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How to Find Off-Market Properties: A Complete Guide

How to Find Off-Market Properties: A Complete Guide

Off-market properties may seem elusive to new investors. But if you know how to find them, they can be a reliable source to expand your portfolio.

Real estate investors need to know how to find off-market properties to consistently connect with leads and find the best deals on properties.

Why Learn How to Find Off-Market Properties

If you rely on the MLS or auctions to discover new “on-market” properties for sale, you’ll always be stuck paying a premium price and dealing with competition from other investors and buyers.

How to Find Off-Market Properties graphic explaining why this is better than buying on the market

Looking for properties that haven’t been listed or publicized yet allows you to make the most profitable deals by making an offer before the owner even lists the property for sale.

Best of all, many of these owners will be motivated sellers willing to accept low offers to sell the property quickly. There are a few tricks to finding these off-market properties.

After all, they’re not listed on the MLS and require a little research and know-how. This guide will show you how to find off-market properties and use them as a lead source.

5 Ways to Find Off-Market Properties

Finding off-market properties can be done the “old-fashioned way” with lots of research and work. If that’s not for you, there are also high-tech methods that enlist the help of powerful software to do the work for you.

We’ll talk about each method below so you can decide which ones work best and start gathering leads.

Direct Mail Marketing

Close-up Of A Person Hand Checking Mailbox Outside The House to find off-market properties in your area


It’s certainly not high-tech or a new method, but direct mail marketing is still the preference for many experienced investors who rely on off-market properties for leads.

Direct mail marketing is essentially sending some type of marketing material—usually a postcard or letter—to current homeowners to let them know you’re interested in buying their property.

Some direct mail marketing materials actually list a monetary offer. Some just notify the homeowner of their interest in purchasing and include contact information.

Other unique direct marketing cards include:

  • Free tools on a website
  • A comparable market analysis
  • Lists of homes recently sold
  • An estimate of your home’s value
  • Property value calculators
  • An easy seasonal recipe card

The bonus with this method is the ability to collect additional lead information from recipients who don’t call or email you in response to the mailer but visit your site to access the tools.

Direct mail marketing can be very successful if done the right way. Some homeowners may not realize they’d be willing to sell until they actually get an offer on the home or realize just how much their property is worth.

Since most real estate investors don’t specialize in marketing, learning to craft persuasive marketing materials that successfully convince a homeowner to sell their property requires a little trial and error and a lot of research.

Experienced investors who still use direct mail marketing to find off-market properties will tell you that you can’t expect every campaign to be a huge success; sometimes you won’t get responses at all.

However, the opportunity to find off-market properties before anyone else for as low as $0.07 per postcard mailed is enough to make this method an old standby for investors.

Networking With Investors

Delegates Networking At Conference Drinks Reception

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

If you’re involved in real estate investing, you need to be connected with other investors in your area. The old saying “No man is an island” rings true here.

Not only does networking with other investors improve your strategies, sharpen your understanding of REIA, and build your sphere of influence.

But it can also lead you to off-market properties that another investor decided weren’t a good fit for their portfolio. Real estate investment associations near you are a great way to start networking locally.

Membership in a REIA comes with other benefits, like discounts on events, access to members-only events, online access to investor information and tools, and monthly and seasonal events and summits.

You can also search online for upcoming real estate events. Using a search engine or your favorite social media platform will show you many events you can attend virtually or in person to meet other investors and build your network.

Networking has many more benefits than just uncovering off-market properties. The best strategy is to think of networking to increase and strengthen your professional connections that may become a source of off-market leads down the line.

Working With a Property Manager

property management concept displayed on tablet pc


I personally used to be a property manager, and I had hundreds of clients, most absentee or out-of-state owners. Often times, these owners would ask me to sell their home.

If I had an interested buyer, we got 3% commission, the seller had a quick off-market transaction, and the buyer got a good deal along with my knowledge of the home’s history.

This is perhaps the best way to find off-market properties, though few investors actually consider this when acquiring more rentals for their portfolio.

Reviewing Public Records

Picking file from document archive over black background


Some of the most motivated sellers are those who are facing foreclosures or short sales. These properties will either be listed on the MLS or sold at an auction to help the lender or government recoup the cash they are owed on the property.

