How to Find Off-Market Real Estate Deals


|10 min read

Both buyers and real estate investors can benefit from searching for off-market properties. These are houses that are not publicly found on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) but are owned by people who are looking to sell.

Off-market properties range from houses owned by people who are preparing to sell to active sellers who want to be discreet. Finding off-market listings isn’t easy, but you can find a variety of potential homes if you know where to look.

Here’s how to find off-market real estate deals for your next rental property, flipping opportunity, or primary residence.

1. Build a Strong Network

Your network is one of the most powerful tools for finding off-market properties. Real estate agents are constantly looking for qualified buyers but sometimes have limited marketing abilities. Some sellers aren’t comfortable opening their homes for showings while others are still in the early stages of entering the market. 

With a strong network, you can let the agents you work with know what kind of off-market properties you want. If they have pocket listings or know clients who are preparing to sell, they can reach out to you. 

Some sellers would rather skip the listing process so they don’t have to declutter, clean, stage, and market their homes. They will be appreciative that their Realtors already have potential buyers lined up before the house is officially for sale.  

A strong network is essential for real estate investors who grow their list of properties over time. However, individual buyers can also benefit from building real estate agent friends. These Realtors can alert you to potential properties in a hot market. You might be able to place a bid before other buyers even have a chance to see the property. 

2. Join Real Estate Investment Groups and Clubs

Look up local real estate clubs and investment groups in your area. You can also explore professional associations that have monthly meetings, mixers, and lunches. Joining these groups will help you build your network while also growing your real-estate know-how. Test out different groups and see which ones make you feel comfortable while helping you build valuable connections. 

Networking with investors along with Realtors makes sense because these people aren’t necessarily your competitors. An investor might learn about a property but decide that it isn’t a good fit for them – either because of the price, location, or style. If they know that you are looking to buy, they might reach out with the opportunity to look at the off-market property. 

In the future, you might be the connection who can pay the referral forward. You could come across an off-market property that is a good fit for an investor who referred one to you before. 

Real estate is all about who you know. Make sure your network is diverse and filled with agents, investors, builders, and contractors. and other professionals within the industry. You never know when one of these connections will pay off.

3. Direct Outreach Strategies

In a hot market, investors often turn to direct outreach strategies to find off-market properties before they are published on the Multiple Listing Service. There are several ways to contact sellers, either by yourself or with the help of a marketing agency. Here are a few options to consider. 

  • Launch a direct mail marketing campaign: send letters or postcards to homeowners in your target area inviting them to contact you if they are ready to sell. 
  • Work with text message marketers to develop an outreach strategy: learn the rules for sending promotional text messages so you can contact potential sellers in your area. 
  • Advertise in neighborhood newsletters: you can support local journalism and neighborhood causes by promoting your business through these channels.

The investment you put into direct outreach will depend on your goals and your budget. Investors who are constantly looking to buy homes might set aside a monthly budget for direct mail marketing and promotional activities. However, the average buyer who is trying to find off-market listings in a competitive market might not be as willing to spend money. 

The goal of these outreach strategies is to encourage sellers to approach you with their off-market deals. All it takes is a few people to respond to your direct mailers to make the cost and effort of sending them worth it.

4. Utilize Online Tools and Platforms

The modern real estate community is just as active digitally as in person. This is great news for people who don’t have much time during the week to attend networking events and other real estate group activities. 

Update your online presence to reflect your goals as an investor or buyer of off-market deals. Choose a professional profile picture and update your information to reflect your goals. Once you have a strong web presence, look for local groups, forums, and websites for local investors.

Different communities will have active real estate groups in various places around the web. Some regions might have strong Facebook groups you can join, while others might be more active on LinkedIn or Discord. 

Get to know these groups before you become an active participant. Learn the types of content people post and the rules around online discussions. This will allow you to follow good web etiquette once you jump in.  

You can also use online tools to try and find property owners. You can set aside a budget for social or search Ads to reach people who are potentially interested in selling. This is another way to bring leads to your investing business without having to search for off-market homes.

5. Attend Auctions and Estate Sales

One of the biggest indicators that an off-market property is about to be sold is an estate sale.

When a relative dies, their beneficiaries will claim the mementos that mean the most to them and then will sell their other belongings in an estate sale. These relatives also might have an auction to sell the items as well. Once the belongings of the deceased have been distributed or sold, the relatives sell the house. 

Start attending estate sales and auctions to view these off-market listings and talk to the people who host them. Most people usually hire third-party companies to handle the estate sales or auctions so the owners likely won’t be present.

Talking to the people running these sales can help you get an idea of what the relatives plan to do with the property once isn’t emptied. You can pass on your business card and let them know that you might be interested in purchasing the home.  

Keep in mind that other real estate professionals might also attend these events. Be polite to everyone involved – especially if you encounter the grieving family. You won’t win any off-market properties by being rude or trying to force people to work with you.

6. Work With Real Estate Wholesalers

One way to find off-market properties is to work with wholesale investors. These people actively seek out off-market deals and then search for buyers for those listings. When a seller works with a wholesale investor, they sign a contract that gives the wholesaler the right to market the home.

When the wholesaler finds an appropriate buyer, they receive a fee for the work. In this way, a wholesale real estate investor is similar to a middle-man or matchmaker between potential buyers and sellers. 

Real estate wholesalers do the work of finding off-market properties so you don’t have to. However, before you contact one of these professionals, make sure you are ready to pay their fee.

