Do you ever wonder how successful investors find real estate deals they can turn for profits? You’re not alone.
It doesn’t matter what your experience level is – whether you’re just getting into real estate investing or a seasoned investor, you’re always looking for investment opportunities. But, with real estate investments in the US housing market reaching an all-time high, it’s becoming more and more challenging to find good deals for investment. But we’re not here to tell you how hard it is to find an investment property for sale. Quite the contrary, we’re here to tell you that there are still plenty of properties and untapped investment opportunities out there with attractive potential! You just need to learn how to find real estate deals amidst the competition in today’s market.
If you’re not sure exactly where and how to start your search for an investment property, just follow the steps of successful real estate investors. These professionals follow a number of true and tested strategies that work for them time and time again – there’s no reason you couldn’t expect the same. So, if you want to know how to find the best real estate investment deals in the USA like a pro, this guide is a great place to start. Here, we lay out the best sources of deals for you to consider the next time you’re searching for a property to invest in. Whether you’re an experienced or a first-time real estate investor and whether you’re interested in traditional or creative real estate deals, you’ll find all you need to know here.
1) Real Estate Agents and Brokers
Many traditional methods of searching for and finding homes to buy for real estate investing still work in today’s market. This is why there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. For example, real estate investors have always needed the help of agents and brokers in their property search – and they still do! Buyer’s agents can effectively find you properties for sale in your housing market that fit your criteria and they don’t cost a thing because they’re paid on commission by the seller. So, if you want to find deals with an expert’s help, a real estate agent in your target market is the first person to contact.
Here’s how a real estate agent can help. First off, good agents have years of experience in the real estate industry. They know the local housing market inside-out and have an inside track on potential real estate deals long before they ever hit the market—that is if they even hit the market at all. You can have multiple agents to constantly look for properties for you that look good and have investment potential. In addition, unlike the typical investor, real estate agents have access to the MLS – a database where they’ll find any property listed for sale in a selected area. For example, if you’re looking for cheap real estate, your agent can pull all the recently expired listings on the MLS. You can then contact the seller, let them know you want to buy their property, and make an offer.
How to Find a Real Estate Agent
Working with agents and brokers is one of the most fundamental strategies property investors can adopt when looking for real estate deals. To find a good agent to work with, start by making a list of the top agents in your target market where you wish to buy an investment property. Find out who’s active and has the most listings by checking their website and reaching out to them by phone or email. At this point, the agent will want to make sure that you’re a quality lead and will ask you questions. Make it clear that you seriously want to invest in real estate and give a clear description of your investment criteria.
We all prefer working with people whom we know and like. So, take whatever time you have to chat with the agent and find as much common ground as possible. Plus, you can’t expect to be the only investor on their radar. As a result, establishing a personal connection with an agent will give you an edge over your competition. Also, make sure to follow up regularly. Constant contact is the key to ensuring that, when hot real estate deals are available, you’ll be the first person that the broker will call and reach out to.
2) Real Estate Listing Websites
Today’s real estate investor has access to advanced technology which allows searching for properties for sale online. This makes finding real estate deals a whole lot easier and cost-efficient. There are plenty of websites where you can find property listings with a click of a button. Zillow, Trulia, LoopNet, Realtor.com, and even Craigslist are some of the most popular websites out there for real estate investors. Whether you’re:
- Looking for your next property to add to your real estate investment portfolio or you’re a beginner searching for your first investment
- Investing in residential or commercial real estate
- Looking for a specific property type or properties within a specific price range
there’s a website for you to find the best deal!
Be sure to check out our list of the Top Real Estate Sites for Finding Investment Properties!
However, keep in mind that while listing sites are the easiest way to find properties for sale, they are highly competitive. Due to their popularity, every other investor uses these sites as sources of real estate deals. Don’t rule out this strategy though – you never know where your next deal will come from. You just need to make sure to regularly track these sites to stay ahead of the competition. Another thing to keep in mind is that some of these sites were designed for homeowners looking to buy a home to live in – not real estate investors searching for investment properties. As a result, you can’t always guarantee that properties on these sites will end up being profitable. That’s not the case with Mashvisor!
How Is Mashvisor Different?
