This article is part of our passive investors guide on real estate syndications, available here.
If you’re currently looking to invest in a property, you’re probably already aware of how unpredictable the real estate market is. Home prices keep rising while competition is getting tougher by the day. No matter how much time you spend on the search, it’s increasingly becoming harder to be the first to make an offer on a house.
Many real estate investors, especially newbies, don’t realize that the multiple listing services or “MLS” and other public listing platforms don’t account for all available properties. In today’s post, we’ll discuss off-market properties and show you some tips to help you find them.
First Starters, What is Off-Market Real Estate?
Off-market real estate simply refers to properties that are sold outside the MLS and other listing platforms.
For starters, MLS is a centralized database where brokers upload property data so sellers can find buyers. Not everyone can access the MLS. Real estate agents must pay an annual fee to be part of the database. Also, other listing platforms, such as Zillow, pull their listing data from the MLS.
Off-market properties aren’t listed on the MLS. Some people refer to them as non-MLS properties or pocket listings. These properties are often regarded as the market’s best-kept secret since agents only reserve them for investors ready to purchase.
How to Access Off-Market Properties
Since these listings aren’t available publicly, it can be a little tricky to access them. However, you can locate potential off-market deals by knowing where and what to look for, who to talk to, and how to approach sellers.
Many off-market real estate deals are spread by word of mouth. This means you have higher chances of knowing about one if you’re in a real estate broker’s network. If you’re not, we’ll be looking at some options for you later in this blog.
Real Estate Off-Market Listings
It’s easy to see why sellers may choose not to list their properties on public properties. Privacy is a principal factor. For example, they may be dealing with a situation that puts them in distress for finances. Also, off-market properties help sellers weed out buyers who are not yet decided or aren’t serious about making the purchase.
Another reason sellers sell their properties off-market is that some aren’t willing to deal with the hassles of property showings. It’s a huge inconvenience having strangers walk into your home without any assurance that they will buy it.
So, what are the advantages for buyers who choose to purchase off-market properties?
- Less competition: Remember, listing sites mainly pull their property data from the MLS. If a property is on MLS, it automatically appears on other listing sites. Most of these platforms have high traffic and visibility, making competition stiffer. Considering off-market properties in a high-demand location is essential since you won’t have to wade through hoards of buyers to make your offer.
- More flexibility: Off-market real estate deals are less stressful than public listings. As such, sellers are more flexible when negotiating the buying price and contract terms. You’re also flexible when it comes to the timeline as well. You won’t have to rush through the process.
How do I Make an Off-Market Offer?
When buying a property listed on public platforms, you’ll probably make an offer with the help of a real estate agent. This won’t be the case with off-market properties. It’ll seem a bit intimidating at first since you’ll have no one to hold your hand. However, it isn’t as complicated as you may think.
Firstly, you must realize that most off-market offers usually start verbally in a casual conversation. Simply ask the seller how much they’re willing to receive for the property when viewing the home. You can negotiate and settle on a price depending on whether you like the home.
At this point, you can now pull out a sales contract and sign it to make things official.
You can also use a Letter of Intent (LoI) to make an offer without being too formal. This document usually signifies that you have committed to get into the deal. An LoI document lists a summary of the terms and conditions of the sale that both parties are expected to comply with.
After signing a letter of intent, you can proceed with the due diligence. Once satisfied, you can sign an official purchase and sales document.
The 7 Best Ways to Find Off-Market Deals
There are a few ways to spot off-market deals. Often, following more than one strategy at the same time can help you achieve results faster. Try as many approaches as possible until you find what works for you.
That said, let’s look at the best ways to find off-market properties:
1.) Direct Mail
Direct mail strategy is one of the most efficient ways of finding off-market real estate deals. As the name suggests, this strategy involves sending mailers targeted directly to potential sellers hoping to purchase their properties.
This strategy is efficient since the seller received the mail directly from you. You can uncover great deals since the owners may have considered selling previously. In this case, you may luckily be the only person the seller is talking to.
First, you need to define your ideal home. Do due diligence on your target audience, their traits, and what ad venue would suit them best. Secondly, scour the internet for their emails and addresses, and dispatch postcards stating your intention.
The best thing about this approach is that sometimes the owner isn’t sure about selling until they receive an irresistible offer. Also, keep in mind that you might not get instant results. Remember that the direct mail strategy remains one of the best approaches, even if you might have to implement several campaigns.
2.) Real Estate Agents and Brokers
Real estate agents and brokers have many property owners, sellers, and buyers in their networks. Some property owners may make up their minds to sell if convinced that the market conditions are conducive.
