By the time a property hits the MLS, the chances of you getting a fantastic deal on it goes down significantly. At that point, the seller has already invested in some real estate fees to get it on the MLS—which is money you could have bargained with if you got to them before. So, how do you find off-market properties?

Before we dive into locating off-market properties, let’s take a minute to outline exactly what an off-market property is.

What is an off-market property?

An off-market property is a property (whether land, a house, commercial real estate, etc.) that you can’t find a “for sale” listing for. Off market commonly refers to the property not being listed on the MLS which supplies information to popular home search sites like Zillow.

These properties aren’t listed as for sale, yet. There could be a few reasons why the property hasn’t been listed yet.

The property might be a pocket listing, which means a real estate agent is holding onto it and waiting for the right offer to come along.

Another reason could be that the house is in the early stages of foreclosure, and hasn’t been advertised yet.

Yet another reason could be that the property owner has considered selling, but just hasn’t listed the house for sale, yet.

Despite the underlying reason for the house being off-market, you’ve got the job of finding these properties that would make great investments. That task often takes money and should take some time. But don’t worry—if you do it right, that your ROI will far outweigh any time and money you put into searching for the investment property.

How to Find Off-Market Properties

Here are our favorite ways to find off-market properties.

Investment Advertising

We’ve all seen the signs that say “We buy houses for cash!” The reasons why those signs are all over is because…they work!

But there are more ways to draw attention to your cause than simply posting a sign. Mailers are a proven method utilized by many investors.

The idea behind mailers identifying a neighborhood that will work great for your type of real estate investing. Then go to a site like listsource.com where you can pull addresses from an entire neighborhood to send postcards to.

This method works best if the people you are selling to have a lot of equity in their house. That’s because they’ll have more wiggle room to negotiate with, rather than those who have little equity and are tied to a 3rd party lender. Include your contact information and maybe even an offer amount on the postcard, along with a statement about your desire to buy houses in the area.

Networking for Real Estate

With all the advertising there Is in the world, nothing can beat making real-life connections. While time-consuming, joining a local networking community in your area like the Chamber of Commerce or Business Network International (BNI) gets you in the room with others who may know of properties that are unlisted.

Network specifically with builders, contractors, real estate wholesalers, and real estate agents. They can all put you in touch with others who may know of people who could help you out.

A note about real estate wholesaling: real estate wholesalers are the “middle-man” in real estate deals. If you want an even better deal, you’ll want to locate the deals yourself.

Looking for Off-Market Properties

One of the best ways to find off-market properties is by walking door-to-door and asking yourself. This is much more direct than networking but can yield much better results. This way, you can talk to the property owners directly rather than being directed that way from a third party. This helps to establish trust and gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the property.

Knocking on doors is definitely intimidating, but the worst that can happen is being told “no” and the best that can happen in getting an amazing investment property. What do you have to lose?

Real Estate Auctions

Many investors find great deals at their local real estate auctions. Whether it’s a foreclosure, short sale, or bank-owned property—checking out auction websites like Auction.com will give you the basic information that you need to find the best income-producing investment.

Tips for Locating an Off-Market Property

As with all investments, you should do your research before diving in and looking for off-market properties. If you’re looking for a property to rent out, for example, and you find someone who is behind on their payments for a commercial building, there may be a reason. Make sure the economy can support your investment. Here are a few other tips to get you started:

Check the real estate market in the area.

It may seem obvious, but don’t just dive into real estate investing because there’s a deal available. Keep an eye on the real estate market and see what other investors are doing. Remember, people thinking about selling their properties watch the market, too. That means that you could run into people interested in selling their property—but for a price far above what you are offering.

Try long distance real estate investing.

If your local market isn’t the greatest, consider long distance real estate investing. While you can’t go door-to-door as easily the further away you get, you can still research neighborhoods and markets and determine the best location for your investment. Long distance real estate investing is where sending out postcards really come in handy.

Fall in love with the investment, not the property.

Falling in love with a property and then trying to make an investment out of it is the best way to tank your portfolio. Make a spreadsheet of your investment possibilities and analyze them based on cost, cost of repairs, the market, ROI, and cash-on-cash return.

Use a real estate professional.

If you’re new to real estate investing and are looking for off-market properties, make sure you consult a knowledgeable real estate agent. There’s a lot to know about the world of real estate and you’ll want a top-notch expert by your side.