Mashvisor is not your typical listing website as it was designed specifically with real estate investors’ needs in mind. Here, you can do more than find properties for sale in almost every city and neighborhood in the US housing market. You can also obtain important real estate data and analytics that show whether these properties have investment potentials. Mashvisor also offers numerous real estate investment tools that make your life easier. Our tools include:
- The Heatmap to pinpoint the best neighborhoods for real estate investing in your city of choice
- The Property Finder to find top-performing properties that fit your criteria
- The Investment Property Calculator to analyze real estate deals and see what return on investment you can expect to earn
And it doesn’t end there! To get full access to everything we offer to beginner and experienced real estate investors, start out your 14-day free trial with Mashvisor now.
3) Foreclosed Homes
As I’m sure you’re aware, when someone fails to pay their mortgage loan payment for an extended period of time, the lender will ultimately repossess the property. Generally, the lender will remove the occupants and then force the sale of the house as the collateral for the loan. These are known as foreclosed homes. Of course, foreclosures are not the happiest of terms (no one rejoices when someone loses their home). However, once the deed has been done, foreclosure properties usually end up being some of the best real estate deals you’ll find!
As a real estate investor, one of the general rules you should know is that the less money you invest upfront, the higher your return on investment. Now, banks are in the business of lending money – not managing properties. As a result, they are often quick to offer large discounts just to get foreclosed homes off their books. This translates to great savings when you buy foreclosures as opposed to non-foreclosures. As a matter of fact, USNews reported that the average discount for foreclosures is about 15% and, in some states, the saving potential is even greater!
Another reason why you may want to consider buying foreclosed homes for real estate investment is that beginner investors often stay away from them. Foreclosures are typically in need of some serious repairs and updating. Moreover, these real estate deals have become synonymous with stigma and, not surprisingly, people don’t want to invest in something they have little knowledge about. This is where smart real estate investors can swoop in. Savvy investors understand the foreclosure process and how to invest in them to make money in real estate. If you’re willing to brave a rehab, you can also negotiate with the lender for more discounts as compensation for the property’s condition.
How to Find Foreclosures
Wondering how to find real estate deals that are foreclosed? First off, you can contact a real estate agent who has experience in buying and selling foreclosures. These agents typically work with banks and lending institutions and know when and where to find foreclosed homes before they are listed on the market for the public to see. Most banks also have a section on their website where they provide lists of foreclosed homes they’re currently holding. In addition, it’s common for local authorities to issue a Notice of Default after homeowners fail to pay their mortgage. Lenders will publish NODs in local newspapers and they can also be found in the county recorder’s or clerk’s office. As you can see, savvy investors have numerous ways to find foreclosed properties that you should not miss out on!
4) Bank-Owned Homes
If the bank or lending institution forecloses on a property but fails to sell it, the foreclosure then becomes a bank-owned home (also known as real estate owned or REO homes). These properties are even more of a liability for the lender than foreclosures. As a real estate investor looking for cheap real estate, you can put yourself in a position as a major problem solver for the bank. If you understand how to buy bank-owned properties, you can do the bank a favor by purchasing and, thus, liquidating their REO homes. You’ll get yourself a new investment property at well below market price while the bank will drop the dead weight from its books. As you can see, this is a win-win situation!
If the cheap price of these deals is not enough to entice you, it’s worth mentioning that real estate bank-owned properties are some of the safest properties money can buy! How come? Well, because they’re owned by banks, the likelihood of liens stopping the real estate transaction from closing or maintenance becoming a concern is minimal. What’s more, lending institutions might be more willing to offer financing options and more attractive terms on real estate owned properties just to get rid of them faster. As you become more familiar with the process of buying said properties, you’ll find that these real estate deals are well worth your time.
To learn more about these real estate investment deals and how to find and finance them, read: Buying Bank-Owned Homes: The Ultimate Guide.
5) Real Estate Auctions
If you’re a first-time real estate investor and you’re still looking for foreclosures or bank-owned properties, auctions are another source of these real estate deals. Real estate auctions commonly include a number of properties that are offered for sale below their market values because their owners are distressed. This makes them a great place to find potential investment properties no matter what your level of experience may be. Besides foreclosures and REO properties, you could also find vacant commercial properties, short sales, lots, HUD homes, tax liens, and even homes for sale by owner. Before going to a real estate auction, though, you need to have an idea of how it works.
If you have found a good deal at an auction, you’ll have to compete for it. The auction will start with a minimum price and bidders will place their bids. A real estate investor must register in advance and submit an upfront deposit (typically 5% – 10% of the property’s price) as proof that you can complete the sale if you win the auction. There’ll be a specific period for placing bids and, when it ends, the highest bidder wins the property. From this very brief description of how real estate auctions work, you can tell that this way of finding real estate deals has its pros and cons.
