10 Ways to Find Good Real Estate Deals
When it comes to finding deals, I often refer to the 150-15-5-1 formula. For every 150 properties you look at, 15 will be worth pursuing. Out of those 15 properties, you’ll submit an LOI or a contract on 5, and out of those 5, you’ll probably only close on 1.
In other words, you’re going to have to look through a lot of properties before you land on one that’s worth your time and money. That means you’re going need to employ a handful of strategies to help you pull in a steady stream of property leads.
1. Broker Relationships
There’s an old saying in the real estate investment industry: “One good broker can make you wealthy.”
That’s absolutely right. So, the first thing you’ll need to do is connect with the most active brokers in your target market(s). Developing relationships with these brokers is one of the most fundamental strategies you can adopt in looking for multifamily deals.
A good broker will know his or her market inside and out. They’ll have the inside track on potential deals long before they ever hit the market—that is, if they even hit the market at all.
Begin by identifying the brokers in your market who do the most business. You can find out who’s staying busy by logging into LoopNet and searching the commercial multifamily listings in your market. Take note of the brokers who have the most listings and reach out to them.
“Once you’ve decided who to contact, pick up the phone and give them a call.”
Identify yourself and give a clear description of your specific investment criteria. Busy brokers don’t have time to burn with wishy-washy investors. Be courteous and professional—make it clear that you’re serious about investing in real estate.
Take whatever time you can to chat with the broker, as well. Find as much common ground as possible. You won’t be the only investor on their radar, so it’s crucial that you focus on building a relationship.
We all prefer to do business with people we know and like, so establishing a personal connection with the broker will give you an edge over your competition.
From there, follow up regularly. Even if they send you properties that have no potential to satisfy your criteria, take the time to respond and explain why you’re not interested.
Constant contact is the key to ensuring that, when a hot property does come available, you’ll be the first person that broker calls.
2. Pocket Listings
When you connect with a broker, you set yourself up to tap into a potential goldmine of ‘pocket listings.’ A pocket listing is simply a property that a broker’s been tapped to sell but, for one reason or another, isn’t being publicly marketed.
The typical way to get pocket listings is to develop a relationship with a broker and persuade them to contact you first when new opportunities arise.
But, there’s another way to get access to pocket listings that virtually everybody overlooks. Here’s what you do:
- Conduct your market research and choose a specific area to target.
- Build a database of all the properties that meet your criteria in that area
- Pull contact information for each property owner. For properties owned by LLC’s, dig deeper to find the phone number and address of the actual living, breathing human being who owns the property.
- Find a young, hungry broker in your target market who’s willing to spend a significant amount of time on the phone. Set up an interview with them and establish a few ground rules for your working relationship.
- Give the broker your database. Make it clear that these are all properties that you’re willing and able to purchase At this point, you’re basically giving the broker a listing of hot leads.
- Now, turn the broker loose to work these property owners and solicit deals on your behalf.
This entire process sets up an attractive win-win for you and the broker. He or she gets a list of leads and you get the inside track on properties that meet your investment criteria.
Once you have this established in one market, you can repeat the process for each of your target markets.
3. Online Listings (New Properties)
It’s sometimes said that online sites like LoopNet are where deals go to die.
I’m not sure where that sentiment comes from, but it’s almost surely false. The reason brokers spend the time and money to post deals on LoopNet is that the site actually gets results!
In addition to LoopNet, a few other sites to check out are Cityfeet and the Commercial Investment Multiple Listing Service.
Several of the big commercial brokerages have their own listings as well:
- Marcus & Millichap – http://www.marcusmillichap.com
- CBRE –http://www.cbre.com
- Cushman & Wakefield – www.cushmanwakefield.com
- Coldwell Banker Commercial – www.cbcworldwide.com
One of the best ways to utilize these sites is to set up keyword alerts so that you’ll be notified as properties that match your criteria hit the site.
As the saying goes, “If you’re not first, you’re last.”
You have to jump on these properties as soon as they hit, or else someone else will.
4. Forgotten Listings
Another strategy for finding deals online involves looking properties that have been passed over and left to languish on the site for several months or even years.
