Finding a property to buy that is not listed with a real estate agent can take some detective work. You may find the perfect house for yourself or for an investment, but it is not for sale. You can look for signs of an impending foreclosure. If the property is not well kept or newspapers are piling up at the door, it may be in default. If you find the owner, you can offer to purchase the house before the bank repossesses it, which can save you money on real estate commissions and other charges. However, if the owner doesn't live on the property, you will need to obtain contact information and other details to help you close the deal.
Search for the property owner's name and address. Land records, such as property titles, are kept by the county property tax assessor's office as public records. Search the address of the property in the database to retrieve the information. Beforehand, use a reverse online directory that may reveal the name of the owner. Polk's Directory publishes 700 county, state and national directories. Find your local directory at your public library.
Visit neighboring properties to ask for the owner information and find out more about the situation with the property. Ask for a phone number where the owner can be reached.
Use the property tax information to determine the amount owed on the house and if there are other encumbrances or liens. Find similar homes that have sold in the area recently by contacting the listing agent or using an online service. Factor in the recent sales prices and roughly estimated repairs to calculate a fair offer for you and the owner before you make contact.
Contact the owner by letter, telephone or visit, if the address is within driving distance. Write a personalized letter, that emphasizes how you can help the owner by buying the property. Alternatively, tell them over the phone or in person.
Meet with the owner and look inside the property to ensure that your estimates for repairs, if any, are accurate. Negotiate the sale price until you are close to the amount that the homeowner will take and allows you to profit from the investment, whether you want to live in it, rent it or repair and sell it right away.
Talk to the bank holding the lien if you are offering less than the amount owed on the property. This can be a long and time-consuming process, and the seller must agree to apply for a short sale from the lender before you can complete the transaction and close the deal.
Hire a real estate attorney to draft a contract with the agreed upon terms to be signed by you and the seller.
Hire a closing agent or escrow office to process the paperwork and handle the money involved in the transaction to complete the sale.