One of the most stressful parts of buying a house is knowing whether or not you have seen all the homes that are available, especially the ones that are going to provide the best return on your investment. The good deals are always the ones that sell quickly, and most of the time they are heard about through word of mouth before they even make it to the listing service.
But, there is hope for the homebuyer who doesn’t mind doing some extra research online. Here are four of the best ways to sniff out the best deals before anyone else.
Facebook Realtor Groups
The best ninja move for getting ahead of the competition is to look on Facebook for real estate agents’ private groups. Sometimes they make you request to join, but it is worth putting in the request because that is where many agents will first post about a listing they have that is Coming Soon before it makes it on the listing service.
Another frequent type of post is Buyer Need, where they list the specific criteria their clients are looking for and ask if anyone has a listing that isn’t on the market yet that fits the description. You could ask your agent to post on your behalf or you could always put up a request yourself, even though you aren’t an agent. The worst that can happen is they take it down.
Every medium- to large-sized market has many of these Facebook groups in operation, usually based on a smaller geography within the larger market—such as a county or school district. You will have to search multiple times using different keyword combinations. Start with the name of the county or city where you want to live and add keywords such as forum, network, investors and professionals to every permutation of the words Realtor(s), real estate agents and brokers you can think of. Not all of the groups will still be active, but there are almost always a couple that have a strong following.
Pre-foreclosures and auctions
Listings where the owners are behind on their mortgage payments can sometimes be a way to buy a property under market rate. While many of these homes have been neglected and need work to make them livable, there are almost always a few homes in every community that are in great condition. These are usually situations where the family has had a sudden financial upheaval and they have fallen behind on the payments.
The sites Auction.com and Realtytrac.com are two that specialize in bank-owned properties and provide some basic data for free about which homes are in the foreclosure process or are going to auction. If you sign up for a paid subscription they provide more information about how much of a lien is outstanding, which can give you an idea of how much the bank will want to recoup from a new buyer.
Zillow.com is a free search site that lists pre-foreclosures in addition to the regular listings they pull from the multiple listing services.
For Sale By Owner (FSBO)
In any major urban area there are almost always a dozen or so listings that aren’t being sold through a traditional real estate agent, and sometimes they can be a good deal.
Not all the big sites allow homeowners to upload their own homes for sale, but some of them pull a feed from websites like FSBO.com or Fizber.com, which are dedicated FSBO sites. You can search those sites directly to find potential listings. The main reason why they don’t accept them directly is the potential for liability if an owner creates a listing that is either unsafe or violates the Fair Housing Act. They don’t have the staff power to police each listing so they pull from websites that have some protections in place for requiring sellers to follow the laws.
Of course, the bad listings do slip through the vetting processes from time to time so you have to do even more due diligence when it comes to making sure the house is in good enough condition for you to buy it.
Some of the best deals I’ve ever seen never even make it to market. These are the Coming Soon properties that agents hear about from other agents in their office before the listing goes live. If it is a good deal, those agents will let their network know about it and they’ll go under contract in a matter of hours, which makes them some of the hardest deals to find. Some MLSs have started letting their agents upload Coming Soon listings, so it pays to look at your local MLS search site in addition to the nationally recognizable ones. The search website Redfin, which also operates as a real estate brokerage in a few dozen cities around the U.S. and a handful of cities in Canada, uploads their Coming Soon listings on their own sites. So, if they have presence in the location where you want to buy, it pays to include that website in your list of resources.