selling their property when we wanted to expand our lot, but as soon as their son heard about it he took over, increased the asking price and put so many conditions we never closed the deal. And this wasn't even a house worth preserving, the only value was in the land.

Try to find out if they have heirs so you'll be prepared.
posted by AnyGuelmann at 8:49 AM on April 12, 2007

I think it's hard to not be presumptuous if you try to flat-out ask them to sell their house, but I don't think it's rude to just float it out there, that you really admire the house, and if and when they're someday ready to sell, you'd appreciate if they'd let you know so you could make them an offer.

I did something similar when I moved out of a house that I was renting from an elderly couple. It was easy in my case because I had a pre-existing relationship with them, but as we were finishing up and I was getting my deposit back, I let them know that if they ever wanted to sell the property, I'd be interested in making an offer. (I left a business card; hopefully some piece of contact information there will still be current when and if they ever sell and remember me.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:08 AM on April 12, 2007

"It's a tried and true method for obtaining the house of your desire, but you might have to wait a few years until they are ready to sell."

or ready to die...! I'd make the move while they're still living tho, it'll get hard once they're gone and family/lawyers step in
posted by Salvatorparadise at 9:35 AM on April 12, 2007

gogomickey--contact me if you have moment (email is in the profile).
posted by jeanmari at 10:11 AM on April 12, 2007

Another option: I have a condo in a desireable location; its layout with an unusual size and huge closet space makes it quite popular because there aren't any close substitutes in the area. About once or twice a year, I get unsolicited letters from real estate agents noting that they have a buyer eager to have a condo with my model layout in my building, and asking if I'm interested in selling.

So far, I'm not, but my point is that there exist real estate agents who handle this sort of solicitation all the time. If you were going to retain a buyers' agent anyway, you might want to consider getting one to handle this part of the transaction at this stage. If nothing else, they might have advice on how to handle the request.
posted by commander_cool at 1:58 PM on April 12, 2007

I nth the suggestion of a letter but please don't drop it in their mail box. Send it via USPS with your return address.

Include your contact information and the number of a real estate agent (that you've previously prepped) so if they do want to sell, they have some options.

Some people are strange about selling their house and don't actually want to talk to potential buyers.
posted by jaimystery at 2:41 PM on April 12, 2007

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