There was a time when buying a house automatically meant going the multiple listing service, or MLS. Of course, that was before the Internet. People now think outside of the box when it comes to finding off-market real estate deals as more information and opportunities have become available.

Take a look at some of these creative ways to locate properties if you’re interested in finding investment properties for sale before they go on the market. These eight tips will help you outsmart the competition, focus less on negotiations, and make the dream of actively investing in real estate a reality, without a reliance on the MLS.

1. Embrace networking

Business is really about relationships. One of the best ways to find off-market real estate deals is by networking with people who are in the know.

The right networking approach gives you a proverbial crystal ball when it comes to off-market properties. There are many people you should keep in your inner networking circle for your business. For starters, you should have relationships with other property investors. This may seem counterintuitive because you often view other investors as your competitors. However, they can also be your best resources if you know what you’re doing. You never know when another investor may be able to help you find and work through a deal that might feel above your pay grade. In addition, you may be able to get in on larger investments than you could find or do on your own if you’re invited to participate in a joint venture. Deals could quite literally come right to your doorstep if you know the right people.

In addition, mortgage brokers often know about homes that are about to go on the market long before anyone else does. This is because sellers often contact brokers before listing homes to see if they can qualify for new homes. Attorneys are also great networking partners because they usually know properties that will be sold due to foreclosure, divorce, and more. It’s smart to get to know some local plumbers, contractors, and carpenters in your area as well. These are the professionals who know when a home is being prepared for the market.

2. Get a head start on probate properties

As mentioned, a contact who is a lawyer can definitely be helpful when it comes to knowing which properties are very likely to hit the market soon. However, you don’t have to know a lawyer to be able to find probate properties as your real estate deals.

Probate properties are often much cheaper than traditional properties because they are being sold via a court-appointed representative as part of a will or in order to cover debts.

One of the easiest ways to find probate properties is to simply go to your local probate court and ask to speak with the person who handles probate matters. It’s a good idea to ask for records that cover at least the last six months. You will be able to review all open probate cases and contact the executor or attorney handling the property directly. This will put you in the position to be the first person a potential seller speaks with.

It is very possible that a motivated executor may agree to sell a property to you directly in order to avoid fees or get around losing money while a property sits on the market. You can also look at the probate listings in your local paper, or keep an eye on the obituaries to see when probate properties are coming to the market.

3. Use direct mail to target motivated sellers

Direct mail offers a great way to extend your reach and let potential sellers know that you are a friendly face. Of course, direct mail efforts need to be very targeted if you want to avoid wasting money.

The best group to target could depend on the area where you’re looking to find real estate deals. For instance, a person looking to scoop up properties in the Northeast might want to focus their direct mail efforts on retirees who are planning to move. Targeting homeowners who are 65 or older would be a smart approach in this case. You have the choice to mail a postcard, a printed letter or a written letter. Written letters tend to have the highest response rates. That’s why sending them out to a select group may be a smart approach for getting the biggest return on your investment. Simply introduce yourself, ask your audience if they’ve ever considered selling, and provide a phone number.

4. Market to property owners who have recently served eviction notices

Are you wondering how to find real estate investment deals for multi-tenant or rental properties? There’s one angle that most people completely overlook. That angle is human nature.

For instance, when landlords are tired of their responsibilities and seeking to sell properties, that’s your cue to swoop in and offer to make a deal. You can use eviction records to find property owners who are motivated to sell.

Of course, this could take more digging than other methods. Eviction records are typically available through the local court clerk. You may even be able to access the records online since they are public. That means that you can often find them using third-party websites. You can work your way backward using a property address if you’re trying to get the contact information for the landlord you want to market to.

5. Surf Craigslist

Many sellers want to skip the need to pay fees to real estate agents or go through the traditional process of staging a home. Some sellers just want to unload a property in as few steps as possible. These are the sellers that post their homes on websites like Craigslist. In fact, many of the best real estate deals in United States can be scooped up online once you find people who are eager to unload their homes and move on.

