It can be understandably difficult to find off-market deals on real estate properties that have enough of a spread between acquisition price and improved value to make real estate wholesalers and house flippers a profit. It requires not only hustle and hard work, but also finding effective strategies that reach motivated property owners.
When most people think of advertising to find off market properties at wholesale prices today, the only things we hear about is online advertising: creating lead generation funnels, Facebook marketing, SEO, and Craigslist. While these are all well and good strategies, it seems that the old fashioned strategy has been tossed away to some extent.
There used to be a time, before the Internet, when finding a distressed property required hitting the pavement. And although you can do a lot with technology, smart dealmakers still use those classic strategies today. In fact, it might be said that an even bigger opportunity has opened up to invest in real estate in this area, as more people focus online.
Sometimes, the old fashioned approach is the best way to go. Especially given that in today’s market, less and less people will be utilizing this strategy. This opens up a unique real estate investing opportunity as a buyer. Sometimes, you have to go where your competitors aren’t.
That’s why we compiled this list of ways to find off-market properties offline, in this installment of our Epic List of 100+ Ways to Find Cheap Houses series.
Today we’re talking offline. No internet? No problem! Let’s get started.
- Driving for Dollars & Door Knocking
- Bandit Signs
- Community Bulletin Boards
- Leave Flyers at Parking Lots
- Real Estate Investment Clubs
- 3 Types of Required Legal Notices That Point To Immediately Motivated Sellers
- 4 More Types of Ads in General Newspapers With Likely Motivated Sellers
- City and County Tax Deed Auctions
- Notices of Abatement
- City and County Inspectors
- Condemned Properties
- Fire Departments
- Newspaper Advertisements
- Promotional Items
- Magnetic Car Signs
- Grocery Receipts
- Sign Spinners
- Door Hangers
5 Low Cost Boots on the Ground Lead Generation Techniques
1. Driving for Dollars & Door Knocking
Driving for Dollars is probably the most low-cost way to fill your off market real estate deal pipeline. All it requires is gas in your car, and a pen and paper or post-it notes.
To drive for dollars, simply drive through neighborhoods looking for potential houses that appear in need of repair.
Some immediate clues of a distressed properties are:
- Water damage/tarp on the roof
- Boarded up windows
- Poor condition, in disrepair
- Papers taped on door — these may be eviction notices, nuisance abatement notices, condemned notices
- Vacant property
- Code violations such as overgrown lawn and bushes
- Trash rentals outside of the premises
- Fire Damage
- Structural Damage
When you do find a home that looks distressed you have a number of options on what to do next:
Knock on their door
The most effective way to build trust and establish a relationship with the homeowner is to knock on their door, right there and then. It is something most of your competition won’t do, and immediately gets you a leg up over all of the other people who are trying to market to the seller.
Sometimes, the personal touch is the best. As a buyer, forming relationships with the owners of distressed properties is an automatic way to put yourself at the top of their list.
Leave Them a Note or Send Them Mail
You can leave a post-it note or hand-written note taped to a visible place. Additionally, you can note the address and send them direct mail. Your note can look something like this:
“Hi, I want to buy your house, please call me at [Number], Thanks, [Name]”
Another strategy is to put them in your REI/kit CRM, and start them on a YellowLetter campaign.
Keep a notebook of properties where you left notes, and keep track of them over time, revisiting the properties on a schedule, and leaving additional notes. This is important for your own records, and also for following up and forming a better relationship with the home owner.
Driving for Dollars
When Driving for Dollars, you can use the REI/kit CRM to help you pull up owner info, to see if the overgrown property that you are looking at is absentee owned for example.
All of the above strategies have proven effective for finding investment properties. You will notice the common link is establishing a relationship with the owner of the property. Investment opportunities are everywhere, and a strategic buyer knows how to form relationships to put themselves at the top of the seller’s list.
2. Bandit Signs
You’ve seen these “We Buy Houses” signs on corners everywhere, and whether you think they are awful or fair game; they are low-cost and still effective.
Before you start: Hang these signs at your own risk. Cities generally don’t like them so you should check the city ordinances first for laws and restrictions, and see if they apply to you.