Pre-foreclosures and short-sale properties are a matter of public record, so as an investor, you can find off-market properties this way.

You can access public records online or in your local newspapers. So check to see what pre-foreclosure or short-sale properties may be auctioned or sold soon.

If you’re quick (and if it is legal in your state), you can contact the owner to make an offer before the home moves to auction or is officially on the market.

If your offer is enough to cover the amount they owe, owners may accept an offer lower than the home’s value to avoid moving into foreclosure.

Tracking Real Estate Sites

Real estate professional Multiple Listing Service list of sold properties houses with address and type of home on a realty office computer screen (fictitious form and data created by the author)

Olivier Le Queinec/Shutterstock

Like Zillow, real estate sites that gather MLS listings and post them for easy consumer access can be a limited source of off-market properties.

Zillow’s Make Me Move program allows homeowners to list the price they’d sell their home for on their home listing page.

The home is not actually for sale or listed on the MLS. But any visitor can see the sale price and send an anonymous email to make an offer.

Zillow’s Coming Soon option allows homeowners to work with a Zillow Premier Agent to test their home’s kind of interest by listing it on Zillow as Coming Soon before it’s on the market.

You can also find off-market For Sale By Owner (FSBO) properties here. The key to using this method to find off-market properties is being diligent, and even then, it’s not always effective.

The listings that start as Coming Soon won’t last long because they will soon be listed on the MLS. You’ll need to check for these listings daily to avoid missing out.

If you plan to take advantage of the Make Me Move program, where would-be sellers list their expected sale price, you likely won’t find any great deals because the sellers aren’t motivated.

They’re only willing to sell if they can receive a certain price. And because Zillow’s information is public and widely available, there’s a lot more competition than other methods to find off-market properties.

Using Software to Automate the Search

Coding software developer work with augmented reality dashboard computer icons of scrum agile development and code fork and versioning with responsive cybersecurity.Businessman hand working VR screen to aid in your search. For a piece on how to find off-market properties

Everything Possible/Shutterstock

Unless you want to spend most of your time manually searching for off-market properties, you’ll need an easier solution. Using real estate investing software to automate your off-market property search is the best option.

Good real estate investor software gives you the ability to group and search through huge amounts of property data, then turn it into simple results that you can use to your advantage.

Rather than digging through records or blindly sending postcards, good investor software gives you instant, accurate information about which properties are likely to go on the market soon. 

Not all investor software is created equally, though. Some charge extremely high monthly fees or limit the types or radius of searches you can do.

Look for investor software that can narrow your property search with very specific criteria that point to off-market property potential, like:

  • Pre-foreclosures
  • Involuntary liens
  • Recent bankruptcy
  • Divorce
  • Or high equity

Our number-one recommendation for investor software is PropStream. PropStream allows you to drill down your searches to find off-market properties and owner contact information nationwide.

The Easiest Method

Propstream in action for real estate agent

Image Source: Propstream

PropStream’s marketing tools allow you to send custom postcards, scheduled emails, ringless voicemails, and online advertisements to leads. You’ll even be able to create custom website landing pages.

Conveniently, there’s a mobile app so you can instantly access nationwide property data wherever you go. Best of all, they offer real estate investors a free 7-day trial to get to know the software before officially signing up.

Start Your FREE Trial

Click the button below to start your FREE trial and see what separates Propstream from the competition.

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Locating Off Market Properties the Easy Way

Choosing the right real estate, house or new home

Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock

There’s no doubt that the five methods and techniques listed above are effective. After all, real estate investors have been using many of these methods for a long time, with varying success.

There’s a clear winner when it comes to convenience, efficiency, speed, and effectiveness. Using investor software like PropStream to quickly find off-market properties is the best method.

PropStream’s features do cover it all. It combines the old-school effectiveness of methods like custom direct mail marketing campaigns and reviewing public records with the power of technology.

Ultimately, this lets you instantly locate and sort off-market property information from national databases. To keep a steady stream of leads as an investor, you need to focus on finding off-market properties.

And to find off-market properties quickly and efficiently, you need reliable investor software in your toolbelt. Start your free 7-day PropStream trial now!