Professional investors and agents find off-market properties by using several proven strategies. Using data-driven strategies helps them target the off-market real estate properties that are

How To Find Off Market Properties & Turn Them Into Off Market Deals

Written by:
David LaPlante
Written on:
September 2, 2020

Professional investors and agents find off-market properties by using several proven strategies. Using data-driven strategies helps them target the off-market real estate properties that are worthwhile pursuing – while avoiding wasting time, money, and effort chasing bad deals.

Not all off-market properties are positioned to be a good buy, so selecting your next investment or listing prospect is about finding the property that makes the most financial sense and finding the owner who’s ready to make a move.

If you’re motivated to find off-market real estate opportunities and curious about how to turn them into deals, keep reading. This is a guide about how to find off-market properties with actionable insights on how to use data to turn them into off-market deals based on time-tested strategies the professionals use.

We’ll cover:

  1. A few different methods for finding these properties in your area of interest
  2. How to evaluate whether a particular property will be a sound investment for you or your client
  3. Pro tips on how to go make the deal work in your favor

What Are Off-market Properties?

Before we start describing how to find off-market properties, it’s important to be clear about what these properties are and how they are different from traditional real estate listings. Put simply, the term “off-market property” can refer to any property that is not currently listed for sale.

Therefore, you find these properties listed on typical real estate listing platforms like the MLS. Nor are the owners advertising them in alternative venues like newspapers, magazines, Craiglist, Zillow, or Facebook. In fact, while the sellers of off-market properties are usually willing to sell their homes if the right deal comes along, they’re different from traditional sellers in that they are not actively attempting to market and sell their properties.

Benefits of Pursuing Off-market Properties

Given that off-market properties aren’t actively marketed for sale, some may wonder why savvy investors might bother with them at all. The truth is there are many benefits to focusing your investment strategy around off-market homes. And if you’re a motivated professional, you’ll discover incredible deals that others missed because they weren’t willing to leverage data.

Below, we’ve laid out the biggest benefits when choosing to pursue off-market properties. This will give you a sense of whether or not this strategy is the right fit for you or not.

Supply is unlimited

The biggest benefit of searching for off-market properties is that the supply is virtually unlimited. While your local MLS service might only have a few hundred properties listed at a time and only a small subsection of those properties might fit your criteria, there is no such limit when you’re searching off-market. For example, PropertyRadar has data on every property, which means you get insight into millions of off-market properties.

And while some property data sites may limit you to searching for only one type of property, like off-market commercial real estate or off-market mobile home parks, PropertyRadar gives you the flexibility to find the property that’s right for you. Whether you’re looking for off-market residential, commercial, land, industrial, mixed-use, or other types of property, you’ll find it in PropertyRadar.

Even investors with a particular focus area know that the best off-market deals can sometimes be found when you use data to look a little deeper and think outside of the box.

Less competition

These days, market listings are swamped with competition. In most markets, inventory is very low and it seems like every other listing is ending up in a bidding war with multiple offers. By focusing your search on off-market properties, you’re virtually guaranteeing that there won’t be any other competition for the property.

Since the supply of off-market homes is so much greater than the demand, there’s only a minuscule chance that another investor will be interested in the same property at the same time as you. Instead, it’s far more likely that it will only be you negotiating with the sellers.

Save time and money

Lastly, you can save time and money by looking at off-market properties. For example, rather than only looking at listed properties, being represented by someone getting paid a commission, for your next investment, PropertyRadar allows you to connect directly with the owner of the property. Now you can work together to develop with an arrangement that is mutually beneficial to you both, while saving those commission costs.

How To Find Off-market Properties – The Traditional Way

Fortunately, there are several ways to find off-market properties to add to your portfolio. And while some are better than others, it’s important to understand your options. Some are free but can either be time-suckers or require a whole lot of waiting around and patience. Others might cost a little but can ultimately end up saving you a ton of money and lots of time.

Hire a Real Estate Agent

Even though real estate agents are used to utilizing their local MLS system to find available properties, most agents have connections in the industry and may have insider knowledge about interesting properties that are about to come on the market. Agents may also have insights on properties lingering on the market due to potential situations with owners or issues with the property itself. And a highly motivated agent may be willing to reach out to off-mark owners on your behalf. It’s a great opportunity for them because even if you decide not to buy the property, they can often take the listing and sell it to someone else.

