How Do I Find Off Market Properties? 26 Strategies I’ve Used

If you’re looking to significantly and quickly increase your net worth, there’s one question you should be asking:

“How do I find off market properties?”

The two biggest things that have contributed to my net worth are my income hacker principles and flipping houses… with virtually all of them coming from off-market properties!

An off-market property just means you can’t find it on the MLS. You’re approaching people who might be interested in selling their home at a discount. You find them based on factors such as big life changes and equity in their homes.

So how do you find off market properties? I have 26 ways that I’ve actually used to flip a home… These aren’t ones I found on a blog and copied here. These are street-tested by yours truly and each has made me (or someone close to me) lots of money.

Out-of-State Properties

These are people who own a property, but they live in a different state altogether. Of course, it could just be they live far away within the same state as well.

So why are these such a golden opportunity?

These can be people that inherited a property. Lots of people that inherit property sit on them for a long time because they emotionally have a hard time getting rid of that property. The problem that happens is the tax bill comes due, the property needs repair, the grass needs cutting, those types of things. Maybe other family members don’t want to chip in to do that, so they have to unload the property. The problem is that property might be in disrepair because Grandpa lived there and didn’t do a lot of those repairs.

Inheriting isn’t the only reason a property owner might live out of state, and many are viable sources of leads. One thing to watch for is to not target a resort-type area with lots of cabins or vacation properties. Targeting a rich person’s vacation home isn’t going to result in any deals.

How to do it

There’s lots of ways to target these. Once you get a list, you can call, email, or even text.

You can buy lists online, such as at listsource.com. Or, at the end of the post, I’ll show you the software I use to put together lists myself.

For Rent By Owner

This one is one of my very favorites because landlords are eventually going to sell their property. It’s just going to happen. They’re going to die, or the tenant is going to mess the whole thing up, or they’re going to decide it’s not a great property to be a rental.

I love the for rent by owner. I’ve liquidated so many properties them. You just have to get them in the right timing. The key to that, just like with all these strategies, is being consistent. It’s like going to the gym. Going to the gym once doesn’t result in a significant level of success or transformation. But you go every single day, you’d probably have some success by the end of the year. It’s the same type of thing. Consistency is what builds the success when you’re dealing with any type of marketing. Most people give up on their marketing way too soon.

If you contact enough of them, you’re guaranteed to start finding deals from landlords who are just done with their property.

How to do it

  • Find rental property owners by:
    • Driving around town and looking for “For Rent” signs.
    • Go online to sites like Zumper.com or Rent.com.
    • Call the numbers on the listings.
    • Simple script: “I understand the property is for rent. Would you be interested in selling it instead?” If they say no, then ask “Do you have any other properties you’d be interested in selling?”

Bandit Signs

Some of the top real estate investors I know, guys that are doing $3-$5 million a year, have as one of their top three ways to find properties is with bandit signs. These are the “We Buy Houses” signs you find at intersections.

I like them by pawn shops, I like them by Walmarts, and I like them by payday loan centers. Why? They’re people that are in desperate situations, or they’re coming into a life-changing event. They need something, right? I have a solution, they have a problem.

Different cities have different regulations, different counties have regulations. So just be careful with this.

How to do it

  • buildasign.com
  • Yellow corrugated plastic signs
  • 24″ x 18″
  • “We Buy Houses” with a phone number (get a Google Voice number)
  • Put 25 signs in a 5 mile area
    • Pawn shops
    • Pay day loans
    • Walmart
    • Major intersections
    • Busy weekend events
  • Go back periodically and check your signs are still there

Car Fleet

You ever see those cars with magnets on them advertising a business? That’s all this is… except you need more than one if you want to see anything happen!

How to do it

  • Go get several custom phone numbers. You can do this through Google Voice
  • Print car magnets that say “We buy houses with cash” or something similar. Each one should have a different phone number. I like to use Vistaprint.
  • Offer friends, family, high school students, or place an ad to find people willing to put one on their car.
  • Pay them $25 per month, and then a bonus of $250 – $500 when you put a property under contract.