TIP: Don’t use your personal or work phone for your signs. Get a free Google Voice number for this.
There are a number of ways you can produce and hang your signs, depending on how much time or money you have. Here are a few examples:
Create or Purchase Bandit Signs
If you have a lot of time, poster board and marker works — and if city employees (or competitors!) take them down you’re not out a lot of money.
More durable options are black plastic signs with yellow, or orange and yellow, lettering, sized 18×24 or so.
You can try different variations of “I want your house” with a catch phrase like “in any condition” or “cash in hand” and so on. Try different combinations and see what gets the best response, and optimize the rest of your signs based on what works best.
Build a Team of Bandit Sign Hangers
If you want to automate your processes, try posting a “Help Wanted” ad to find people to hang the signs. Hand these folks a map of locations and have them take pictures of each sign so you know they were posted and where they were posted. Tracking your progress is key so that you can evaluate your results.
Hire a Specialty Team to Hang Your Bandit Signs
One alternative is to hire a team from a company that specializes in tasks to post the signs for you, such as services offered by Simple Crew: https://www.simplecrew.com
General Hanging Rules
Posting in major intersections is usually wasteful or dangerous as these are first to be seen and taken down. Ideally, try to post directly outside local city limits or in unincorporated areas.
Avoid weekdays when city employees are on the clock. Hang signs Saturday morning and remove them Sunday afternoon.
Post as high up as possible to maximize visibility and prevent competitor’s takedowns.
Tip: Try using a bandit sign hammer. These are longer than regular hammers for extra height, plus some have nail-loading systems making sign hanging much faster. One source of these types of hammers is http://www.banditsignsolutions.com
3. Community Bulletin Boards
Walk around placing your one page “We Buy Houses” flyers on bulletin boards at these businesses in your target area. Make sure your sign is bold and noticeable, and try experimenting with different wording to see which works best.
4. Leave Flyers in Parking Lots
Place your flyers on cars in large parking lots.
Think about where your customers might be shopping, eating, or getting entertained, and go visit the parking lots of those businesses. These might include dollar stores, Walmarts, thrift stores, and other establishments catering to your audience.
Again, to maximize your results, you could hire a team to get your flyers out. The more eyes you get on your signs the better, and the more potential leads you will generate.
5. Real Estate Investment Clubs
You’ll find every type of real estate investor you can think of at real estate investment clubs, real-estate groups, masterminds, and conferences all around the country.
Here are some people you might meet at your local clubs:
Investor friendly realtors, real estate wholesalers, hard money lenders, property investors, real estate agents, contractors, title companies, and other real estate investors just like you.
Pass your business card along to everyone you meet letting them know you’re looking for properties.
You can find these clubs either through your local chapter of a Real Estate Investment Association (REIA), For Investors By Investors (FIBI) club, or even local BiggerPockets clubs.
7 Newspaper Sections Containing Off-Market Properties
3 Types of Required Legal Notices That Point to Immediately Motivated Sellers
Throughout a court case, it is commonly required for certain actions filed with the court to be published a number of times, for a specific period of time, in a widely read newspaper. Both the legal sections of regular newspapers or the classifieds area in a legal newspaper will have a special advertisement section for Notices, and Petitions and Hearings associated with probate hearings, tax sales, trustee’s sales, and so on. These can be valuable resources to a savvy buyer.
1. Probate Notices
Probate sales are those involving the property of someone who has died. Probates can be profitable, but the laws involving them can be complicated, and many people have a hard time approaching surviving heirs because of the sensitive nature.
How to Find Probates:
How you approach these leads depends on what method you prefer:
- You can attempt to purchase the property before the sale, or
- You can wait until the sale has been announced and then attend the auction or private sale, and in some cases, the following overbid process.
In method one, you’ll want to monitor the newspaper legal sections in your area for the first probate notice, such as a “Petition to Administer Estate.”
Note the deceased’s name, if there is a court case ID, and the name of the person who wishes to be Administrator or Executor/Executrix.
In method two, look for a notice regarding the real property auction or private sale in the newspaper legal sections.
A probate can be a complicated and difficult issue to approach, but it can also be well worth the effort if you are able to secure a valuable investment.
