Buying a home is a lot like running a race: Once a listing goes live, buyers have to sprint off the starting block before throngs of other buyers start bidding. Talk about stressful!
What if there were a way to buy a house before it's officially on the market?
Well, there is—and it can help you snag your dream house long before your competition even knows it exists.
“Making moves to get ahead of the general public when you’re the buyer is wise if you want to get the perfect house,” says real estate investor Steve Davis, founder of Real Wealth Academy, LLC. “All it taskes is a little ingenuity and some sleuthing, to find out which homes are going on the market before the listings go live, so that you’re ready to pounce.”
Want to get ahead of the curve? Here are some secrets for beating the crowds.
Ask your agent about listings he's trying to get
Don't just ask your real estate agent about current listings; ask if there are any listings he or she is working on where the seller hasn't signed on yet.
"Basically, the agent will try to find an interested buyer before they have even locked down the listing, and use that to entice the seller to sign the listing agreement with them," says Davis. You're basically offering yourself up as "bait," so to speak, and the listing agent will help you do it because it's mutually beneficial. Of course, you aren't promising to buy a place, but if you're seriously interested, that can be enough to get your foot in the door before the rest of the world hears about it.
Hone in on homeowners undergoing life changes
One great place to seek out budding home sales in a neighborhood is to infiltrate their local parenting groups. After all, parents are all in "transitional periods—with newborns, babies on the way, or young children heading off to school," says Davis. "Thus the likelihood of these families looking to move is very high."
Additionally, paying attention to the "life events" of people in these areas via local papers or other outlets can also provide solid leads. Check local announcements on births, weddings, and yes, even the obituaries (a bit morbid, but many of these homes will be market-bound in the near future).
Another place that may be plugged into upcoming sales are social clubs.
"Utilize social clubs as a forum to ask if anyone is selling a home," says Collin Bond, Esq., a broker at Triplemint, a company that specializes in off-market property outreach for their clients. "Clubs like the Junior League, Lions Club, or Knights of Columbus can be great places to inquire about people thinking of moving."
Do a mass mailing
Sometimes, a little retro outreach can also work wonders—which is why you should consider doing a mailing to the people in the neighborhood where you wish to reside.
Davis suggests using a company like Dietrich Direct to purchase residential mailing lists for the area you're interested in (costs are low, starting at $25). Then draft a letter to send to all those homeowners. "In the letter, simply state that you are looking to buy a home in their area and ask if they will be selling any time in the near future," says Davis.
You can also post "bandit signs" in the area, essentially flyers or posters stating that you'd like to purchase a home in this area and that people should contact you if they know anyone who might sell. Davis suggests that people hesitant to post their own phone number can use a Google number or create an email account just for this purpose.
Hit up HOA boards
If there's a certain building or community you're interested in, contact its HOA or condo board and inquire if anyone has heard rumblings of any places that might soon be up for sale.
"I'm frequently inundated by requests to see my listings before they launch, by people who've heard about it from the head of the board or someone in the building," says Brian Letendre, a broker at Bohemia Realty Group.
In fact, many neighborhoods and buildings have their own online sites, Facebook pages, or online communities, which can be a perfect way to get the insider scoop on homes or apartments about to be listed.
"Another suggestion would be to search hashtags for the neighborhood you're interested in on various social media platforms, and include #realestate or #moving," adds Letendre.
Use current listings as a springboard for up-and-comers
Current listings may be out of the bag, but that doesn't mean you can't use them to find listings that may be waiting in the wings.
"Go to open houses in the area where you are looking, and chat up the neighbors if you see them," says Bond. "Ask the real estate agent and neighbors about the neighborhood, and try to work in a question about if they know of other homes becoming available."