As previously mentioned, if you do decide to go this route, you will have to pay your agent in exchange for their time and efforts. And patience will be in order as you’re at the mercy of the agent’s schedule and efforts.

Connect with Wholesalers

In real estate, wholesalers contract with interested sellers to buy properties. Then, the wholesaler finds a buyer to purchase the property from them at a slightly higher rate and keep the difference between the two purchase prices as profit. Often, the properties that they purchase from the sellers are off-market deals as a result of persistent direct mail marketing, driving for dollars, door knocking, cold calling, and other hyperlocal marketing outreach efforts.

That said, it’s important to note that, as an investor, you would be the buyer in the above scenario, meaning that you would pay slightly more than the wholesaler paid for the off-market property. Sometimes you’ll purchase the property after the wholesaler closes the initial purchase. Other times, the wholesaler will assign the contract to you while in process. The finder’s fee or assignment fee can be a small percentage of the contract or a very hefty sum depending on the strength of the negotiated deal. Using public records to find off-market properties allows you to keep that spread yourself.

Talk to Local Builders/Contractors/Inspectors

As with real estate agents, builders, contractors and inspectors will run into projects that may be challenging for the owner to sell, perhaps because they don’t have the money to pay for the work that needs to be done. Letting these folks in the field know that you’ll pay them for a good lead, gives them another opportunity on deals that fall through. If you have a fix-and-flip investing strategy, networking with builders, contractors, and inspectors could be a solid option for you.

Go Driving for Dollars

Driving for dollars is another option when searching for off-market real estate. This method is as it sounds, driving around and looking for houses that match your criteria. Boarded up homes, homes in disrepair, hoarder homes, and similar can be great for those doing fix and flips. Commercial and multi-family with obvious vacancies that you believe you can fill. Or maybe just a property that better matches your client’s dreams compared to what is currently listed. Whatever the property, it’s off the market and it’s the perfect match for you.

Once you spot a property, you’ll need to find the owner of that property. You can do this by visiting your local assessor’s office and getting the owner’s name and mailing address. If you want to contact them sooner than by mail, you’ll need to skip trace their phone and email. OR while you are right out front of the property you can use a tool like PropertyRadar to have all of that critical info right at your fingertips.

With comprehensive information about the property, mortgage status, owner, and more, you’ll have a better understanding of the owner’s and their situation and can make a more informed, tailored sales pitch to improve your chances of landing the deal.

If you’re a professional and you’d rather not spend your time at the county clerk’s office searching through public records, relying on others to finally bring you a potential deal, or spend your time driving around, then using a comprehensive property data and owner information platform like PropertyRadar will likely make the most sense for you. You control your pipeline of highly tailored deals.

Search Public Records

Public records can not only be a great way to find the owners of off-market properties, but they are also a great source for distressed properties like foreclosures. In either case, you’ll want to use the information that you pull through your public records search to contact the seller directly.

While surveying public records is a free option for finding off-market real estate, it’s important to understand that they can be very messy. With so much information to sort and search through, finding what you need through public records is usually challenging and time-consuming – to put it nicely. That’s because the rules that govern public records safekeeping were created long before computers were around. So a little mistake like a ‘typo’ can lead to a lot of wasted time, effort, and generally end with undesirable outcomes.

How To Find Off-market Properties With PropertyRadar

Using PropertyRadar to help you find your next off-market property as an investment or for a customer can save you time, money, and help you discover otherwise difficult to find off-market properties.

But with so much data, where do you start? The first thing you want to do is limit your search to the market you’re interested in. So let’s start there.

Search off-market properties by location

To do this, you’ll simply log in, and then as shown below, you’ll 1) select the ‘Discover’ option from the hamburger menu icon, 2) select ‘Criteria’, 3) select ‘Location (Start Here)’, and then 4) select ‘Address’:

How to find off market properties by searching location in PropertyRadar

Here you will find a number of ways to filter locations to discover off-market properties. You can limit by county, city, zip code and more. But in this case, we’ll use the polygon drawing tool to precisely define an area we’re interested in.