Most buyers pass over these properties, thinking there must be something seriously wrong with a property that’s been on the market for so long.
But, that’s the wrong way to look at it.
Not too long ago, I came across a 24-unit property near Tampa that had spent 3 years on LoopNet. The cap rate was low, and the property description was sparse, which explains why buyers passed it over.
When we called the broker, though, we learned that the sellers were in their 90’s, didn’t own a computer, and took care of everything by hand.
We also learned that the rents were $150 below market and they were paying way too much for maintenance and landscaping.
All this made improving cap rate on this property was as simple as renegotiating a few contracts and raising the rents up to market. I think of that as low-hanging fruit.
This property was an instant value-add, and even though 1000’s of people had seen it, not a single one had dug deep enough to see its potential.
There are deals like this one sitting on LoopNet today. All you have to do is look.
Craigslist often gets a bad wrap because of its simplicity. Every year, investors ditch the platform in favor of other more technologically advanced solutions.
But, do you know who hasn’t given up on Craigslist? Multifamily sellers! Especially mom-and-pop sellers who’d rather not deal with real estate agents.
Craigslist works best for 2-30 unit properties, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find larger ones on their as well. Once in a while, I’ll come across a complex with upwards of 80 to 100 units.
There are a couple of different ways to use Craigslist for finding a deal:
- Troll the ‘for sale’ section. Spend 5-10 minutes each day working through the for sale section in each of your target markets. You’ll be surprised how few people do this. If there are too many properties for you to sort through, do a keyword search and focus on ones that include words like these:
- Must sell
- Must sell quickly
- Investor special
- Needs work
- Post ads of your own. Posting an ad on Craigslist is easy and free. It takes just a few minutes to do. Unfortunately, there will be plenty of investors in every market adopting the same strategy. Still, if you’ll spend a few minutes each day posting ads, this is a relatively low-maintenance way to bring in leads.
- In your ad, focus on potential pain points like these:
- “Sick of dealing with problem tenants?”
- “Tired of late rent and evictions?”
- “Is your income property not producing any income?”
- In your ad, focus on potential pain points like these:
- Call FSBO’s. Look for ads posted by owners who’d rather not use an agent. When you reach out to these owners, make it clear that you’re not obligated to a broker and that you can close quickly with a minimum of hassle.
6. Cold Calling ‘For Rent’ Ads
The next strategy involves calling on ‘for rent’ ads. You can find these ads on Craigslist or Facebook. You can also find them in your local newspaper.
At first blush, it might seem a bit strange to reach out to landlords who’ve advertised their properties for rent and not for sale. And, to be honest with you, several of them will be frustrated to hear from you. So, prepare yourself for a healthy amount of rejection here.
But, let’s look at it from another angle.
If an investor has his or her unit listed for rent, it means it’s vacant and their income producing property has stopped producing income. That’s a pain point.
Add to that the frustration of tenant turnover, the costs of unit repairs, and the rigamarole of screening and signing new tenants and you’ve got a handful of compelling reasons why a seller may want to get rid of their multifamily.
To make the most of this strategy, focus on self-managed multifamilies. If you call on professionally managed properties, you won’t get the owner. You’ll get a leasing agent with no ownership interest in the property and, frankly, no good reason to relay your offer to the property owner.
How do you tell the difference between self-managed and professionally-managed listings?
Look for these things:
- Sparse, low-quality imagery on the property listing.
- A poorly-worded and insufficient property description.
- A long-distance area code.
- Motivation Keywords:
- Must rent
- Need to rent
- Maybe for sale
- Will sell
- First month free
As I said, the majority of these landlords won’t be interested. But, if you keep working the phones and working the numbers, you’ll occasionally find an owner who couldn’t be more eager to entertain your offer.
7. Direct Mail
Hands down, direct mail is the most effective way to find off-market multifamily deals.
We could do an entire video on direct mail. In fact, I already did a few weeks ago. I’ll give you a few of the broad strokes right now, but I’d encourage you to go take a look at that video for a more in-depth look at direct mail [provide link to that video].
