Is It Possible To Ask Someone To Sell Their House To You?

A waterfront building by the canal

At some point, you may find yourself coveting a friend, neighbour or acquaintance’s home. Whether it’s a historic property you’ve always admired or a conveniently located house near your workplace, you may think about making an offer directly to the owners and skipping the hassles of an open listing. But is this ever appropriate? Can you approach someone unprompted and ask them to sell you their house? In this article, we’ll explore when and how to negotiate a private house sale, along with strategies for making it happen.

Should You Ask Someone to Sell Their Home?

Let’s first examine the implications of asking homeowners if they are willing to sell their property to you directly. There are a few key considerations:

  • It risks damaging personal relationships if not handled tactfully. Strong friendships have certainly been impacted by poorly planned house sale proposals. Don’t let a property pursuit ruin your connections.
  • Most owners won’t have any plans to move. You’re asking them to disrupt their settled living arrangements for your interests.
  • Without listing the home openly, owners won’t know if they could get a higher price on the open market.
  • You need to be able to make a fair market value offer to capture their interest. Otherwise, they have no incentive to consider it.
  • Their circumstances like job changes, growing families or illness could motivate a sale that you’re unaware of.

From this, it’s clear you should only ask about direct sales in specific circumstances where you feel the homeowners may genuinely be open to selling. Otherwise, you risk souring friendships irreparably.

How to Know If Owners Are Open to Selling

This brings us to the signs which indicate a homeowner may welcome a discreet sale proposal:

  • Their property has visibly fallen into disrepair because the owner lacks the time, money or physical capability to maintain it.
  • You’ve heard them complaining about property taxes, energy costs or other burdens of homeownership.
  • They’ve recently gone through major life events like marriage, divorce or losing a spouse.
  • Their adult children have moved out, leaving empty nesters with more houses than they need.
  • You know they’ve inherited a property but live elsewhere.
  • The house has been on the market previously but failed to sell.
  • You’re aware they lost a job or suffering financial distress.

These clues suggest an owner may be weighing the costs and benefits of staying versus selling. Planting the seed in these cases has lower risks of upsetting them.

Approaching the Owners Sensitively

Once satisfied the homeowners could be receptive, you must broach the topic empathetically. Arrange an in-person meeting and say you don’t want to offend them, but you’ve admired their home for a long time. Ask politely if they have ever considered moving. Listen closely to understand their situation.

Suggest you may be interested in purchasing the property if they were looking to sell. But make clear you will respect whatever decision they make, as you value your relationship above all else. This thoughtful approach demonstrates you respect their circumstances and priorities.

Following up with a friendly letter thanking them for considering your proposal keeps communication open. The goal is to plant the idea without applying pressure.

Assessing Fair Market Value

To be taken seriously, you must be able to make a fair market offer based on accurate valuation. Research prices for recent comparable sales in the neighbourhood. Consider hiring an independent appraiser to assess the property and provide a professional valuation.

You can also use online tools price estimator to check the value of the house. Adjust your offer to reflect any repairs, renovations or unique historical features they have invested in. Ultimately, your proposed price must reflect a win-win based on the true market value, or the owners won’t consider it.

Structuring Your Offer

When making a formal offer, put as much in writing as possible. Include your price, proposed timing, contingencies, and what household items might be included. Asking owners what flexibility you have on price signals you are open to negotiation.

Offering quick exchanges with flexible completion dates shows you’re eager and reliable. Including a personal touch or childhood anecdote about why you love the property so much can also hearten owners. Demonstrate you aren’t just another buyer, but someone who truly cherishes their wonderful home. This emotional appeal may just win them over.

Being Gracious If They Decline

There is always the chance even the most attractive offer will be declined, for perfectly understandable reasons. They may feel the effort of moving would be too arduous at this life stage. Or they are simply too sentimentally attached to part with their long-term home.

If your proposal is unsuccessful, be gracious. Thank them sincerely for considering it and respecting their wishes. Let them know that if circumstances change in future, you would be delighted to discuss again. But most importantly, do not let any rejection impact your relationship going forward.


Approaching homeowners for a direct property sale requires finesse, considering the signals that suggest they might be open to a move. Employing tactful inquiries, presenting fair market offers, and incorporating emotional appeals can convey your genuine interest as a serious buyer. It’s crucial, however, to always respect the homeowners’ ultimate decision, prioritising the preservation of relationships over property pursuits. With a combination of sensitivity and preparation, you can navigate these conversations successfully. If, for any reason, a private sale is not in the cards, gracefully accepting rejection is part of the process. And remember, you can always check the value of the house independently to ensure that your offer aligns with the current market conditions.

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We are proud to be the most regulated property buyer operating in the ‘Quick House Sale’ industry. We are an active member of the NAPB (National Association Of Property Buyers) and are RICS regulated, which means you can have every confidence of selling your home with us quickly & easily.