Most wholesalers charge between $5,000 and $10,000 for each contract and it’s not uncommon for the buyer to agree to pay the fee. This is because wholesalers often work with the owners of distressed homes who don’t have enough money to stay in the property.

There are times when the seller would pay the wholesaler fee as if they were paying a commission to a real estate agent. Make sure you read any agreement you sign with a wholesale investor so you don’t end up with surprise costs you weren’t expecting. 

7. Look for For Sale by Owner Properties

Not every seller wants to work with a real estate agent, so they list their property as For Sale By Owner (FSBO). Not all FSBO listings are off-market properties. Some homeowners work with flat-fee agents to post their homes on the MLS while others want to handle the marketing themselves.

People are drawn to FSBO because they don’t want to pay costly Realtor commissions. They know they can save at least three percent in commissions by listing their homes on their own. 

Drive around your town and look for FSBO houses. You might be able to meet with the seller directly and tour the home. This process is one of the more tedious ways to find off-market listings. You will need to keep an eye out for FSBO signs or indicators that a property is being sold without a real estate agent.

However, it’s possible to search for these listings online as well. Look for local FSBO groups where sellers can post about their houses without entering the real estate market.  

If you are working directly with a homeowner and you are representing yourself as well, make sure you bring in a real estate attorney so an objective party can make sure the purchase is legal and ethical.

8. Track Foreclosures and Distressed Homes 

A foreclosure occurs when a bank seizes a property because the owner stops making payments on the mortgage. However, the bank doesn’t need a house, so it will try to recoup some of its lost funds by selling the property. When you attend foreclosure real estate auctions, you are purchasing off-market properties that the bank wants to get rid of. 

You can decide whether you want to attend these auctions or seek out homes that are pending foreclosure as a way to find off-market listings. Some homeowners who are facing foreclosure want to sell their houses quickly to protect their credit scores. You might be able to make an offer on a house and close quickly on the property. 

Foreclosed homes are rarely turnkey properties. Homeowners who can’t afford their mortgage payments also usually can’t afford maintenance. Some foreclosure real estate auctions demand payment immediately and won’t let investors tour or inspect the properties. 

While this could be a good method for securing off-marketing properties, you need to be ready to invest heavily in repairs and renovations before you can enjoy these homes.

9. Talk to Builders and Contractors

Some of your hottest off-market properties might come from people outside of the real estate industry. Home flippers and hobbyist renovators often get overwhelmed by their projects and seek out contractors for help. If the project is too expensive or will take too long, these property owners might be considering selling. 

Relationships with builders can also help you when they are looking to develop land for new construction. The builder might reach out if they know you are interested in growing your portfolio. You could have an off-market listing that is brand new and provides immediate income while you work on renovating and upgrading your other investments. 

Becoming an investor is all about balancing your portfolio. Most real estate investors start with one rental property and then expand into other homes in various conditions. Consider the long and short-term plans for these off-market properties so you can feel confident that your investments will pay off.

10. Public Records

If you have a specific off-market property in mind, look up who owns it through a public records search. You can learn more about the owner and whether they are likely to sell to you. Naturally, learning who owns a house is the easy part. It’s much harder to convince them to sell the property if they aren’t interested in moving.

This step is often used by buyers who have specific houses in mind, rather than real estate investors who are searching for deals on off-market properties. However, you can also use public records to look up houses that have been abandoned. You can reach out to the owner to learn about the property or see if the resident who lived there is still alive.

This option highlights the importance of keeping an eye on homes in your area. Investors and real estate agents often notice neglected homes and know that they deserve owners who will care for them.

While searching for off-market properties seems like a great way to find homes without having to outbid other buyers, there are some limitations to these homes. As a buyer or investor, you need to act ethically as you meet with sellers and navigate the property transfer. You also need to keep an eye out for unethical agents and sellers who aren’t acting fairly. Here are a few things to consider. 

  • Confirm that the seller is authorized to sell the property. Avoid scams like people trying to sell houses they don’t own or beneficiaries trying to sell houses that are still in probate. 
  • Insist on a full real estate transaction. Just because a property is off the market doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to have it inspected and appraised. You should also go through the same purchase process with a purchase agreement and title transfer. 
  • Look out for red flags and shifty behavior. An off-market deal isn’t a black-market deal. If the seller or the agent is acting suspicious or unethical, you can back away from the sale.
  • Do not bully people into selling their homes. Not every off-market lead will lead to a sale. Some sellers aren’t ready to move just yet.

Some people believe pocket listings and off-market deals are unethical because they prevent buyers from competing in the open market. With an open listing, multiple buyers can bid against each other. However, it’s up to the seller to decide whether they want to put their house on the MLS. If the seller feels like they can get a fair deal off the market, they might choose this real estate option instead.

Find Off-Market Properties Through FastExpert Realtors

Investors and home buyers use various methods to find off-market properties. Some people attend estate sales and drive around looking for FSBO signs while others have an extensive network of people who know what they want.

If you are in the market for a house and are curious about off-market deals, turn to the professionals at FastExpert. We have a vast network of real estate agents that have different specialties. Some agents specifically work with investors and people who are interested in distressed homes. 

Try FastExpert today and see if you can find a Realtor in your area who meets your needs. Get to know the different agents available and find a good fit to help you buy. Whether you are expanding your investment portfolio or trying to buy your first home, our team is here to help.

Amanda Dodge

Amanda Dodge is a real estate writer and expert. She has worked in the field for more than eight years. She spends her time writing and researching trends in real estate, finance, and business. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Communications from Florida State University.

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