So many people have those houses or properties that they’ve driven past time and time again, and they’re in love with them. They could see making the property their home, but there’s one major problem—it’s not technically for sale.
In some cases, it’s hard to even figure out who owns a property, especially if it appears that no one lives there or it’s vacant land.
People are increasingly getting creative when it comes to finding homes and properties because the inventory is so limited.
If you have your eye on a house where no one appears to live or on land, you can start to figure out who owns it by doing an address search. This might give you information available in public records, but this is just one step in the process.
The following are key things to know about buying a house or vacant land that’s not actually for sale and how you can make it happen.
1. Finding the Owner
If someone visibly lives in a home, then there might be one less step you have to go through. If not, or you’d like to find out how you can reach out to a person in another way aside from showing up on their doorstep, you may need to do some research.
If you want to figure out the ownership of a piece of real estate, you’re not alone.
The easiest way to find out who owns a property is to do a title search because titles are public information. A simple online search can tell you owns something, even if they don’t live there.
If you can’t figure out who owns a property by doing a search of the address online, then there are other things you can do.
One is to contact the county clerk’s office. Property ownership, again, is a public record. That means you should be able to go to a certain department of your county or municipality and find information on sales, transactions, and defaults. Frequently, the department with this information is known as the office of land records, property records, or the office of land registry. You might be able to access this information in person, by phone, or by email.
You can also go through the tax assessor because you would presume the owner is paying taxes on it. Your county tax assessor should have a record of the identity of the person who owns a property and how much they pay in taxes. You might have to visit City Hall to get access to these records, but some places provide online databases.
If none of these options work, you can try to find the owner through private resources. For example, you could use a title search company or a real estate attorney, or you could work with a real estate agent.
2. Researching an Off-Market Property
If you want to buy an off-market property, once you’ve figured out who owns it, your research is really just beginning.
You could need to enlist the help of a real estate agent. They might have information about the property.
You can also use real estate software, like Flipster or DealMachine, so you might be able to find the home and then send the owner direct mail. Some of these tools will also estimate fair market value on properties, even if they’re off-market, to help you before you make an offer.
Since homes not for sale aren’t simply listed on the MLS, you have to do more independent research. In an ideal situation, the property you’re interested in was at one point or another on the market, and the owners took it off. You need to find out if you can, why they took it off the market. If you can address what their issues were, it raises the likelihood of your own offer being accepted.
Vacant properties can be more challenging. The owner could have died without a will, so the house might be in probate. The home could have been condemned by the city, or it could be in foreclosure or litigation. Checkout this listing site with house for sale Florida area that has got many options with all the details.
If you look into the previous owner, you might be able to identify any heirs. You may also be able to find out online if the home is in pre-foreclosure proceedings.
Again, this is a good time to think about working with a buyer’s agent. They can research the property, including if it’s vacant, which is more time-consuming. Most data is available online, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically easy to access. A buyer’s agent has the research skills needed and the negotiation skills.
3. Making An Offer
By this point, you should have enough information to reasonably make an offer.
You have to remember that you need to tailor your offer to the owner’s unique situation since it’s not actually for sale. You should make sure that you’re pre-approved for financing before making an offer. You might also want to be flexible with your move-in date because you want an offer that’s appealing in all ways to the current owner.
Some people will write a personal letter detailing why they want the house or property.
4. Finding An Off-Market House
Most of the tips above relate to how to handle a situation where you’re already in love with a property. There’s another situation where you might want to buy off-market. Maybe you know the neighborhood you love, but nothing that fits your needs is available.
In this case, you’ll need to find a house. You can start by reviewing expired listings or having your agent do this. A real estate agent can contact owners with recently expired listings and see if they’re still interested in selling.
Another thing you can do is check tax records. You can see who’s got a different address for tax returns than the address of the property. This will tell you the property might be vacant, or it could be an investment property.
You could send out direct mail to the neighborhood, letting them know you’re interested as well.
If you’re going to do any of the above to buy an off-market house, you need to go into it with a clear idea of what you’re willing to do and pay and what you aren’t. You won’t likely have the luxury of a lot of negotiations, so prepare for this going into it.