To improve your chances of success, ensure you work with an experienced agent in the local market. These agents tend to know which properties are about to hit the market before everyone. Such agents may even call homeowners in that area and actually convince them to sell.
If you want to follow this approach, create a list of top-performing agents in your area of interest. Call or email them and ask whether they may be aware of any off-market deals. You can also check their websites since some may have a catalog of pocket listings.
Keep in mind that while an agent may not be in a position to help you currently, they can be of help in the future. Keep their contacts so you can reach out in the future
Wholesalers can be of good help when looking for off-market deals. Wholesaling refers to finding property listings, getting them under contract, then transferring the contract to a willing buyer for a profit. In most cases, the properties wholesalers deal with are off-market.
Note that wholesalers are middlemen. You won’t get a property as cheap as going directly to the owner since they have to make a profit. Also, you need to do your due diligence. Verify the numbers since some wholesalers will underestimate the repair costs to make the deal more mouthwatering.
4.) Driving for Dollars
Driving for dollars is an interesting yet highly effective strategy to find off-market deals. As the name suggests, you drive through a neighborhood looking for potential off-market deals. If you come across a property you love, you reach out to the owner and make an offer or at least let them know your intentions.
Vacant and distressed properties are the most common when driving for dollars since they’re the easiest to spot. Simply look for overgrown lawns, shut windows, littered yards, or anything else that might show that the owners are behind on maintenance.
Write down the addresses of such properties and use them to find the owners’ contacts in county records. Once you get the email or phone number, reach out and inquire about the status of the property. This can help you decide whether it’ll be a good investment or not.
5.) Public Records
Keeping a close eye on county and public records is a perfect way to find out about new off-market deals. Public records often involve pre-foreclosure, foreclosure, and short-sale deals. These deals are often profitable opportunities.
To check public records, you can start by looking at newspapers and local government websites. These sources will sometimes also list properties soon on the market, offering another great opportunity to find out about off-market deals before anyone else does.
If a certain property interests you, find out who owns the home and their contact details. It’s important to remain creative since sometimes you can’t find their contact information. In this case, you can connect with them through social media platforms, such as LinkedIn.
Probate is a legal process followed to distribute a deceased person’s property. As such, probate property refers to assets left by a deceased person. The properties are distributed according to the will. If the deceased had no will, the process must follow state law.
Ideally, the properties are distributed once all creditors have been paid. However, some executors or heirs may want to sell the property as soon as possible, mostly below market value. This makes probate properties a good deal for investors.
You can track executors or heirs by looking at recent obituaries and searching to ascertain whether they had any properties left behind. If you’re fortunate enough to find that they’re willing to sell after the probate process has ended, the transaction may take place seamlessly.
7.) Contractors and Local Vendors
Contractors, builders, and local vendors are another great source of off-market deals since they usually work directly with property owners. Great vendors and contractors, such as electricians, pest control, and plumbers, are good at their job and have great soft skills, such as listening. Besides, they also know where owners and investors abandoned a project due to a lack of funding.
Sometimes, the homeowner is fixing the property to prepare it for a sale. In this case, they’re likely to share this with the contractor. If you know the contractor, they may share this information with you so that you can contact the property owner before the home is listed.
Besides, the owner may also directly ask the contractor if they happen to know any investors who are interested in purchasing the property. This is where great working relationships with contractors and vendors come in handy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Where to Find Off-Market Properties
A home listed as “off market” on Zillow means that it’s currently not on sale. The owner may not be actively looking to sell their home, at least not publicly. It could also mean that the home is being prepared for listing.
You can find wholesale deals by using the direct mail strategy, talking to real estate agents, brokers, wholesalers and contractors, and by driving for dollars. You can also look for public records to watch out for pre-foreclosures, foreclosures and short-sales.
Find Off-Market Property - Conclusion
Off-market properties are a great option for investors looking to invest in properties. These deals are ideal since they have less competition and provide more room for negotiation. While these deals aren’t listed on public platforms, there are several ways to spot them. Make sure you implement more than one strategy to increase your chances of success.
If you’re looking for ways to passively grow your capital and enjoy all the benefits of syndicating multifamily properties, join the Willowdale Equity investor club today and kickstart your passive real estate investing journey.
- Fortune Builders, “How to Find Off-Market Properties for Sale”
- BiggerPockets, “How to Make an Offer on a Property Not Listed on the MLS”
- Legal Zoom, “Buying and Selling Probate Property”
- BeaconStac, “How to Create Digital Business Cards for Realtors“
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