Take a look at the property listings on Craigslist in your targeted region if you’re looking for a low-investment, low-commitment method for how to find off-market real estate deals. You can save lots of time and money by negotiating directly with a seller instead of dealing with a local real estate agent.

6. Purchase some online ads targeting people who will be selling soon

People who are about to sell their homes often search for packing materials, moving services, rental trucks, and related things. You can market to people who are in the early stages of planning a move using keywords that aren’t specifically related to real estate. This could help to plant an idea about selling directly before a potential seller contacts a real estate agent.

You should also devote some of your budget for online ads to target people who are behind on property taxes. Many people who have fallen behind are just months away from making the decision to sell. There’s also a big opportunity to get your hands on prime properties as a result of divorce. Try using some divorce-related keywords to attract the eyes of people who may be about to make a big life change that will include unloading a property.

7. Drive around to look for telltale signs that a seller is motivated

Tall grass, dull siding, missing shingles, overgrown landscaping, and a driveway that’s in desperate need of repair are all signs that a homeowner has checked out. You should be driving around to hunt for properties that don’t look very loved. You can often get some of the best deals on houses for sale by approaching owners who simply don’t have the desire, interest, or ability to care for their properties any longer. Don’t forget to look for vacant homes.

8. Consider auctions

Are real estate auctions a good deal? Home auctions are not for everyone. However, they can provide great opportunities if you’ve done your research and you know what you’re doing. The big perks of buying a property at auction are that you’ll probably get a huge discount, and you’ll probably face a lot less competition from other buyers. It’s true that the pool of buyers will likely be smaller. However, the pool will also be more experienced. That could pose a challenge. There’s also extra paperwork and red tape to deal with when purchasing a property at auction. You probably won’t be able to have an inspection conducted or be allowed to view the interior of the home in person.

Cautions when looking for the best deals on houses for sale

There are some pitfalls you’ll want to avoid as you hunt around for the best deal real estate investors can find. You’ll obviously need to be cautious when it comes to competitors and saying too much. It’s possible to network while still keeping your strategies close to the vest.

It is also so important to make sure you’re not marketing to the wrong people. There’s nothing wrong with starting with a very small, targeted audience when investing money in marketing efforts. Casting a wide net isn’t always the best approach when it comes to trying to find motivated sellers. The reality is that people who don’t need to sell their homes really can’t be convinced. What you’re really trying to do is provide a nudge to people who are already motivated.

You will also need to do your due diligence if you decide to pursue a foreclosure property. That means checking for any existing claims or liens. You’ll also need to verify that a property does not have any occupants. Don’t let a failure to follow proper procedures cost you time, money, and legal headaches down the road.

Final Thoughts

It definitely helps to get out there and actually look at what’s going on in the market around you as you hunt for rock-bottom property deals. However, you can also cover a lot of ground online, which will help you with each point listed above.

Online resources can do everything from helping you dig up background information regarding a property to actually giving you the tools to work out a deal on a completely virtual level. The website for your local county clerk’s office is going to be your best resource for finding records regarding properties that will soon be going on sale as a result of legal matters like inheritance, foreclosure, and more. You can then use a website like Yellowpages.com to access a people-finding tool that makes it possible to locate a property owner’s current address based on the information you obtain from county records.

The Internet can continue to help you even after you’ve done your research and tracked down the perfect property to create the best deal real estate investors can find. This is when it will finally be time to focus on raising capital for real estate deals. You can do that by exploring LendingHome’s bridge loans for fixing and flipping. You can also enroll in a free real estate class that makes getting a good deal while buying a property without a real estate agent much easier.

What’s standing between you and your goal of letting properties create income? Don’t let another property get scooped up by a savvier investor. Get started today!

Disclaimer: The above is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered tax, savings, financial, or legal advice. Please consult your tax advisor. All views and opinions expressed in this post are the author’s own and not of LendingHome. All third parties listed on this page are for demonstration purposes only and are not affiliated with LendingHome. NMLS ID: 1125207 Terms, Privacy & Disclosures. Copyright LendingHome Corporation 2019.