Build Relationships with Builders and Tradesmen

So often people aren’t able to finish a project because they run out of money. Maybe it’s a fix & flip, or maybe it’s their own home improvement project. At that point, they don’t know what to do. They’re stuck with a half-finished project, which can be infuriating at best, and bankrupting at worst for a fix & flip project.

Builders and tradesmen know all about these projects. They can point you in the direction of projects where they didn’t get paid or had to stop working halfway through.

How to do it

  • Locate general contractors, subcontractors, construction workers, and other types of builders. I’d start with a simple Google search for companies in your area.
  • Ask them if they know of any properties in the area with unfinished projects.
  • Explain you’ll pay them a finder’s fee for any deals you put under contract. I typically offer around $500.

Estate Sales

I love estate sales and have had massive success with them! These happen when someone dies, and the heirs want to sell their stuff in a yard sale.

But one thing you can ask them about is the house! So often a few kids get left with a house, and they’re not quite sure what to do with it. Maybe all the kids live far away, or maybe they want to sell it and split the money. Often, it’s too complicated to think about doing anything else—if they’ve thought about it at all so soon after someone passing.

Elderly people typically have more equity in their homes because they’ve been living there for 30 years. These houses are usually outdated and in need of repairs because sometimes elderly can’t keep up with what their house needs. This is a perfect situation for a real estate investor to come in and provide a solution to a problem!

How to do it

  • Find estate sales in your area through:
  • Strike up a conversation
  • Ask what they have planned with the house

Probate & Estate Attorneys

I could write a whole book on probate marketing! Probate is the process for distributing property after someone dies without a will. The court has to decide what will happen to the property. It typically gets assigned to a probate attorney, and that probate attorney is pretty influential—which means for people like us, there’s a whole marketing strategy around that. Similarly, an estate attorney is for someone who does have a will, but in either case, the strategy will be pretty similar.

The strategy is to build a relationship with these attorneys. Just like with estate sales, these properties are often in disrepair, come with a lot of equity, and are likely going to be inherited by kids or other family who don’t want the house or to deal with any needed repairs.

An important note…

You’re not going into this with the mindset to take advantage of people. The reality is that you’re helping people solve a problem. They’re working with this attorney, and if they’re talking about how they don’t want this house, or don’t want to deal with the house, or that kind of talk, then the attorney can point them in your direction.

I actually had a guy named Steven here in Salt Lake City who is an estate attorney, and he passed along several deals to me.

How to do it

  • Start calling, emailing, or just dropping by with donuts. Ask to take him or her out to lunch. If you call and get a gatekeeper, say you’re calling from out of town.
  • When the attorney meets with someone inheriting a property, they can ask “What do you want to do with the house?” If they don’t know, or want to get rid of it, the attorney can say “I know a guy that will buy houses in any condition. Here’s his info, or I can pass along your info.”
  • I usually offer $200 per deal I get under contract. I’ve had some say they won’t do it for money, and I’ve had some ask for $500. No problem!

Craigslist

I know… it seems outdated, but I’ve been able to find properties on here from people who were desperate to move their house. They get to a point where they’re not sure what to do, and so they start putting it anywhere they can think of… Craigslist often being one of them!

Now, you’re not going to build an empire this way, but it’s just one strategy in an entire arsenal at your disposal. It doesn’t hurt to check once a day for a few minutes to see if anything’s popped up.

How to do it

  • Check Craigslist daily, or pay someone else a finder’s fee for any deals they pass to you that they find on there! Great job for a child, nephew, or high school student.
  • Remember, you’re not here to take advantage of them. You’re here to help. I firmly believe the more you can help, the more likely homeowners will want to work with you on selling the property. (Not to mention, there’s something to be said for just being a good person.) Use phrases like:
    • “What problem do you have”
    • “How can we help you solve that problem?”
    • “Do you need to stay in the property longer?”

Advertise on Local Classifieds

This was one of the biggest ways that I used to find properties for years. Here in Salt Lake, we’ve got KSL, which is a great place for ads that you buy houses. For sure there’s something similar in your area.

