Buying a Home that is Not For Sale — What You Need to Know
Can you buy a home that is not for sale? It has happened to everyone at one time or another. You are driving through an area when you see a property, a perfect home, that you would love to live in.
The only problem is, there is no for sale sign, no listing on MLS. Whoever lives in the home is not currently selling—and may have no plans to sell. So the question is, can you still attempt to buy the house?
The short answer is, “Yes.” But trying to buy a home that is not on the market is complicated, and there is no way to know how successful you will be. While the owner could be interested in selling, they could also be planning on keeping the home in the family for generations.
You will have to tread carefully and take the right steps to ensure that whatever chances you do have of purchasing the home are not dashed through missteps.
Keep reading for tips on how to find a home that is not for sale.
Buying an off-market home can be an option when you are in a tight seller’s market.
Whether it’s a buyer’s market or a seller’s market, you can always attempt to buy an off-market home. But buyers often find themselves considering off-market homes when they have failed to land the homes they wanted due to a tight seller’s market.
You may have made multiple offers and been outbid every time. After enough losses, the idea of approaching an attractive home and making an offer, even if it is not for sale, can seem appealing.
If you are unable to successfully purchase a home in your desired area due to stiff competition, an off-market home may be the opportunity you have been waiting for.
So how do you go about buying a home that is not for sale?
Ask your real estate agent to check canceled, expired, withdrawn listings and coming soon in MLS.
One of the best ways of finding properties that are not currently for sale is to have your agent check the MLS. There are different property statuses in MLS besides what’s currently for sale. These include canceled, expired, withdrawn, and coming soon.
- Canceled listings – a canceled listing is when a homeowner has taken their home off the market and canceled the real estate contract with their agent. There could be any number of reasons why this has happened. One potential reason is that the seller has fired the real estate agent. In that case, the home could be re-listed again in the near future with someone else.
- Expired listings – an expired listing is a seller who has attempted to sell their property but has not had any success. The contract period between the real estate agent and seller have come to an end. Quite often expired listings end up as properties that come back on the market.
- Withdrawn listings – a withdrawn listing is a home that has been taken off the market and out of the multiple listing service by the seller, but the real estate contract is still in full force and effect. With a withdrawn listing your buyer’s agent could contact the listing agent to see if there is any chance the owner still wants to sell.
- Coming soon listings – in many areas of the country, the coming soon home for sale status is relatively new. With coming soon listings, the property will be coming on the market shortly. Different multiple listing boards have rules on how long it can be posted in MLS before it’s able to be viewed by prospective buyers. It is also possible you could see a real estate sign that says, “coming soon.” As a buyer, it is essential that you don’t go directly to the listing agent and create a dual agency situation. Make sure you have your own buyer’s agent. It is foolish not to!
Have your real estate agent write letters to potential owners.
Do you have an exceptional buyer’s agent that will go the extra mile for you? One of the time tested ways to find a seller who’s home is not on the market but it potentially willing to sell, is write them a letter.
Over the years, tons of real estate agents have written letters to homeowners for their clients. Maybe you have identified a particular neighborhood that you just love? It is not uncommon at all to put your real estate agent to work by canvasing that neighborhood.
The letter they would write is simple and to the point. It would state that they have a client (you) who has been waiting for a home to become for sale in the area and if there is any interest in selling.
The note should give a clear understanding of your time frame and your financial ability to purchase. Who knows, you may get lucky and find that the timing was perfect. Many property owners are giving thought to selling. Getting a letter in the mail can potentially light a fire under them.
Maybe the owner would love to avoid having their home on the market and having all the foot traffic coming through. For a seller making a private sale like this could be very advantageous.
Be forewarned that some sellers are going to be immune to getting a letter. It is possible they could have already been bombarded by the investor type companies such as “We Buy Ugly Houses” and others like them. It is a common practice for real estate investors to send mass mailings to homeowners who might consider selling.
Ask friends and family if they know anyone who is going to be selling.
Another resource to try to find a home that is not for sale is friends and family. People love to talk about real estate. It is not uncommon at all for folks who are thinking about selling to let their neighbors, friends, and relatives know ahead of time.
Have others do the work for you by keeping their ears to the ground.
Use Facebook as a resource.
Facebook can be helpful for a lot of things. One of them is keeping up with local gossip. Part of that gossip may include people who are going to be selling their property. It is not uncommon at all for folks to try to sell their home for sale by owner before they reach out to an agent.
Quite often, Facebook will be a platform FSBO’s use to get the word out.
Go to Zillow – Some owners are interested enough in selling that they set dream offers.
Another potential avenue to find possible owners who might be willing to sell but are not yet listed for sale is the online real estate site known as Zillow.
