Lots of people are interested in investing in real estate, but once you decide you want to commit to buying a property (or several), actually finding houses - and reasonably priced ones - can be the most difficult part of the process. Here are some tips on where to start your search and where you will find your most valuable leads.
By advertising yourself as a buyer, you may hear from sellers who you would not normally come across. You can put ads online or in a newspaper, or hang signs around the city.
Putting yourself out there, whether by placing ads online or hanging signs around your city, can be a good way to find lesser known property deals and probably the lowest prices. People that contact you are willing and ready to sell, usually quickly - you will likely find some of the best deals this way, but there are some downsides.
One disadvantage to advertising yourself as a buyer is that the properties you come across will usually need more repairs than those you find elsewhere. You must do all the research yourself, and all of the responsibility falls on you as an individual. Although the deals you do find will be better than elsewhere (price-wise), there is a smaller inventory and you are not likely to get contacted by very many property owners.
Turnkey properties are houses that were bought and renovated, basically flipped, but are sold to investors. All of the renovations are completed at the time of purchase, the house is move-in ready.
You can find such deals on websites such as Bigger Pockets, which has useful real estate forums and ways of communicating with investors locally and nationally. Since these properties are specifically for investors, you are working with people who speak the same language as you. All of the physical labor work is already taken care of, so if remodeling/repairing is not your specialty, these types of properties are perfect for you.
Inventory for turnkey properties is usually pretty low, and when offers are available they are usually swept up pretty quickly. Since renovations have already been completed, that is reflected in a higher price than more of a fixer-upper would be. You must do thorough due diligence when it comes to turnkey properties. It can be difficult to know if you’re getting a good price for a turnkey house, because there is not a lot of comparable places on the market.
Wholesaling real estate is a lot like flipping, but with little or no repairs or renovations done to the place. An investor buys a property, or sometimes just has it under contract, and then turns around and sells it or assigns the contract as quickly as possible.
You will often see the best prices when working with wholesalers. They are usually very knowledgeable about the investor market, and experienced to boot. The turnover is very fast, which can be good or bad. Offers settle quickly, which keeps you on your toes, but you could easily miss a great opportunity.
On the downside, properties involved in wholesale deals generally still have a lot of work to be done before they are tenant-ready, which adds significantly to your costs. Additionally, if you are going through a wholesaler, your inventory is limited to what is available to them, not what is available in the entire market. The term “buyer beware” is especially relevant in this scenario - wholesalers have no duty to provide information to sellers about the property or its history. You definitely need to do your homework.
Contacting a property management company is a great way to land a deal off-market. Property managers have access to information that others do not have. For example, they may have a client who lives out of state and is willing to sell, but not actively seeking out a buyer. Without the extra push from you as an interested buyer, they may not list their property for several months or even years. Finding an investment property through a property manager is significantly less expensive than using a realtor, and you have the added bonus of an agent (manager) who has extensive working knowledge of the property and its tenants. If you are looking to use a property management company for your future rental anyways, you could even keep this particular company on for management since they are already familiar and experienced with the unit(s).
Downsides of finding an investment property through a property manager is that their inventory is limited to only the places that they manage, and there may not be any owners willing to sell at all.
For Sale By Owner
Owners selling their properties on their own are independent of brokers and are usually looking for cash offers. You have to do all the research on property history and pricing yourself, and there is no one to arrange showings for you.
However, you do not have to pay any realtor fees, and you may be able to negotiate a lower price by talking numbers one-on-one with the owner. For Sale By Owner properties can be (but are not always) priced significantly lower than anything you would find on the MLS.
When dealing directly with the owner like this, you would definitely need to hire an attorney to make sure everything is legally sound. This will raise your costs, but you need to make sure you are covered if anything were to fall through with the deal or the property.
For Sale By Owner properties are often listed on websites such as Craigslist, but Craigslist can also offer properties being sold by agents or representatives, not just owners directly. Most ads you will find on Craigslist are situations more similar to a wholesaler.
You will find lower prices on Craigslist, usually cash-only. Again, you are likely to need a lawyer, especially if you want to be safe and smart about the purchase. Buyer beware - often sellers will not disclose problems or concerns with the property.
A classic realtor is the traditional way to find any property. Their inventory includes everything listed on the MLS, so you have a wide variety of options.
Realtors often have inside information on upcoming sales that are not yet listed in the MLS, which may potentially be very helpful. Most realtors are familiar with neighborhoods and competitive pricing. All information will be provided to you, and all showings will be arranged for you at your convenience. Instead of doing the digging yourself, essentially you are hiring someone to find a good investment property for you. If there is nothing available at the time, they can also keep you in mind for deals that they come across in the future.
Unfortunately, not all realtors are investor-savvy. Most are accustomed to dealing with traditional homeowners or families, not necessarily investors. Depending on who you hire, your agent may or may not be looking for what is the best fit for you. There is always a chance they are just trying to sell you a house to make commission, and investment properties do not bring them the best commissions so your needs will be put on the back burner when competing with other clients. It can also be expensive to go through a realtor, as you have to pay fees and commission upon the closing of the property.
Redfin is a type of realtor that does most of its business online. It provides you with the same access to the MLS as other realtors, but for a fraction of the price.
You will encounter similar pros and cons with Redfin as you do with traditional realtors. The most significant difference is the price - Redfin is less expensive to work with than a classic realtor.
Your Redfin agent may know less than a traditional realtor (why?). Since there are less incentives commission-wise to sell you an investment property, your agent may not be as inclined to build a cooperative working relationship with you.