One advantage is that auctions offer cheap real estate and allow for a fast and transparent transaction. However, this means that you can expect to witness fierce competition for auctioned homes for sale. Also, investors buy properties at auctions “as is” meaning they can’t inspect the property before bidding on it. These are also commonly distressed properties that need to be rehabbed in order to be profitable investments. In addition, most auctions will require you to pay in cash for buying auctioned homes.
So, if you’re interested in this strategy for finding real estate deals, you need to go prepared. You can keep track of real estate auctions at the county courthouse or scan different auction websites to find deals that have investment potential. But, as with any investment, mind due diligence and conduct as much research and real estate deal analysis as you can beforehand. The more you know about a property going into an auction, the higher your chances of acquiring a truly great deal are.
6) Off-Market Properties
Many beginner real estate investors make the mistake of only searching for investment properties on mainstream channels like the MLS. What they don’t realize is that the best real estate deals tend to be off-market! Off-market properties are properties that are not formally listed on the MLS. Some of them remain off-market indefinitely, while others may be available off-market for a period of time before they’re listed on the MLS. Whatever the case, off-market investment properties bring many benefits to real estate investors.
The primary benefit is the fact that the general public is not aware of these properties. This limits the pool of prospective buyers to investors, which means there’s less competition. Less competition means there’s less of a chance of ending up in a bidding war that will drive up the price. This gives you a greater chance of closing on a deal. Moreover, sellers of off-market real estate properties are often serious and ready to move forward with the deal. This improves your chances of closing the deal faster and enables you to avoid a situation where the seller asks for more than the property is actually worth.
How to Find Off-Market Properties
In the past, the only way for you to find these real estate deals was through word of mouth. But now, you can easily locate off-market properties in many different ways. Agents, networking, door-knocking, and direct mail are some of the most common tactics real estate investors use to search for these deals. The easiest way, however, is searching online via investor-specific websites. Take Mashvisor for example. You can enter the Mashvisor Property Marketplace where you’ll find a vast supply of off-market properties including foreclosures, tenant-occupied rentals, and more. You can also use helpful property filters to narrow down listings to match your investment criteria and the investment calculator to analyze the potential returns.
Start your search in the Mashvisor Property Marketplace to find and analyze foreclosed, bank-owned, auctioned, and off-market homes for sale all in one place!
7) Driving for Dollars
Some real estate investors start searching for investment properties that are miles away not realizing that many times, good deals are right in front of you. You just need to hop in your car to find them! Driving for dollars is a simple, yet effective strategy to find real estate deals. As the name suggests, it involves driving through neighborhoods looking for homes that appear to be vacant or neglected that could potentially be good real estate deals. A few signs of these properties to look for include overgrown grass, plywood on the windows, mail piling out of the mailbox, etc. These signs indicate the owner doesn’t care about the house, is short on money, or has moved out.
After locating a house showing signs that the owner may be willing to sell, get out of the car and knock on the door. Introduce yourself as a real estate investor and let the owner know that you’re interested in buying a house for investment in the area. Ultimately, you want to sit down with the property owner and make an offer. However, if no one opens the door, write down the address and start searching for the owner. There are a few different ways you can go about this. You can try looking through public records or, as a faster alternative, use online tools like Mashboard. You can also talk to the neighbors and ask if they know the owner or know how to get in touch with them. Once you find them, send a simple letter or email stating that you’re willing to buy their home with cash and in “as is” condition. This should be enough to start the conversation.
While this is a simple way to find real estate deals from the comfort of your own car, there’s one thing to keep in mind and that is to conduct a real estate investment analysis before making an offer. The types of properties you search for when driving for dollars can potentially be great for making money as a fix-and-flip investment. Is this your preferred real estate investment strategy? If so, be sure the property is located in a good neighborhood and has a good opportunity to add value. In addition, you need to ask the owner a number of questions like whether there’s a mortgage on the property, how much they own, etc. This is to ensure you don’t offer more than what the property is worth.
Learn about the 3 Main Property Valuation Methods for Real Estate Investors.