2. Bankruptcy Court Notices
If a person files for bankruptcy, they may be required by the Court to liquidate assets to pay creditors. There are two main types of bankruptcy: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The main difference between the two comes down to whether the person has debts discharged and does not have to pay creditors back, as with Chapter 7, or whether the debtor has to pay creditors back with a repayment plan, as with Chapter 13.
A trustee, or person who oversees the case, is assigned in both cases; the trustee in Chapter 13 simply oversees the actions of the debtor, but the trustee in a Chapter 7 case actually holds real property trustee’s sales. These trustee sales are what you are looking for in the legal notices sections of newspapers.
3. Divorce Court Notices
You can always reach out to divorcees in a Court case, however a gentle, indirect approach works better for people who are going through a difficult time emotionally.
A better option may be to reach out to divorce attorneys named in the divorce notices, who you gain rapport with, that can refer clients to you. Developing a working relationship with these lawyers can be a great strategy for smart investors.
4 More Types of Ads in General Newspapers with Likely Motivated Sellers
1. Garage Sales
People holding a garage sale are sometimes getting ready for a major life event, such as downsizing or generally needing money. Stop by the sale or send a postcard asking how you can help. Of course, sometimes they are just cleaning out their house, but it is worth a try at least.
2. Estate Sales
Estate sales usually, but not always, follow when a person in the residence has passed away or is going to assisted living care, and the estate is being liquidated to heirs or to pay creditors.
However, it could be any other major life event such as divorce or bankruptcy that creates urgency to sell belongings to pay off debts or downsize. In some cases, estate sales indicate that the property sale is being held and will be liquidated as well for a quick sale.
Approach the person in charge of the event to find out if the property is being sold. If it is being sold, they are typically highly motivated sellers.
3. For Sale By Owner
Look out for any properties for sale by the owner themselves. These may be sellers who can’t afford to list their property with a realtor and may be motivated. Contact each one to see if they want a quick sale.
4. For Rent Advertisements
Call all the For Rent listings you see in the paper and ask if they want to sell. Keep track of advertisements and note whether they appear month after month. A constantly vacant rental property is no winner for a landlord who may be fed up and willing to sell their property.
6 Free Resources for Distressed Property Deals from the Government
1. City and County Tax Deed Auctions
All property owners owe tax to their city, county, or state on the real estate that they own. When that owner does not pay taxes for a certain period of time, the jurisdiction that they owe the taxes to will auction the property to recoup the costs. The period of time that the state will wait before seizing and auctioning off the property varies by state, but could be as long as five years. The owner must pay off any taxes, plus fines or administrative fees, in order to stop their property from going to the highest bidder.
If you are looking to purchase a property from a tax deed auction, most cities and counties publish the date, location, and property to be auctioned in the newspaper.
Before going to an auction you should understand the terms and conditions for the specific auction you are attending. Many tax deed auctions are:
- Sold AS-IS, no inspections, much of the time you can’t even see the inside
- Require cash only or certified funds and often a large deposit
- There may be a hefty transfer tax if you win the auction
- The owner may have a right to pay the taxes right up to the day of auction
While many clouds (encumbrances, for example) on the title are released before the auction, many are not, such as Federal IRS liens. Run title before the sale to verify the liens on the property.
Most title insurance companies will not offer title insurance until after the above time period.
Mechanics Liens, HOA Liens, and Tax Liens all amount to the same scenario: The owner is required to satisfy a lien in order to not lose their property, and if the folks with these liens owe hefty fees on top of the lien amount, they may be looking for a solution. Here is a description of mechanics liens:
Mechanic Liens are filed at the county Recorder or Clerk’s office, usually by contractors — or subcontractors who weren’t paid by the contractors — in cases where the property owner did not pay for work performed. The property owner has a certain amount of time to pay the lien holder, and if not paid then may file suit and may win a judgment recorded against the property. This judgment is a legal claim to the property and must be paid and the lien released, otherwise the contractor can force a foreclosure of the property.
3. Notices of Abatement
Notices of Abatement are issued by the Code Enforcement offices and you will sometimes see these signs posted on properties with overgrown weeds, rubbish, or other refuse. These properties are often vacant.
