In hotly competitive real estate markets such as Houston’s, homes are coming on the market and going under contract within days (and sometimes hours). If you’re a picky house hunter who insists on performing adequate due diligence prior to submitting your offer, these conditions can make it nearly impossible to locate the ideal house.
Perhaps you know exactly which house you want, but it’s not on the market. In either situation, an alternative strategy may enable you to land the house you’ve always dreamed about. You may have to be willing to get creative, though!
There’s no rule that says you can only make an offer on a house that’s for sale. Though the standard procedure is to offer on homes that have a sign posted in the yard or are listed in the MLS system, technically you may reach out to any homeowner and offer to purchase his or her house, even if it isn’t for sale.
This isn’t common — and can sometimes be awkward — but you might be surprised by how often it works. There’s no guarantee you’ll be successful making an offer on unlisted homes, but why not give it a try?
Four Tips to Make the Process Easier
If you really want to try this, you’ll need a game plan. It’s unlikely you’ll score a win simply by ringing the doorbell and saying, “I want to buy your house.” That will more likely just get you kicked off the property and told to mind your own business.
But if you plan a skillful approach, you can get your foot in the door … and sometimes that’s all you need. Here are some tips to make the attempt a little easier.
- Go for a Drive
Maybe you already have a house in mind. But more often you’ll have a list of features you desire in a home.
In that case, you’ll have to spend some time driving around the region in which you’re hoping to buy and take note of houses that look promising. This is really a two-person job: You’ll want one person driving and another looking out the window and writing down addresses.
Since you can only see the exteriors, you obviously wouldn’t be able to tell for certain whether a house meets your needs, but you can usually get fairly close. You’ll have more opportunity to do research during the next step.
- Do Lots of Research
Now comes the fun part. It might also feel a little creepy and stalker-like at times, but rest assured you won’t be doing anything illegal or out of line.
Internet research plays a critical role at this point. It’s nearly impossible to make realistic offers on homes without knowing as much about them as possible. Not sure where to start? Here are some of the first things you do:
- Begin with online profiles for the address that interests you. Sites like Zillow allow you to see information on residences that aren’t listed. This background may not be fully accurate, but at least it’ll give you reasonable estimates on such details as square footage, lot size, rooms, price and tax history, and so on. You may even get lucky and find some old photos from a previous listing, which will give you a chance to peek inside.
- Pull up Google Maps and look at an aerial view of the house to get an idea of where the property lines are (roughly), and to identify further details that weren’t visible from the street. Even though you’ve already driven by, pulling up Google Street View will give you a chance to examine the house more thoroughly.
- If you still feel interested, run a property record search online. You should be able to find this on your county’s website. As long as you know the address, you should be able to obtain the name of the owner.
- With the owner’s name in hand, you can do some web research on that individual. This is where things may start to feel weird, but it’s an essential step in giving yourself the best shot at being successful. Knowing simple facts like where the owners work, where they’re from, etc., will help you spot any hints that they might be willing to move.
- Approach the Owner
Armed with the above information about the house and the owner, you’re ready to make contact. The best method is simply to ring the doorbell and meet the owner in person.
Introduce yourself, compliment the house, and get straight to the point. Tell the owner you admire the house and ask if he or she would be willing to entertain an offer to sell it to you.
Some homeowners will say no immediately, but others will be willing to at least discuss the option. At this point, you can make a verbal offer, or schedule a time at a later date to talk more formally.
If you aren’t comfortable ringing doorbells, you can always mail a letter and include a succinct yet clear statement about why you wish to purchase the property. You’ll probably hear back from only a very small percentage of these queries, but it’s worth a try.
- Get With an Agent
Finally, make sure you get an agent if you enter into more formal talks with a homeowner. You’ll need some representation to make sure you have as much protection as you possibly can.
While a seller may want to keep agents out of the process, assure the other party that you’ll pay your agent’s commission and they have nothing to worry about.
Let Green Residential Help
Navigating the home-buying process is tough enough. Trying to buy a home that isn’t technically for sale is even more challenging.
If you do decide to go this route and have some properties in mind, give Green Residential a call. We have decades of experience in the Houston real estate market and know exactly what it takes to help our clients find the home of their dreams.
Are you ready to start this process?