As a real estate agent one of the biggest strategies you can use to create value for buyers is to find homes that are not on the market. Any Realtor can set up a search in the MLS. Finding buyers homes that buyers cannot find anywhere else creates loyalty in any market. This strategy works great in a seller’s market when there is little inventory, but it can also work in a buyer’s market. High inventory does not mean that the home your buyer is looking for is on the market. Another benefit of trying to find off market homes is you will establish relationships with people that will eventually sell their homes even if your buyers do not purchase them. So, no matter what type of market you are in, learn how to find homes before they come on the market. Here are a dozen ways we have done this before at the Orange Line Living and Keri Shull Teams.

1. Look on Zillow for homes that are listed for sale by owner, coming soon or “Make Me Move.”

Zillow can be a great source to find homes not on the MLS. Yes, there is a lot of inaccurate information there, but do not let that bother you. If you are willing to do some sifting and email owners that have their homes listed as FBSO or Make Me Move (a less motivated FBSO). Agents will also sometimes list homes on Zillow as coming soon.

2. Reach out to landlords that have their homes listed for rent or have leases expiring soon.

Contact owners that are trying to find new tenants and owners that have leases about to expire. A lot of landlords would be more willing to sell if they had a tenant turnover coming up and many landlords have not had a market update in a while and could have had an increase in their equity position. Reach out to the top three listing agents in the area your buyer is looking for.

3. Reach out to the top three listing agents in the area your buyer is looking for.

Find out who the top agents are in the area your buyer is looking for and contact them to see if they have any upcoming listings.

4. Look on Craigslist.

Craigslist can be a great source for homes for sale by owners and coming soon homes that will be listed by real estate agent.

5. Look on for sale by owner types of sites.

Good sites to use include: and

6. Contact people in the area that might have a heads up on people who are moving soon.

Network with the people that have regular contact with the sellers you are targeting. This could include association managers, doormen, dry cleaners, and maintenance crews to name a few. Many times they are the first to know about someone moving.

7. Hand deliver notes and/or knock on the doors of homes that meet your buyer’s criteria.

Take the time to really narrow down the types of homes your buyer wants. Make a note that explains you have a buyer looking for this exact type of home, but there are none on the market. State in the note that you might be able to get them a great offer without the time, hassle, and cost of putting it on the market. Hand deliver these to the target homes. You can knock on the door or leave in an unmarked envelope.

9. Create a digital marketing campaign appealing to sellers that want to sell their home without going to the market.

Make a marketing campaign geared toward sellers that may want to sell their home without going to the market. You can point out that they can have the benefits of getting their home sold without showings or getting it in top notch shape. They also have more flexibility in getting the terms they want if it is not on the market. In your campaign, tell stories about other people you have helped with off market sales.

10. Ask past clients in the area if they know of any neighbors moving from homes near them that meet your buyer’s criteria.

It is very possible that your past clients or someone they know might be moving and have the perfect home for your buyers. This also makes you look like a proactive agent to your past clients and puts you in touch with them which is never a bad idea.

11. Post on Social Media

Tell the world on social media what type of home your buyer is looking for and ask for help finding it. Not only does this give you another chance at finding the home, but it will also get you mind share from your audience. Post it both in public places as well as real estate agent groups and forums.

12. Use your general marketing to sellers to communicate that you have buyers in waiting.

Most of your marketing in real estate should be geared towards getting more seller clients. Listings give you leverage and more buyer leads. When you are marketing to sellers one of your messages should be you have buyers in waiting looking for homes that are not on the market.

This list is by no means exclusive, and there are probably dozens more ways to find that home for your buyer when it is not on the market. Fight to find it for them and you will create a raving fan. The other thing that will probably happen is that through these efforts you will meet sellers that have homes or timelines that do not exactly work for your buyer, which will create more future seller business.
What have you done to find off-market homes for your buyers? Let us know in the comments.