6 Ways to Do-It-Yourself Home Search

By Richard Montgomery
Richard Montgomery
Richard Montgomery
Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty or at DearMonty.com. Email him at monty@dearmonty.com.
August 21, 2021 Updated: August 21, 2021

Dear Monty: We want to buy a home, but we have been outbid twice already. Agents say few homes are coming on the market, which is a big reason for the high prices. Do you have any suggestions about how we could find a home on our own?

Monty’s Answer: Here is what USA Today says about the unusual market in an article titled, “Are We Trapped in Another Housing Bubble? A Rapid Rise in Home Prices Has Some Experts Worried.” The simple answer is to emulate in many ways what real estate agents do to find homes for sale. Assuming you are seeking a single-family home, below are some tasks you can undertake to try to discover a home before it hits the market. If you have the time and are willing to put in considerable effort, it could work.

You should have an up-to-date preapproval letter. For more information on the preapproval process, read my column, “Mortgage Loan Pre-Approval in Today’s Real Estate Market Is a Must if You Plan on Financing Your Purchase,” on my website, Dear Monty.

Drive Neighborhoods

Look in neighborhoods that are in your price range. Bring a pad of large post-it notes along. When you spot a home that looks appealing, stop. Ring the doorbell or knock. When the door opens, have a big smile on your face and say: “Hi, I’m (your name), and we want to buy a home in this neighborhood. Do you know of anyone thinking of selling?” If no one comes to the door, stick a note with the same message on the door with your telephone number.

Review All Your Friends and Acquaintances

You are looking for people you know who are likely to have a lead for you. For example, a mail carrier knows which homes on the route are vacant. A worker in a nursing home or a lawn care company sees turnover. Call them to see if they will keep an eye out for you. Tell everyone you know. Spread the word on social media.

Call ‘For Sale by Owner’ Ads

Here are sellers that have announced. Act quickly if they have a home that may fit. While there are some drawbacks to this approach, it is for sure that they will talk to you. You can find them on many websites and social media.

Real Estate Agents

If you have a friend who is a real estate agent or have one that you are working with, they know which listings are expiring unsold. They may be willing to share this information. The trick here is understanding why the home is not selling, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Public Records

Check foreclosure sale notices at the courthouse or the municipality’s website. You cannot always view the interior before the sale, but you can often get a good idea of what you may face just standing in front of it. Divorce actions and death notices often signal a home coming up for sale.

Newspapers

Reading a newspaper often reveals the goings-on in the area. Business openings or closures may signal the relocation of employees you know at such companies. The classified section often lists for-sale-by-owner properties. Some online websites offer free home-wanted ads.

Continue to shop the way you have been if you undertake this task and realize that if you find a seller, they likely know how the current market is behaving.

Copyright 2021 Creators.com

Richard Montgomery
Richard Montgomery
Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty or at DearMonty.com. Email him at monty@dearmonty.com.