Most owners of 2-30 unit properties are mom & pop types. They’re often older, so you won’t find them on the internet. The best way—sometimes, the only way—to get in touch is via mail.
With a direct mail campaign, you can systematically reach out to these property owners over an extended period.
The keys to developing a successful direct marketing campaign:
- Develop a targeted list. The success of your direct marketing campaign will depend on the quality of your list. Be sure to narrow down your market and the precise properties you’d like to pursue. Otherwise, you’ll waste a significant amount of money marketing to the wrong people.
- Write persuasive marketing material. Keep your letters short and to the point. Present yourself as a problem solver, offering to alleviate the seller’s pain in the quickest and easiest way possible.
- Set a budget you can sustain. Longevity is key in direct mail. It’s better to engage a small list consistently for a year than to mail out to a bloated list and run out of money 3 months in.
- Persevere. The vast majority of property owners will ignore your direct mail letters. Don’t take that personally. Not everyone is ready to sell today. But, by systematically mailing owners over time, you’ll earn yourself a share of their attention, so that when the time does come to sell, you’ll be the first person they think of.
8. Calling Your Database
This next strategy builds on several of the previous strategies.
Whenever you come across a property owner’s contact information—whether that’s by responding to a Craigslist post, calling a ‘for rent’ ad, or adding them to your direct mail campaign—be sure to save that information in your CRM.
Don’t just call the owner and then forget they ever existed.
Instead, take scrupulous notes in your CRM and then plan regular followup calls. Most CRM platforms will allow you do this by scheduling regular follow-up reminders.
As with direct mail, this is a numbers game. You can expect the majority of these calls to end with a ‘no.’ Don’t lose heart. Focus on building a relationship with each of these people over time.
Again, there will come a day when they’ll be ready to sell. When that day comes, you want to be the investor they just spoke to a few weeks prior.
9. Bank REOs
Whenever a bank forecloses on a loan, it has to take possession of the foreclosed property. These properties are known as REO (real estate owned).
You might think that’s a good thing for the banks. Actually, it’s not.
Bankers don’t want to be in the property management business—they’re just not set up to rent and manage properties. That makes each REO property more of a liability than an asset.
This puts the savvy real estate investor in the position to become a major problem solver for the bank.
If you can position yourself as a competent and capable problem solver, you can do the banks the favor of helping liquidate their REO assets. This is a win-win: they can drop the dead weight from their books, and you can collect investment properties at well-below-market prices.
Building relationships here is key. A bank won’t want to work with an investor without a prior relationship. You can develop one by working with them on a few deals before broaching the REO question.
10. Wholesalers and Birddogs
The last strategy I’m going to share involves recruiting and hiring other people to find deals for you. I want to talk specifically about the two kinds of people who’ll help you most here: wholesalers and birddogs.
A wholesaler is (usually) another investor who focuses on scouting out deals, getting them under contract, and then assigning those contracts to other investors for a fee. You can find wholesalers in every market in the U.S.
If you’re going to enlist the help of a wholesaler, be sure to let them know that you don’t want them sending you anything you can find online. You want truly off-market deals, and you’re willing to pay a premium for them.
A birddog (usually) isn’t an investor. They won’t get a property under contract and assign it to you. Instead, they feed you leads for a fee. The best birddogs are usually people who drive for a living: postal workers or delivery drivers. They’re in the best position to “drive for dollars” on your behalf.
To avoid legal trouble, you’re better off paying birddogs per lead rather than per deal. Supply them with an information sheet to fill out for each property they come across. Pay a flat fee for each sheet they turn in that meets your investment criteria.
Today, we’ve looked at 10 practical and effective strategies for finding deals.
To summarize, here they are again:
- Build relationships with brokers.
- Give your broker a way to pick up pocket listings.
- Utilize online sites.
- Look for forgotten properties.
- Get on Craigslist.
- Cold call ‘for rent’ ads.
- Use direct mail.
- Call your database.
- Help banks unload their REO property.
- Enlist the help of wholesalers and birddogs.
Don’t feel like you have to put every one of these strategies in motion today. Consistency is key. Pick one or two that you know you can execute well and, then, fold in additional strategies over time.