How to do it

  • Post daily in your local online classifieds
  • Put in the “Homes for Sale” section a message saying “We buy homes.”
  • If there’s a section about money/lending, put in there “I buy houses for cash.”
  • Can hire a team. We had people in the Philippines going on every day and posting first thing so we always had listings at the top.

Direct Mail (Postcards)

Here’s a GREAT one… perhaps my all-time most valuable strategy.

All this means is that you’re sending postcards to people, telling them that you buy houses. Now, this strategy gets paired with another one because you need a list to do it. For example, if you can put together a list of out-of-state landlords, then you can use this strategy to market to them effectively.

By the way, I actually get these types of letters in the mail all the time because I have properties that meet the demographics investors are going after. I keep all of them. I love them! I love marketing and love to see how other people do it. I could easily do an entire course on how to NOT send postcards!

There are three common types of postcards:

  1. Personalized – “We really love this area, we’d like to buy the house.”
  2. Branded – “We buy tons of homes in the area. Look us up at killerhomebuyers.com”
  3. Targeted – “Sick of awful tenants and late night phone calls?”

I love postcards because it’s math. Before I even send them out, I know a percent will contact me. A percent of those will make an appointment. A percent of those will sell me the property. It’s simple math and I can turn a profit on these every time.

How to do it:

Nursing Homes

Okay, this is one that I haven’t actually done, but I think it’s SO cool that I had to include it. In fact, one of my former business associates uses this strategy ALL the time, closing dozens of deals doing this. Here’s the entire training in a video she did for my paying members.


For Sale By Owners

Here’s a simple one that a brand new investor SHOULD be using every single time…

Never, ever, EVER drive past a “For Sale By Owner” sign without calling it! You’ll be surprised at how often it turns into a conversation.

Often, these are people who don’t have the money to pay real estate agent fees and are in some sort of desperation. During your conversation about solving their problem, make sure to ask if they have any other properties for sale! Commonly these will be landlords who have other distressed properties and aren’t sure what they’re going to do with it.

How to do it

  • Start calling every “For Sale By Owner Sign”
  • Have a conversation how you can solve a problem they have
  • Find them online at fsbo.com or forsalebyowner.com and start dialing
  • Or, purchase a list of FSBOs and use a dialer system for $50-$100 and have it call people for you.

Code Violations

This is one of my favorites. I l used to love hanging out at code violations.

Let’s say a homeowner or a tenant lets the weeds get too high at their property, or maybe they’ve got a couple of old tires in their yard because they didn’t want to worry about getting rid of them. Well, the city’s code violation guys drive around, they see it, and then they give a warning. If the owner or tenant still does nothing, they’re going to have a zone violation.

Then, the fun begins… you have to go to a fake court with a fake judge. It’s someone they call an administrative judge. It’s often someone with a big ego who gets to act like a judge and make pronouncements and things (Sorry, I’ve been there too many times).

What happens is that the owner gets fined for their zone violation. The worst situation is if he’s a landlord, and the tenants got the notice for the violations and the owner never even knew. It’s happened to me, and it’s frustrating as anything.

In West Valley (near Salt Lake), the fine is $1,000 per day… sometimes these things get up to $100k or more! And by the way, in this county, they don’t have to prove they even sent me the notification—no certified mail or anything. It’s crazy.

And now I, as the landlord, leave the courthouse pissed and heated because I just got fined big time for something ridiculous that I didn’t even know about.

Now, I’ve been on both sides of this things… the one leaving, and the one standing outside spotting an opportunity to scoop up a property. You approach these owners leaving the courthouse, and you’ve found someone with motivation to sell a property.

Or, this could just be a homeowner who had something happen—like say a tree fell on their house—and they don’t have the money to fix it. They get zoning violations and that’s more stuff they can’t pay. You’re the solution to their problems.

How to do it

  • Hang out at the administrative court
  • Talk to homeowners frustrated with their zoning violation fines
  • Tell them that you’ll buy the house from them and take care of the zoning violation
  • Or, purchase lists and send postcards to these homeowners!

