Real Estate

Get Buyers Homes! 7 tips for sniffing out off-market properties

Finding unlisted properties takes more time and effort than simply looking for homes on the MLS. But in today’s heated seller’s market, these tactics can help you stand out from the pack and help your buyers find their dream homes.

This heated seller’s market means higher sales prices (and commission), but it also means some agents are desperate to help their clients find properties within their budgets. Eighty-nine percent of buyers and sellers were assisted by a real estate agent or broker in 2019, and that’s because they expect agents to quickly find or sell their property.

Luckily, expanding the home search to off-market properties can provide a world of access to unlisted homes. Plus, as these homes aren’t listed on the MLS, there’s less competition. To find an estimate of what an unlisted property might be worth, agents can use tools such as Redfin or Zillow, which offer estimates of off-market homes for a median error rate of 6.66 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively.

Although unlisted properties take some extra work to find, there are a number of strategies agents can use to land an off-market dream property.

1. Direct mail

Some owners do not consider selling unless they are presented with the opportunity. Agents can reach out to owners directly by mail with marketing collateral and information on what their home could potentially be worth. They should also include their contact info, social media links, website, etc.

One of the biggest keys to a successful direct-mail marketing campaign is to identify the right audience, for instance out-of-state owners, owners of probate or inherited properties, owners of vacant homes, etc. And handwritten notes still hold value in this world, so agents shouldn’t be afraid to get personal.

2. Driving for dollars

Getting in the car and driving around town is one tried-and-true way to find off-market properties. Doing this also lets agents get up close and personal with the neighborhoods and homes they’re scouting. 

This method is particularly effective for clients looking for a fixer-upper. Agents can search for distressed or vacant homes in good areas that have potential to generate significant cash flow after repairs are made. For example, renovating a rundown property and turning it into an Airbnb can offer great return on investment, considering the average Airbnb host makes $1,500 per month.

3. Word of mouth

Agents looking for off-market properties should ask people in their network if they know of anyone thinking about selling their home. Clients, contractors, neighbors, wholesalers and attorneys can all be a good source of information. This is also a good way to find out about homes that are in pre-foreclosure. 

Moreover, many investors don’t list their properties on the MLS and might be looking for a quick way to sell to fulfill 1031 exchange requirements. If an agent knows someone who knows someone, they could get lucky and find one of these investors. 

4. Auctions

Auctions are a great way to find an unlisted property. During their search process, agents should research auction websites and traditional courthouse auctions. Auctions also provide a way for real estate agents to view bank-owned properties as well.

5. Public records

Public records can help agents find out which properties are up for short sale or under foreclosure. Local newspapers and government websites are wonderful resources for these types of homes. 

Researching on social media can also reveal if someone is thinking about moving or selling their home. 

6. FSBO Websites

Homes that are for sale by owner (FSBO) are not always listed on the MLS. These sellers have decided to forego a real estate agent and may choose to list their property on a website such as or Fizber.

These sites allow owners to advertise their property on their site for less than $100, but their basic packages do not include an MLS listing.

7. Cold calling

Picking up the phone and talking to homeowners can be an effective way to land an unlisted property. Before calling, agents should make sure they have a list of viable targets, a clearly defined goal for the call, and thoughtful questions prepared ahead of time.

According to a study done of more than 5 million sales calls, the most successful agents usually talk around 40-50 percent of the time, and let the prospects do the rest of the talking.

Finding unlisted properties takes more time and effort than simply looking for homes on the MLS. But in today’s seller’s market, these tactics can help agents stand out from the pack and help their clients find their dream home — at a reasonable price!

Luke Babich is the CSO of Clever Real Estate in St. Louis. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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