In this case, let’s suppose we’re interested in any off-market properties surrounding Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles, California. Using the polygon tool, we draw a perimeter following the land marks, highways, and streets we want to use to create our shape of interest.

Once you’ve set your area of interest, you’ll end up with a large number of the properties located within that shape at the top of your search/criteria bar. Additionally, that large number of properties will be broken into smaller numbers and plotted out by geographic location within the shape you’ve created.

Your customized market of properties will look something like this:

Use polygon tool to create a perimeter around the market you want to find off market properties

From this point, turning this broad search into a list is easy. Simply click the big green button ‘Make List’ next to the total number of properties at the top of the screen and you’re done. However, any data-driven professional knows such a broad, undefined list won’t garner the ROI you’re looking for from your direct mail marketing campaign. You’ll want to refine your list of properties with specific attributes and characteristics so that it’s more targeted.

It’s time to refine your off-market property list by adding criteria. With over 200 criteria to filter your list through, you can turn a broad list of 5,969 into a refined, detailed list of just a few hundred, highly specific off-market properties that you’re most interested in. Heck, if you’re smart, you’ll create multiple lists with each list containing one uniquely defining criteria to better understand that list of properties and their owners.

Your list-building opportunities are endless.

Use 200+ Criteria to Discover Your Ideal Properties

As a professional, you likely have a specific type of property you’re interested in, so it doesn’t make sense to cast a wide net to see what you can catch.

After all, it costs time and money to reach out to property owners. The more defined and tailored your mailing lists are the more defined and tailored your marketing messaging will be, which means you’re pitch is more likely to resonate with the owners and increase your odds of a better ROI.

With PropertyRadar, you can mix and match over 200 criteria to tailor and customize your lists to exactly what you want. Filter through millions of properties to discover a list of only the properties that make sense for you or your client to pursue.

With that in mind, filter by the attributes of the property itself first.

There are 3 main categories of property attributes to start your filtering process. They are:

  1. Property Type
  2. Property Characteristics
  3. Property Status

Let’s take a look at the various criteria you can use within these three categories when building your hyperlocal lists of off-market properties.

1. Search by Property Types

This is an obvious place to start. You likely have interest in a very specific type of property. Maybe you’re an investor wanting to move up from single-family or multifamily homes and you’re now looking for off-market commercial real estate, off-market hotels, off-market land, or even off-market industrial properties, you can easily add that criteria to start your search.

With PropertyRadar, you have two categories to start narrowing your search, a ‘Basic Type’ of property category and an ‘Advanced Type’ of property category. You can see that you can get very selective with the different types of properties in the ‘Advanced Type’ of properties:

Off market property types: a list to select your choice from basic to advanced

Once you’ve selected the type of property you’re in search of, it’s time to start adding additional criteria.

2. Search by Property Characteristics

With the type of property selected, you can now start adding ‘Characteristics’ you want your property to have. These include things like the number of beds and baths, square footage, lot size, year built, pool, fireplace, and more:

Use characteristics criteria of a property to find off market properties you want

3. Search By Status

The status of the property can tell you a lot about whether the owner might be more motivated to sell or not – a sure advantage when you’re looking to buy off-market properties. The status category is where you can select your criteria for properties that are Owner Occupied, aka: Absentee Owners, or not. And you can filter properties by whether they are Vacant or not.

Find off market properties that are vacant properties and/or absentee owner or not

In addition to these three categories, here are a few of the more common criteria professionals use to limit their results to properties that makes sense for their goals and objectives.

Search by Value & Equity

Perhaps one of the most powerful criteria you can add to your list is that of the ‘Value & Equity’ of the property. If for instance, you wanted to search for properties with equity of at least 70%, you would first click ‘Value & Equity’, then click ‘Est. Equity %’ and then enter ‘70’ in the Minimum equity field as shown below:

Find off market properties with a minimum percentage of equity or minimum dollar amount of equity

Similarly, another important criteria for professionals is the ‘Value’ of the property. However, there are a number of ways to assess the value of a property. Fortunately, PropertyRadar gives you the versatility of selecting from key property values based on ‘Average Valuation Model’, value by square foot, assessed value and more as seen below:

Use various types of property values to hone in on the off market homes you're interested in

Search by Opportunity Zones

You might be interested in buying and investing in properties located in Opportunity Zones for their significant tax benefits. If Opportunity Zones are your area of interest, or even expertise, you can add this criteria in PropertyRadar by navigating to ‘Location’, click ‘Other’, and then click ‘Census Tract.’