4. City and County Inspectors
Any attempt to ease blight and restore nuisance houses to the market will probably be welcomed by the inspectors that look at them every day; it doesn’t hurt to stop by the code enforcement offices and find out how you can help. Maintaining a relationship with these inspectors is very helpful, as they will often be very motivated for someone to take the real estate properties off their hands.
5. Condemned Properties
The county or city Code Enforcement Office should have a list of these if you are interested in taking the property off their hands to offer as a gut rehab or selling as a lot.
6. Fire Departments
Contact the fire departments in your area to see if they have a list of fire-damaged homes that need remediation.
7 Effective Low Cost Promotional Advertising Ideas
1. Newspaper Advertisements
Try putting out a “We Buy Houses” ad in traditional newspaper advertising, whether a local newspaper, a magazine that may appeal to your target audience, or PennySaver type booklets.
Print ads are proven to be effective when they are targeted at the right audience, so just be sure to do effective research on what your target audience tends to read. From there, craft a simple, direct ad with a call-to-action for them to reach out to you.
2. Promotional Items
These can be clothing, hats, t-shirts, pens, shopping bags and other that advertise “We Buy Houses.” Wear them proudly everywhere you go, or even hand them out in public areas where your target audience might be spending time.
3. Magnetic Car Signs
These are inexpensive and effective. Purchase one for each side and then an additional and see if you can hire someone else to double the exposure. A cheap, efficient way to advertise wherever you go.
4. Grocery Receipts
Have you ever looked at the back of your grocery store receipt and saw the local realtors and small businesses that advertise? You can put that to work for you as well. Costs are on a per store basis, and some have minimum store requirements.
5. Sign Spinners
A favorite to watch: people on street corners that dance or spin your “We Buy Houses” sign. These are also called “human directionals,” “human billboards,” and “sign walkers.” This is a unique idea that is sure to generate some attention from a local crowd.
6. Door Hangers
You can have door hangers printed for quite cheap. They are an effective way to survey your target neighborhood and let the public know about the service you are providing. As a bonus, each person gets to keep a copy of the door hanger (if they are interested that is), and might reach out to you at a later date.
This is a true low cost strategy. Have simple, low cost flyers printed out and hand them out in crowded areas. Use bright colors, direct messages, and easy-to-find contact info. Something that gets your point across in a simple way is best.
4 High Dollar Advertising Ideas That Still Work
1. Television Advertising
Television can be one of the most expensive mediums to advertise on. Depending on the area you’re targeting, you can expect to pay between $200 to $2000 per 30 second local station spot, and much, much more for national exposure. There are many criteria that factor into cost, such as the time of year, whether the station you want to advertise on is broadcast or cable, and the number of spots available during that time slot. Factor in the cost to create the ad as well.
While it is a major investment, a well-targeted, professionally made ad can result in a major return for your business.
2. Radio Advertising
Again, location is key, and radio spots can run from $500 to $5,000 dollars. Much of the breakdown of costs is divided into how popular the station you choose is, how long the spot will run, what time of day it runs, and whether you produce it yourself or have the station produce it for you. Fiverr.com is a great all-around website for finding people to do radio voice-overs, dubbing, and editing, in many languages, and for as little as five dollars.
Billboards are typically out of range for many beginning businesses at $1000-$15,000, but not always depending on the size you choose, the type of fabric or vinyl it’s printed on, and the area. Generally, the larger the population of the city you’re targeting, the more expensive it is. Billboards typically run for 4 weeks, and you should keep in mind the cost to design the content.
4. Vehicle Wraps
Vehicle wraps can be incredible marketing tools. Talk with your auto insurance carrier beforehand to make sure there are no issues with advertising your business on your personal vehicle.
You now have 29 actionable methods that will get your leads for off-market properties flowing in, and the best part is you can start today. Whether you choose to get on the phone, knock on a door, or stuff mailings, you can add value to your business without ever getting online.
These tips truly show the power of the old-fashioned methods. As mentioned at the very start of this article, the online world has become so crowded that sometimes it is most effective to go back to basics. So give these methods a shot and see what they can do for you.
Next check out the 55 Resources for Finding Real Estate Deals Online ->