8) Market to Property Owners
Another great way to buy investment properties with less competition to increase your chances of closing the deal is to develop a marketing campaign targeting homeowners. This is something that real estate agents usually do, but investors can take advantage of it as well to find deals on their own. You can use Mashboard to get up-to-date addresses, emails, and phone numbers of property owners in your location of choice. With the owner data ready to go, now you just need to get in touch with potential sellers. If you’re using Mashboard, you can do so through the integrated email system. If not, here are a few other techniques that have proven to be successful:
Once you have the contact information of property owners, the best way to win them over is by calling. It gets you speaking to potential sellers right away, without costing you a dime. All it takes is a phone, a little nerve, and a bit of effort and research. Ask a few questions to try to gauge owners’ motivations. If they seem financially distressed (either by the house or something that can be fixed by selling) ask them to meet up. When you meet them in person, begin your negotiations to strike a real estate deal. The majority of homeowners won’t be interested, but if you keep working the phones and working the numbers, you’ll ultimately find someone who couldn’t be more eager to accept your offer.
While some people hate it, others swear by it as one of the most efficient ways to contact homeowners. Essentially, you’ll need to create a mailing list, write letters/postcards to owners expressing your interest in buying their house, and leave your phone number, mail it out, and hope to get a call. It’s totally possible to find good real estate deals with a great direct mail campaign!
Finally, you already have the address of the property you want to invest in, so why not knock on the door and have a chat with the owner? For example, if you live close to the target property and you know that the owners are moving out, take the opportunity to make an offer before they contact a seller’s agent to list it on the MLS and it becomes visible to other investors. Door-knocking and directly talking to owners face-to-face without a third party gives you the opportunity to inspect the property, ask questions, and build trust. The worst that could happen is owners telling you “no.” But if you’ve found a motivated seller, you might just get a new real estate investment property.
To start looking for and analyzing the best investment properties in your city or neighborhood of choice and get their owner data, click here.
9) Real Estate Network
Relationships rule everything in the real estate investing business. Why go searching for real estate deals when you have a network of professionals to help you out? Networking is one of the best ways to find properties for sale of any type and condition. So, make sure you treat other like-minded professionals as valuable contacts, as opposed to competitors – you never know who might become your source of deals for real estate investing. If you’re a first-time real estate investor, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there as networking becomes easier with time and practice.
Besides real estate agents, professionals to include in your network are:
- Real Estate Wholesalers: A wholesaler’s job is to find good deals with the intent to sell them to real estate investors. However, wholesalers don’t market their homes – they sell them to those on their buyers’ list. So, be sure to give every wholesaler your card, and let them know you would like to be added to their list of prospective buyers. That way, you ensure they’ll reach out to you whenever a deal comes their way.
- Property Managers: While they’re not in the business for selling and buying real estate, property management companies usually have their hands on a lot of properties in a city. So, when an investment property is about to come up for sale, they may be one of the first to know about it. If you have a good relationship with property managers, they might be willing to help you get an introduction between yourself and the potential seller.
- Mortgage Brokers and Lenders: While they may not know who wants to sell, they know all the major owners and sellers because they’ve probably worked with a lot of them. More often than not, people will contact mortgage brokers to see if they qualify for a loan to buy a new house before selling the one they’re currently in. Meaning, they are aware of homes that will go up for sale before they hit the market.
- Real Estate Attorneys: Individuals who may have to sell their properties hire attorneys to represent them for a number of reasons: pre-foreclosure, bankruptcy, probate, and divorce. Whatever the case may be, attorneys are another source who hears of houses that may be up for sale before anyone else. Thus, it’s in your best interest to maintain good relationships with attorneys in your local housing market.
- Other Real Estate Investors: Not every investor you meet is a competitor. For example, some investors are looking for investment properties with a lot of equity that they can get in and out of quickly. Others might be looking for properties that generate cash flow so they can hold onto them for the long-term. If other investors find real estate deals that don’t fit their criteria, they may be willing to tell you about them.
The Bottom Line
Finding a real estate investment deal is not hard – all you need to do is look in the right places. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel in order to increase your chances of finding an investment property. Just follow these strategies which successful real estate investors have used throughout the years. Keep in mind, however, that the ultimate way to find the best real estate deals in the USA is by employing multiple strategies simultaneously. The more diversified your property search strategy is, the more likely you are to find properties that match your criteria. And remember not to give up if you don’t find one as soon as you’d like. You have to look through a lot of potential properties before you land on the one that’s worth your time and money.
If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for real estate investment deals in the US from the comfort of your own home, check out Mashvisor. To learn more about how we’ll help you make faster and smarter real estate investment decisions, schedule a demo.