One of the first things I heard years ago when I started as a Realtor was “Brian, you’ll quickly find that most buyers are liars” That struck me as being very strange but a year later when I started as a loan officer I heard the exact same saying.

But what I have come to find out is that it really has much more to do with the person asking the questions and the actual questions that are being asked. So let’s dive in and break down each of the items we need to know and the right way and wrong way to ask the questions.

There is a lot of psychology that must be taken into consideration when asking someone you have just met all of the personal questions that are part of our job.

Just like the computer saying- Garbage in and Garbage out. The questions we ask matter. In fact ,they will either build rapport or completely alienate the buyer and have them running to a different lender.


Consider first that we are all viewed as Heads of Lettuce which means that we are a commodity. The consumer only knows to judge us on price, not expertise. So a loan officer with a low rate that has been in the business 3 months is often able to get a deal away from a seasoned pro with 25 years of experience that has a higher rate.
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Your phone rings and on the other end is a borrower who wants to get pre-approved.The borrower doesn’t know you and you don’t them. The WAY they were referred to you matters a great deal in this situation.
If a Realtor- Friend- Co Worker- or other professional referred them this conversation will progress much better than if they just saw your ad or face on Zillow.


When you go to a doctor they speak with you and then examine you. They then make a diagnosis and provide a remedy or prescription. You don’t question it if you are sick you just do it. Granted you may want a second opinion but you aren’t price shopping you just want confirmation. That is exactly how you must be seen to be successful or you will spend your day being a rate quoting machine or even worse, doing nothing but hoping the phone rings. Now back to the important questions we must ask and deciding if buyers are really liars?

Think about our job for a second and how truly awkward it can be.

You start the conversation and then ask.
“ How much do you make?”
“ How much money do you have in the bank?”
“How’s Your Credit?”
Really stop and think about that for a minute. You have now asked a total stranger all of these personal questions. Heck, you might not even ask a person you are dating or a family member these personal questions right?

I generally start by asking their name and contact information. Then we discuss where they are in the process and finally how they were referred to me. To be perfectly transparent , I generally prefer and offer to meet them in person. Nothing is better at building rapport then meeting a person face to face so you can get to know them and have them feel comfortable with you .
The added benefit of course is that if you have prepared them properly they will be providing you with their bank statements, w2’s and paystubs. When someone has gone to the trouble of providing you with their information you have immediately reduced the chances that they will shop rates when they finally purchase a home.

Lastly I always start by asking them questions about what their goals are. How long do they anticipate being in the home? Have they seen any homes they liked?


Let’s start with the first question which is about income.


This may sound basic to many of you reading this but this is actually a question I hear being asked. The buyer on the other end says I earn 80,000 and then you later find out that it is made up of 50,000 from salary and 30,000 from overtime which he only started working last year.


We know that overtime, bonuses, and commission income must be averaged over 2 years. But your buyer doesn’t know that and so they are simply answering the question you asked them.
Instead of asking the How Much Do You Earn question try this.
What Do You Do For A Living?
Are You Paid Hourly or Salary?
Do you work overtime or receive bonuses?
Of course if they are self employed or commissioned only employees we will need to see their tax returns and use their net income not their gross.

I hear loan officers asking buyers “How much money do you want to use?” or “How much money do have to work with?” The problem with this question is that the buyer imagines your hand going into their wallet or purse and they immediately tense up.
Think about the last time you asked this question and the awkward silence for a few seconds you heard on the other line.
Instead try asking the same question this way.” How much do want to invest in this transaction? You will need some funds for down payment and closing costs and this will help me suggest the proper program options for you .”
Depending on their answer you may also need to suggest first time buyer grants and how lender and seller credits work. You can also explain gifts from relatives as well as withdrawls or loans from their retirement accounts, which are sources they may not have thought of.


You should never ask the buyer “How’s Your Credit?” There’s nothing worse than working with a client for months only to find out later when you run their report that they have serious issues.

Most buyers are very apprehensive about having their credit run because they fear it may hurt their credit scores. It’s important to let them know that although pulling credit is a hard pull , it should not seriously affect their credit. You may need to also let them know that all mortgage pulls within 30 days count as 1 pull and again should not adversely affect their scores.

I try to explain it this way. “ I would like your permission to pull your credit report. It’s important for us to know you credit scores and it’s a good idea for you to make sure that the information on your credit report is accurate. We often find items on clients reports that they were not aware of.”
Once you have said this, it CRITICAL that you immediately ask them for their date of birth , address, and social security number.

It’s also important to ask for these items in this exact order since their social security number is the one piece of information people try to protect the most. Asking for it last , after they have given you all of the other information makes it easier psychologically for them to provide it.

One last important item on their credit report.

Many times your client will tell you that they already know their credit scores because they are signed up for credit karma or get it on their credit card statements.
It’s important for you to explain to them that there are different scoring models for credit cards, installment loans, and of course mortgage financing.

While we are on the topic of debts you should of course also ask them if they are paying or receiving alimony or child support.

Now that you have all of their information you need to suggest the various programs that would be best for them. Explain the differences and why you are recommending the programs that is best for them.

As you are wrapping up you should also encourage them to send you their documentation of income and assets so that you can keep them on file for when they find the home they want to put an offer on. You should also explain to the difference between pre- qualifications and pre-approvals. Let them know that you would be happy to provide them with a pre-approval letter to accompany their contract once you have received their supporting documents.

Aside from needing to verify what they have told you for income and assets, collecting this information stacks the odds in your favor of getting their loan when they are ready to apply since most people would prefer not to have to gather all the information and send them to various lenders.

The bottom line is that buyers are generally NOT LIARS, but there are many lenders that are simply not asking the right questions. Print out this article and keep these questions handy for your next phone call or meeting.

Dedicated To Increasing Your Production,
Brian Sacks

Brian Sacks is a nationally-renowned mortgage expert who has career closing of more than 5,924 transactions for more than $1 billion. He has trained, consulted and coached, tens of thousands of loan officers and company owners over the past 31 years on how to close more loans, make more money, and still have a life. Brian is the host of “Top Originator Secrets,” which can be seen weekly on Mortgage News Network and on his blog. You can get more information and grab your free report on “How to Get Agents Chasing You” at

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