How To Find Off Market Properties For Sale

Key Takeaways

  • Off market real estate refers to properties that aren’t listed on the MLS or subsequent websites like Trulia and Zillow.
  • There are a number of ways to find off market real estate listings, ranging from networking to surveying public records.
  • Off market real estate deals can give investors a leg up, as there will often be less competition when it comes to purchasing the property.

While it may seem like supply is low and demand is high (making it more difficult to find deals), what you may not realize is that the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) doesn’t account for every property on the market. As it turns out, a lot of properties are sold each month without ever being listed on the MLS. These off market properties, otherwise known as pocket listings, are a great source of leads for those that know how to find them. In fact, implementing the following tips will make it easier than ever to find off market properties.

What Is Off Market Real Estate?

Off market real estate refers to properties that are for sale, but not in the traditional sense we are all familiar with. More specifically, however, “off market” simply means the listing broker didn’t submit the property to be advertised on the MLS or similar portals. The only way the property sale is made known is typically by word of mouth, through the broker or the broker’s network—not public advertising.

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off market real estate Properties

10 Ways To Find Off Market Properties For Sale

  • Direct Mail
  • Online Resources
  • Networking
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Builders & Contractors
  • Wholesalers
  • Public Record
  • Word Of Mouth
  • Real Estate Auctions
  • Driving For Dollars

Off market real estate deals can offer a number of perks to investors, making them highly sought after. However, due to their desirable nature, many investors may be questioning how to find off market real estate.

There are a number of ways to identify off market real estate deals, all of which should come as no surprise to investors. I recommend pursuing more than one strategy at a time, to ensure the best results. For those interested in getting started, here are some of the best ways to identify off market real estate for sale:

1. Direct Mail Marketing

One of the most efficient ways to find off market real estate deals is through direct mail marketing. Define your target home seller and send out postcards or other ads that express your interest in purchasing their home. Sometimes, homeowners don’t even know they are ready to sell unless they are presented with an attractive offer.

Before implementing this marketing strategy, however, be sure to mind your due diligence. Not only should you research the traits of your target audience, but also the best ad venues to reach your ideal customer. From postcards and yellow letters to bus bench ads, the options are endless. If you do try implementing a direct mail strategy, it is also important to keep in mind that you may not see results right away. Do not get discouraged if you find yourself strategizing more than one direct mail campaign without a response. This remains one of the best ways to identify off market real estate deals.

2. Online Resources

While online websites like Zillow and Trulia primarily feature properties listed on the MLS, they can be used to find off market deals occasionally. How? Take Zillow for example: Zillow allows sellers to list their properties 30 days before the property is listed on the MLS. To take advantage of this, investors should track these sites regularly so that they stay ahead of the competition.

There are also a number of websites that feature off market real estate listings. Websites such as Opendoor promise a variety of perks for buyers and sellers; most notably, they allow real estate transactions to take place without ever being listed on the MLS. Keep in mind that while identifying properties online is cost efficient, you may have better luck with more proactive lead generation strategies. Due to the popularity of the internet, even off market listings featured online may be highly competitive. That being said, do not completely rule out this strategy—you never know what you might find.

3. Networking

Networking is arguably the best lead generation strategy in the real estate world, and that holds true with off market properties. You may find that networking becomes easier with time and practice, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

When it comes to networking, I recommend searching for real estate events in your area. You can check out your local REIA, bulletin boards or Facebook, to find groups who may be meeting around you. Additionally, you may want to ask your existing real estate connections to build your network. Because off market listings are just that, off market, networking is often the most popular way to identify and acquire such deals. If you are interested in any form of real estate investing, I recommend building a network, but particularly if you are seeking off market real estate deals.

4. Real Estate Agents

While real estate agents are most familiar with properties on the MLS, they can also be just as savvy when it comes to finding off market deals. To improve your chances of success, and to get ahead of the competition, contact a Realtor who is familiar with the market you wish to purchase in. Agents are often privy to which properties are just about to go on the market.

For investors interested in pursuing this strategy, I recommend curating a list of the top agents in the market area you wish to buy in. You can reach out by phone or email and ask for any off market listings they may be aware of. Although, before reaching out to an agent, be sure to check their website; often times, their pocket listings will be cataloged online. Additionally, keep in mind that even if a particular real estate agent cannot offer help with your current search, that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to in the future. Leave your contact information with anyone you speak to, so they know how to reach you if need be.

Why Hire Real Estate Agents?

5. Builders & Contractors

In addition to real estate agents, builders and contractors are good friends to have if you’re an investor looking to find hot, off market deals. Local builders are usually “in the know” about properties where the homeowner or investor abandoned the job mid project because he or she didn’t have the financing to finish the construction. While this situation is unfortunate for the seller, it can be quite fortuitous for the investor ready to swoop in, finish the job, and turn a profit at closing.

Contractors and other tradesman are constantly in touch with people in the business. If you’re lucky, they can lead you directly to pocket listings in your area—just be sure you’re completely transparent throughout all your networking experiences. Let people know you are an investor looking for off market properties. This way, you will begin to earn the trust and build the respect of other real estate professionals in your market.

6. Wholesalers

Wholesalers are great friends to have if you’re an investor looking for off market properties. Why? Because wholesalers specialize in just that: real estate wholesaling. At its core, wholesaling consists of finding a discounted property, putting it under contract, assigning the contract to a potential buyer, and charging that new buyer a fee. Often times, those discounted properties wholesalers find are off market properties.