Sort properties that aren't for sale by opportunity zones via the Census Tract category

Eliminate Listings to Find Off-market Properties

It goes without saying that we want to make sure that any properties within our shape are actually off-market properties and that none of them are on the market, ie listed for sale. To do that, you’ll simply navigate to ‘Criteria’, click ‘Listing’, click ‘For Sale’ and then select the ‘No’ option in the dropdown menu, as shown here:

Select 'No' for wether a property is listed for sale or not to ensure all your properties are in fact off the market

Building Your Marketing List of Properties

Once you’ve defined your list with all the specific criteria you’re looking for, it’s time to build your marketing list. As mentioned early on, it’s simply a matter of clicking the big green button that says, ‘Make List.’

Let’s see what it looks like when we create a list with the following criteria:

  • 4+ bedrooms
  • 2+ bathrooms
  • Owner age is 60+ years old
  • House is 2,000+ sq/ft
  • At least 50% equity
  • NOT listed for sale
List of properties not listed near Eagle Rock High School

This list of off-market properties became highly targeted by adding criteria, taking it from a broad search of almost 6,000 properties to 110 properties. More importantly, I have a list of an older demographic who live in a larger house, that has decent equity, and with an owner who might be motivated to sell their home to downsize into something smaller.

One of PropertyRadar’s most powerful features is the ability to build Dynamic Lists. Unlike typical lists you buy from traditional list builders or list brokers, Dynamic Lists automatically update themselves when a new lead or opportunity matches your criteria for a particular list. This has numerous benefits for you.

For example, if you’re a professional, you’re likely using a CRM to track your leads, deals, and customers. By integrating PropertyRadar with your CRM you can keep your CRM persistently filled with new leads and opportunities. In this case, any new leads that match your off-market properties list would automatically populate your CRM.

Additionally, PropertyRadar integrates with over 2,000 apps and services. So you can set-and-forget your marketing outreach efforts by having a direct mail postcard sent the second a new lead hits your list.

Set up marketing automation for your off market property lists with over 2,000 apps and services integrations using Zapier

When your competition is busy and can’t get a postcard or letter out to a new lead until after they’re done doing whatever they’re doing, you’re marketing asset will already be on its way. You’ll be the first to make a great first impression – and you didn’t have to do virtually anything.

Differences Between Off-market Properties and Off-market Deals

To be clear, virtually any property can become an off-market purchase if you are willing to pay the owner the price they want. However, the goal is to ultimately find off-market properties that can lead to an off-market deal. That deal will largely depend on your investment strategy or what the goal is of your client.

Fortunately, as just described, PropertyRadar can help any data-driven professional find the properties that match their very specific and very personal criteria, no matter what they are.

Let’s take a look at a few scenarios depending on the type of investment strategy you have or if you’re an agent looking for a client:

  • Fix & Flip Investor: Ideally, a fix & flip investor is usually looking for a property that they can buy below market value because it is in a distressed condition and needs renovations. For example, in this case, it might be a good idea to use PropertyRadar’s sale history data to determine if the neighborhood valuation is up-and-coming. If that’s the case, it may be worth overpaying for an oversized 2/1 home, if you know you’ve got the construction skills to turn it into a 3/2 property once it’s in your portfolio.
  • Buy & Hold Investor:A buy & hold investor might want to look for properties that are more or less turnkey in areas that appeal to tenants, or even perhaps already have tenants. Look for desirable rental features like walkable neighborhoods, good school districts, etc. Here, you can use PropertyRadar’s heat maps to help you focus in on the neighborhoods that would appeal to tenants the most.
  • Commercial Investor: As a commercial investor, you’ll undoubtedly benefit from using PropertyRadar’s property type feature. This will allow you to limit your search results to only the relevant properties in the area.

PRO TIP: Some property that is currently used for residential, may have commercial zoning. Here, you have an opportunity to make an offer too good to be refused, knowing you can turn the residential property into commercial use.