REO Agents

REO properties are ones that the bank owns. Basically, they’ve foreclosed a home, but since banks aren’t in the business of owning homes, they hire an REO agent to sell the property.

These REO agents get involved well before the foreclosure happens, so they know the property is coming on the market before anyone else.

Now… imagine if you knew an REO agent who could help you out with this?

I actually had a guy named Aaron here locally that sent me around 10-20 properties! Usually with these REO deals, the bank can’t do anything with the personal property left behind for 30 days. That’s a period of time where you can go and check out the property, get estimates on repairs, get your bid together…

Then the same day that it goes on the market, you’re placing an offer before anyone else has even seen it!

(Pro Tip: you can also find short sale agents that do the same thing… but only handling short sales)

How to do it

  • Like other relationship building strategies… start network and reaching out to them.
  • Offer a $200-$500 finder’s fee for each deal you’re able to put under contract.
  • Like all relationships, follow up occasionally (once a month) to keep your relationship active.

Property Management Companies

Property management companies are constantly dealing with landlords—and by now you know they’re often motivated sellers with distressed properties. These companies always have frustrated landlords. They know the ones looking to sell.

I’ve found that property managers are often real estate agents as well and they want to make 3%-6% commission on the deal for brokering it. Fine. As long as the numbers work out, pay what they ask… it’s no skin off your back, and they deserve something for helping you complete the deal.

How to do it

  • Find property management companies—they’re super easy to find with a simple Google search.
  • Begin reaching out, asking them if they have any landlords that are frustrated or have expressed moving on from the property.
  • Explain you’ll happily pay a finder’s fee. Negotiate $200-$500 per deal.
  • If they happen to be a real estate agent as well, you can cut them in at standard agent commission rates if your numbers work.

HomePath, HomeSteps, Hubzu

These are all sites for banks to liquidate properties they’ve acquired. Because they want to move them fast, they’re often sold at a discount.

Of course, since these are online, there might be more competition than working with an REO agent… but it’s so easy to go online and check that you might as well do it!

How to do it

Skip Tracing

Skip tracing allows me to find phone numbers and forwarding addresses for properties I want to target! If you’ve got a property address, you can get a name and phone number for the owner, making it much easier to market to them.

The beauty of this is that most investors won’t go to the trouble of this extra step, meaning you’ve got an advantage over them.

How to do it

  • Visit skipgenie.com to be able to do unlimited skip traces for $100/mo. They have smaller packages as well.

Hard Money Lenders & Private Lenders

This one is right up my alley…

I’ve mentioned before that I own a hard money lending company, and occasionally we do need to take back a home. My business model (and it’s similar for other hard money lenders) is that we’re not that interested in owning homes. Sure, I do investments on the side, but my company isn’t all that interested in taking on properties. Flipping is more active and hands on. As a business owner, I’d rather just get back as much money as possible and move on to funding another deal.

Now, private lenders are a bit harder to find, and comes mostly with networking, like going to local real estate investment clubs. At first, you’re probably better off just picking up the phone and calling hard money lenders.

How to do it:

  • Find hard money lenders online
  • Call them and see if you can talk to someone higher up than a customer service rep. Maybe you can look on LinkedIn or on their company website for names.
  • Ask “Do you have any properties you’re looking to get rid of?” and if they say no, ask if they can keep you in mind when they have one.

Buyer’s Agents

This is the most common strategy, but most people don’t do it right. There are only two strategies to be successful using real estate agents to find deals.

The first is called “Be the Whale.” You call every real estate agent in your area and you tell them: “I am an investor. I buy properties in two weeks. I need properties that are 70% minus repairs. I’ll do those deals all day long, but only call me if you find one that meets the criteria.” That means you want properties that could be worth $100k fixed up, but you’ll only pay 70% of that ($70,000) minus the cost of repairs, which might be another $20,000. You’ll be willing to pay $50,000.

Now only a small percent of agents will even remember or care enough to look for deals, so you’ve got to call A LOT. Hundreds, or even thousands.