Keep in mind, however, that working with a wholesaler is like working with middleman, meaning you likely won’t get as good of a deal as if you went directly to the source. As a general rule, networking with wholesalers is a great way to stay in the loop of off market homes in your area. Remember, even if they do not present you with opportunities in the moment, they may reach out to you in the future if something comes their way.

7. Public Record

It is a great idea to keep up to date on public records, which will often feature pre foreclosures or short sale properties, both of which can offer lucrative investment opportunities. I recommend surveying newspapers and state and local government websites in order to do so. Occasionally, these sources will also mention real estate properties that are soon to be listed, offering yet another opportunity for savvy investors.

One of the best tips for those looking for off market real estate deals is to set up alerts on websites like HUD Home Store, who can let you know when up-and-coming properties are listed online. Additionally, when surveying public records, you may encounter expired listings. In these instances, do not be afraid to contact the seller directly. As a real estate investor, it is a good idea to stay current on public records; after all, they may lead you to your next deal.

8. Word Of Mouth

No matter how you look at it, real estate investing is a people business. Anyone you encounter—from your family to your friends—should know who you are, what you do, and how to contact you. The more you employ word of mouth marketing, the more people will think of you when they see an off market property. This is similar to building a network; however, do not shy away from a potential connection simply because they are not directly involved in real estate. You never know who will lead you to your next investment deal.

9. Real Estate Auctions

Auctions are great for investors because they always have a steady stream of off market properties to choose from. In order to find auction properties, periodically browse auction websites for deals with potential. I recommend looking at RealtyTrac or for potential leads. In addition to scanning online, you can also keep track of auctions at the country courthouse or through your network connections. There are two main types of auction properties to look out for:

  • Foreclosures: Foreclosures are handled differently depending on the county, but generally follow the same process. These properties are often sold “as is” for below-market value prices. When looking for foreclosures, gather as much information as you can about the property before deciding to invest. While they can be excellent opportunities, in some cases a foreclosure may have liens or other drawbacks that undermine the overall deal potential. Luckily, all of these issues can be discovered with a little research before the auction.
  • REOs: Real estate owned (REO) properties are houses owned by lenders, typically as a result of an unsuccessful foreclosure auction. These off market properties can be yet another way to score real estate deals. However, investors should still make sure to get these properties inspected. While lenders are unlikely to make changes or repairs in the way a traditional seller might, it is important to have the entire picture before bidding on the property. If you are careful to mind due diligence, REOs can be a great off market opportunity.

Once you find an attractive property, confirm its auction status, location and bidding procedure (and be prepared to act fast). Before showing up to a real estate auction, be sure you’ve done your research ahead of time. Thoroughly research the neighborhood and property specs, and set a budget that you won’t exceed. Following these steps will allow you to stay focused and within budget—should you find yourself ready to take on a real estate auction.

10. Driving For Dollars

Driving around neighborhoods can be an interesting, yet effective, way to find off market properties. As the name suggests, investors actually drive in search of potential deals. The most common type of deals you will come across are either vacant or distressed properties, as these will be the easiest to spot. To find vacant or distressed homes simply keep an eye out for overgrown yards, scattered items in the yard, or boarded up windows. As you find potential leads, jot down the addresses for later.

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The next step in driving for dollars is to search for the owners of potentially vacant homes in county records using the addresses you wrote down. Finding the owner of the property will allow you to reach out and inquire about the status of the home. When you get contact information, either a phone number or email, prepare a list of questions to ask. These should help you determine if you can purchase the property, and if it might be a good investment. While it can be time consuming, driving for dollars is an entirely free strategy. Depending on the area in which you live, it could be a practical way to search for off market homes.

off market real estate listings

5 Benefits Of Buying Off Market Homes

As stated previously, there are a number of reasons investors may be attracted to the idea of off market real estate deals. Here are just some of the perks to consider:

  • Less Competition For Buyers: Off market deals give buyers a competitive edge because these properties are not open to hundreds of other buyers—investors often compete with two or three other buyers at most. This can help investors avoid bidding wars or losing out on deals altogether.
  • Lower Sale Prices: Less competition means one thing: lower sale prices. Off market deals aren’t publicized, and they typically stay out of the spotlight. This gives investors specializing in this strategy the chance to fly under the radar and score properties at a great price before they’re ever even listed for the public.
  • Smooth Negotiations: Because these properties go unseen by most, both buyers and sellers are more relaxed when it comes to the negotiations. This can lead to the kind of contracts that would never be possible on the open market. Have your contingencies prepared and understand what terms you want beforehand.
  • Adjustable Transaction Times: When it comes to off market real estate sales, you will likely find that sellers are not in a rush. As a potential buyer, this allows you to take your time and mind due diligence before making an offer. It’s important to note, however, that certain deals such as pre foreclosures and short sales may require a quicker closing process. In these cases, the lack of time is usually made up for by a greater discount on purchase price.
  • Unique Opportunities: The reason for some off market real estate listings can be due to unfortunate circumstances on behalf of the seller. There may be a financial dilemma or simply an owner looking to make a quick (and quiet) exit from the property. These situations can be mutually beneficial for both the buyer and the seller, as well as offer attractive contract benefits and profit margins for investors.


As a whole, off market real estate sales can offer a variety of benefits for investors who know what they are doing. By offering less competition and flexible negotiations, off market real estate can provide investors with wide profit margins. Despite not being listed on the MLS, there are a number of tactics investors can employ when they learn how to find off market real estate deals. I often recommend investors utilize more than one strategy at a time. Investors should seek to add new deals to their portfolios, and off market real estate should be no exception.

Are you going to add off market properties to your investment portfolio? Let us know in the comments below how you plan to find your first deal:

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