  • Realtors®: If you have a younger couple looking for their forever home, they may be willing to overpay knowing that they’ll be spending the next 30, 40, or 50 years in a house. In which case, you can make an offer to the current owners they’d be all too happy to accept.

How To Turn An Off-market Property Into An Off-market Deal

Once you’ve curated a list of potential properties that meet your needs, the next step is to turn one of, or many of, these off-market properties into an off-market deal. Here’s how to give yourself the best chance of turning your list of leads into a list of closed deals.

  • Know your list: Before you reach out to potential sellers, it’s crucial to be in touch with their wants and needs. That way, you can target your message in a way that serves the seller. Fortunately, PropertyRadar provides unique insights into your marketing lists as a whole:
get unique insights into your lists of off market properties to better understand your prospects
  • Focus on how you can help: Instead of focusing on what you can get out of doing an off-market deal with the property owner, focus on how you can help them. The more specific you can make your offer, the more likely it is to be well-received. This is where digging into each property on your list will make a world of difference when wanting to better understand each individual person, property, and mortgage status.

In the example below, under the ‘Contacts’ tab, you can see that Albert is a 90-year-old single man, his property is in a trust, he owns multiple properties, and his phone numbers are listed along with his social media profiles:

Understand the owner details of the off market properties you're interested in

Under the ‘Property’ tab, you’ll find a comprehensive list of additional insights into the property itself like:

  • APN
  • Lot Size
  • All property details (A/C, Pool, Fireplace, etc.)
  • Property Value
  • Comparable
  • Property Taxes
  • Transactions/Title Transfers
  • Investment Analysis

Under the ‘Neighborhood’ tab, you’ll find in-depth insight and information about the neighborhood like: Demographics, Education Level, Income, Housing Risk, and more:

Understand the neighborhood your pursuing these off market properties by getting demographic info, education level, income level, and more

Improving your direct marketing success

  • Follow up, follow up, follow up– One outbound message simply isn’t enough, especially with off-market property owners who aren’t necessarily motivated to sell. The most successful businesses are excellent at follow up. PropertyRadar can provide you with incredible insights and data, but you’ll end up losing to your competitors who just don’t give up. Automating your outreach (described below) can make follow up easier to achieve.
  • Track your progress– You also need to be tracking your progress with individual prospects. Inside of PropertyRadar, you can do this through custom lead statuses. Using our Zapier integration, you can send all of your PropertyRadar leads into your CRM and track them using your processes. With our Zapier integration, we seamlessly connect with popular CRMs like Pipedrive, Zoho, LionDesk, and many others.
  • Use automation– Automating your direct mail and other forms of marketing is absolutely essential. Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of getting too busy to market your business to property owners. To win, you need to build highly targeted lists of prospects inside of PropertyRadar, and use Zapier automations to trigger actions whenever new leads get added to your list. For example, whenever a new lead meets your criteria, they receive a postcard from you and then get a follow up postcard one month later, and a month after that.
  • Take a multichannel approach – Your follow up shouldn’t be in one channel, meaning you shouldn’t only send postcards or only cold call. The best direct marketing campaigns reach out to target audiences across multiple channels. With our PRINTGenie integration, you can use their multichannel outreach templates to reach out to targeted lists of leads.

Key takeaways to finding off-market properties into off-market deals

Finding off-market properties isn’t as challenging as you might think. The real challenge is using data to find the properties that are right for you based on your specific criteria and outcome objective. With PropertyRadar you can:

  • Use 200+ criteria to find only the off-market properties that meet your needs and present a potentially great deal for all parties involved.
  • Build unlimited Dynamic Lists of specific types of off-market properties that will auto-update when new leads match your specific criteria; and, trigger marketing campaigns to help you beat your potential competitors for the same properties.
  • Better understand your list as a whole and even each individual person so you can create powerful, personalized marketing messaging that resonates with your audience in order to help you turn those leads into deals.

If you’re a professional real estate investor or Realtor® and you’re looking to uncover off-market properties that no one else knows about (yet), the PropertyRadar is property data and owner information platform you need. Start your free 3-day trial today and discover the power of PropertyRadar.

Written by:
David LaPlante
Written on:
September 2, 2020