It’s hard to beat real estate investing as a way to build wealth. As seasoned investors know, there are multiple advantages to investing in real estate, but one of the major challenges is the competition to purchase a good investment property. When inventory is tight, multiple investors could be making offers for the same property on the open market.
The best strategy for sidestepping a bidding war is to seek off market properties or properties that are not listed on the multiple listing service (MLS). According to the National Association of Realtors, about 11% of properties in the US are sold without being listed on the MLS. The more competitive your market is, the more likely that there will be off market properties.
The benefits of buying off market
Avoiding an MLS listing has benefits for both the seller and the buyer. Buyers like off market properties because they are competing with far fewer potential buyers, if any. Sellers who opt for an off market property can avoid the process of staging the property and holding an open house.
Selling off market is particularly attractive to distressed property owners who know that their property will only be attractive to a certain type of buyer such as a wholesaler. Selling off market is also advantageous for owners of rental properties who don’t want to disturb their tenants with open house showings.
Strategies for finding off market properties
If you’ve tried but not been able to find off market properties, it may be time to revisit your strategy. There’s an art to finding off market property, but it requires tenacity and creativity. The following techniques, when implemented consistently, will bring you closer to your goal of finding an off market property.
- Digital & direct mail marketing
This technique is popular for a reason: it’s one of the most effective tools in a real estate investor’s arsenal. Start by figuring out your target audience. What neighborhoods do you want to work in, and how can you appeal to potential buyers there? Using this information, create professional materials to send out.
Everything you mail out, from emails to postcards, should have a clean look with easy-to-find contact information so your prospects can reach you. You could also include a QR code with your contact information to make contacting you as foolproof as possible.
- Network in the real estate world
While networking is necessary in most industries, it’s especially important for real estate. If you plan on making real estate investing your career, then you should be making an effort to meet as many colleagues as possible. Professional organizations are a great place to network. If there are any investor meetups or real estate investing clubs in your area, you could meet a lot of new contacts there.
While other investors may seem like your competition, that’s not always the case. Once they’ve gotten to know you, other investors could potentially refer deals to you. If, for example, another investor changes their mind about a project, or sees a good investment opportunity that they don’t have time for, it could get passed on to you.
- Connect with real estate agents & contractors
Real estate agents and contractors are two other groups that you should make an effort to network with. Real estate agents and contractors often know that someone is selling their house well before the property is listed. A good real estate agent can let you know about a client preparing to move who wants a stress-free sale. And contractors often get hired to update homes before they go on sale.
If there are any professional networking opportunities in your area for realtors or contractors, make a point of attending some. Networking may feel like a challenge at first for less seasoned investors, but just remember that you also have something to offer. Eventually you could be bringing a deal to the real estate agent or a major renovation to the contractor. [insert agent outreach link]
- Work with wholesalers
Wholesaling real estate is a short-term strategy in which a wholesaler finds a property, typically one that’s distressed, and enters into an agreement with the homeowner that the wholesaler will secure a buyer for the home for a specific price.
The wholesaler then finds a buyer for the property, who typically pays 5% to 10% more than the amount promised to the homeowner. That difference in price is the commission collected by the wholesaler. Most wholesalers work off market deals off, so working with a wholesaler is a great way to learn about off market properties.
- Real estate auctions
Auctions are full of opportunities for finding off market homes at low prices. In many places, the properties up for auction are being sold because of unpaid taxes or debts from the previous homeowner. If you’re strategic, you could get the house just for the price of the outstanding bill.
- Hit the streets
Once you’ve seen all the possible inventory in your neighborhood, drive to new areas you haven’t worked in before. Pay attention to the state of the homes. Consider if any look older or maybe a little neglected. Try knocking on the door to talk to the owner about the potential of selling. You can also leave your card or flyer if no one’s home.
- Ask your friends and family
Check with your social circle to see if friends or family know of any sales coming up. It’s also useful to post on social media to let your network know that you’re looking for off market properties. Someone in your contacts could want to sell their home or perhaps one of their friends or coworkers is looking to sell soon. Your willingness to reach out to friends and family could be the decisive factor that gets you access to the property first.
- Track public records
Access public real estate records in your area. They often list short sales and other properties up for grabs. Local governments also keep records of tax delinquencies, bankruptcies, property assessments, etc. These could be used to find people who may be motivated to sell their homes.
- Get a lead specialist
If you want to save time, work with a lead generation team. This kind of company makes finding off market deals an art form. They do a lot of the hard work, saving you time. That means you can put more time into your projects and make money faster.
- Start conversations
A simple way to find off market properties is to keep an open ear while out and about. If you’re in a waiting room and hear someone chatting about moving, politely start a conversation. Find out how far along they are in the selling process, and give them your contact info. People can surprise you with how much they’re willing to tell someone they just met.
For real estate investors, being able to secure off market properties will enable you to cut through the competition and make an offer without a bidding war that could cut into your profit. While we can’t promise that using any of the above methods will get you an off market property the first time, consistency is key.
That’s particularly true for networking. Over time, you’ll start to create a network that will have their ears and eyes open for you. One note of caution: never fall into the trap of relying on one method or one person to help you find investment properties. When you diversify the way you acquire homes and put in the work, you’ll see the benefits.