The other strategy is to find investment-centric real estate agents. They’re agents that go to the real estate clubs and are clearly interested in investing and are willing to team up. I was this type of agent. I used to find good deals, and then I’d find an investor who would buy the property.

The idea of just calling one agent and having them go out and find a property DOES NOT WORK.

How to do it

  • Call every real estate agent you can, and tell them you’ll buy houses that are discounted (70% of potential ARV minus the repairs is how much you’ll pay)
  • Partner up with agents who specifically work with investors

Divorce Attorneys

I’ve had tremendous success with divorce attorneys. Often they’re working with clients motivated to sell the house. They’re emotional and they’re just done with the whole situation.

One time I was working with a husband and wife, and we were standing in the kitchen, and the wife got really frustrated. She pulled out a knife from the block on the counter and chucked it at the husband! He’s ducking, I’m backing up…turns out they were going through a divorce.

In situations like this, they often need to divide up the assets, and sometimes it’s just easier to sell the house and split the money. I come in as the agent and I can buy it quicker and more painlessly than a conventional lender—especially if the house is in need of repairs.

How to do it

  • Start approaching divorce attorneys. They’ll appreciate having a contact like you to help them solve problems
  • Offer them a finder’s fee of $200-$500 for helping find a property you can flip

Bankruptcy Attorneys

Keep in mind that all attorneys do different things…this isn’t the same as a divorce attorney. You want to find people who specifically deal with bankruptcies. I had a guy whose name was Brian that sent me a ton of deals! He knew people who were going through financial difficulties and you as the investor could step in with cash and help them out with moving their home quickly.

How to do it

  • Once again, a simple Google search and you can find these people no problem.
  • Offer a finder’s fee of $200-$500 and they’ll keep you in mind.
  • Follow up with them occasionally to keep them from forgetting you.

Mortgage Brokers & Bankers

Mortgage brokers have people calling them all the time with issues. For example, let’s say they have a borrower with a 7/1 Adjustable Rate Mortgage, meaning their interest is going to jump up after 7 years. At that time, maybe they can’t afford the interest spike, but they have poor credit and can’t refinance. Another issue is a when a borrower triggers a due-on-sale clause, forcing the borrower to pay back the entire loan balance. The borrower may need to move their house fast in order not to get foreclosed on.

How to do it

  • Once again, begin building a network of mortgage brokers, like you are with all these other contacts we’ve talked about in this article
  • Offer them a finder’s fee of $200-$500

Life Insurance Agents

When someone calls in to explain that someone has passed away and they’d like to collect on an insurance policy, it’s pretty for the agent to ask “what’s the plan with the house?”

If they don’t know, or they want to sell, the life insurance agent can reply “I know a guy who can you help you move it fast. Here’s his number.” It’s that easy. Especially when elderly people pass away, because often those houses have plenty of equity, and often are in need of repairs.

You can be there to help the situation, and provide a win/win.

How to do it

  • Easy to find them on Google—start reaching out
  • Offer them a finder’s fee of $200-$500.

Funeral Planners

See Life Insurance Agents above…basically the same principle!

Roofing & Plumbing Companies

Here’s one that not a lot of people think about! Sometimes when a house has a major issue, the owner may be in a mindset to take a quick cash offer and not deal with it at all…and these companies can refer them over to you.

How to do it

  • Do a simple Google search and then hit them up!
  • One way to get them to send you referrals is to assure them that you’ll hire them to do the roofing or plumbing project. You can also offer a finder’s fee like with the other strategies we’ve mentioned.

Senior Living Financial Counselors

When someone needs to move into a senior living community, often there will be a financial counselor that goes through the senior citizen’s finances. Many times, their will be a property that they don’t know what to do with. You can be a quick and easy solution while finding a great deal to flip.

How to do it

  • No surprises here—look them up on google and offer them a deal! They pass along potential leads, and you pay them $200-$500 for a finder’s fee.

So How Do You Find Groups to Market To?

As promised, I told you that I’d show you how I pull together lists for criteria such as out-of-state owners, properties with liens, foreclosures, etc. I use a software called investor’s Edge that I include in my fix & flip system. You can read more about it here!

 

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