Even if an owner is not actively trying to sell their home, they may be interested in seeing what kind of money they can make on their home. That is why sites like Zillow offer a “Make Me Move” option, where owners can set a dream offer price for buyers like you that see their home and really want to purchase it.
The dream offer price is likely to be high, so don’t expect it to be a sticker price that will make you happy. However, you don’t necessarily have to pay the dream price to get the home.
Just by setting a make me move price, the owner is demonstrating that they have some interest in selling, and that is something you can take heart in. While there is no guarantee that they will accept your offer, at least they have already indicated that they are thinking about selling.
While Zillow has an excellent platform for looking at homes and some exciting concepts like make me move, but they also have some downsides as well. A couple of issues with the site that real estate agents deal with all the time are homes posted for sale that aren’t on the market and inaccurate home value estimates.
Concerning homes listed for sale that aren’t really on the market, Zillow posts pre-foreclosure homes provided by RealtyTrac. These are properties where homeowners have missed mortgage payments. They are not actually homes for sale. Doing this is extremely misleading to consumers. The vast majority of these homes never come on the market. More often than not, the homeowner gets current with their mortgage.
You need to do your research to buy an off-market home.
One of the more challenging aspects of trying to buy an off-market home is determining what kind of offer you want to make. You obviously don’t want to offer more than you have to, but you also don’t want to make an offer that will fail to make an impression on the owner of the home. But when you consider that right now, the only thing you know about the house is what you see from driving by it.
The amazing home you see from the outside could be hiding some unpleasant features on the inside, such as black mold in the downstairs bathroom or rotten flooring from a water leak. Ideally, you want your offer to account for the reality of what the home is worth, which means you need to do research.
The home may have been previously listed and then taken off the market. Research can show you when the house was last sold when it was put on the market, and more. Of course, conducting that research is going to be challenging if you have never done it before—which is why a real estate agent can be so helpful.
An excellent agent can make buying an off-market home a lot easier.
The different steps required to buy an off-market home can be a lot to take on—especially if you are doing it all on your own. That is why it is recommended that you work with an experienced agent in your area when you attempt to buy an off-market home.
The agent can help you with numerous tasks, like researching the home, approaching the current owner with an offer, negotiations, documentation, finding a lender, and more.
Keep in mind that buying a home that is not officially on the market might not have some of the typical documentation a seller would fill out in a traditional sale.
For example, the owner might not have filled out a seller’s disclosure statement if it is an off-market property. Making sure you do your proper home buying due diligence becomes even more vital. If you have an exceptional buyer’s agent, this will be part of their job.
The best buyer’s agents take their job seriously and aren’t just a gloried Chauffeur. They are a valuable part of your home buying team! Don’t accept the poopy flavored lollipop.
Imagine that you are living in a home that you love and a stranger approaches you and offers to buy it. If you like your home and have had no plans to move, you are likely to tell the stranger to take a hike unless they were willing to offer you a ridiculous amount of money.
It would need to be enough that you would be foolish to say no—then you would probably be annoyed to have to discuss the prospect of selling the property in the first place.
The owner of the home you want to buy is likely to feel something similar. Not guaranteed—you may be lucky to approach the right person at the right time with the right offer—but you have to expect rejection when you cold call someone about wanting their home.
One of the great things about having an agent represent you is that such rejections are easier to not take personally. Instead of awkwardly approaching a stranger to ask if you can buy their home, you take official channels through a licensed agent and make a business offer.
If that offer is declined, you can chalk it up to doing business.
Make your offer contingent on a home inspection.
It is crucial that you avoid making an offer that you will regret later. The property you are so excited about may look perfect from a layman’s perspective. But if you make an offer that is then accepted based on your perceptions, you could find out down the road that you’ve purchased a lemon.
In a strong seller’s market where there is limited inventory, lots of buyers are tempted to waive their home inspection. In a significant percentage of cases doing so could be a huge mistake.
It is much better to make your offer contingent on a home inspection so that you can change the terms if the inspection reveals something of major concern.
Trying to purchase a home that is off the market is not easy, but it can be done. Take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of your Realtor to ensure that you do everything right the first time.
Additional Helpful Home Buying References
- What does it mean to open escrow – see a detailed explanation to know exactly what the process of opening escrow entails.
- How to know a luxury property is priced too high – understand how you can tell if a luxury home is priced higher than it should be.
- Why it’s essential to have a Realtor in your corner – learn all of the essential reasons why it makes so much sense to be working with Realtor when purchasing a home.
- Why purchasing a home from the listing agent is a huge mistake – learn why going directly to the seller’s real estate agent is not a wise move. Always have a buyer’s agent representing your best interests.
Use these references from other real estate pros to make the best financial decisions when involved in your next purchase and sale.
About the author: The above Real Estate information on buying a home that is not on the market was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 32+ years.
Are you thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.