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What Does Off Market Mean in Real Estate? Tips & Advice

Off market deals can boost your income and provide stability for your family. But beware of the risks that come with them.
Off market deals can boost your income and provide stability for your family. But beware of the risks that come with them.

Buying or selling a property off market has several advantages for those who choose not to go through the traditional real estate process. Off market properties often yield better profit margins, come with less restrictions, and offer faster closing times compared to buying or selling with a real estate agent.

However, off market properties also come with their fair share of downsides and associated risks that could potentially harm those involved in the sale. 

This means that off market real estate deals aren’t for everyone, and it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

What Does Off Market Mean?

Learn more about what we're referring to when we talk about off market deals.
Learn more about what we’re referring to when we talk about off market deals.

The term “off market” refers to properties not listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or public real estate market. These properties are often marketed privately through non-traditional methods such as word of mouth, social media, and real estate networking groups.

Off market deals are popular among house flippers and real estate wholesalers who often target distressed and deplorable properties. Their goal is to convince the homeowner to part ways with their dilapidated property by making a cash offer to bypass the lengthy mortgage approval process.

In turn, the homeowner receives a lump sum of cash for their struggling and unsightly home, while the real estate developer acquires it under market value and has the capacity to fix it up and transform it into a desirable property. 

This process fosters economic development by increasing the value of other properties in the neighborhood and by stimulating the real estate market. It also allows a new homeowner or family to enjoy a once-neglected property and become valued members of the community. 

It’s important to understand that not all off market deals involve flippers or wholesalers targeting deplorable properties. Some savvy real estate investors or even those not involved in real estate development can acquire off market properties through word of mouth and personal connections. 

Additionally, off market properties aren’t always purchased under market value, as sellers in private sales also have the ability to negotiate higher sale prices for their homes. However, in most contexts, off market deals in real estate refer to the buying and selling of distressed homes not listed on public real estate markets. 

Buying Off Market

Buying an off market home typically involves distressed properties.
Most off market properties look something like this.

Buying a home off market is often a complex process that requires strong networking skills, financial literacy, and effective negotiation. It’s important to understand the requirements and general procedure when buying a home off market to avoid potential legal and financial consequences after the purchase.

Getting Started with Off Market Deals

First, you’ll need to build a strong network of like minded investors or real estate developers who can alert you when a new property becomes available off market. Since these properties aren’t listed on public forums like the MLS, your network is a reliable source to draw your attention to potential deals. 

Social media is also an effective channel to find off market deals. There are thousands of Facebook groups created specifically for real estate investors looking to find, sell, and negotiate off market properties. 

Finding Facebook groups for off market deals is very simple. First determine your market and then search for these groups using the search bar on the Facebook home page. For example, search for “Houston off market real estate” and you’ll likely find groups with hundreds or even thousands of members interested in off market properties.

Keep in mind that real estate agents aren’t totally useless in the off market investing process. Experienced real estate agents often receive word from their connections when an off market property hits the private market and can pass along the word to you as well. 

Another effective way to source off market deals is through direct outreach. Most wholesalers and house flippers find the best deals by sending direct mail advertisements and door knocking. They hope to reach homeowners who haven’t considered selling their distressed property but could be convinced with an attractive offer.

Acquiring the Property

If you’ve located a suitable property to purchase off market and have the resources to do so, congrats! But that’s just the first step. Next, you’ll need to navigate the process of closing the deal with due diligence, negotiations, and contracts.

Due Diligence

Due diligence is crucial at this stage of the process. Investors must be confident they will make a profit on the home after the purchase and subsequent renovations to the property. We recommend using online tools to calculate your potential return on investment (ROI) to ensure you’re not overpaying for the property and that it can be a profitable investment based on the current real estate market. 

For instance, if you purchase a distressed property for $175,000 and determine it will sell for $225,000 with $50,000 of renovations, it’s wise to assume that this isn’t a smart investment. In this case, you should pass on the property and focus your attention on finding a better deal.

If you’ve conducted your due diligence, determine it’s a smart investment, and convince the seller you’re the right person to sell to, it’s time to negotiate the deal. 

Negotiations

As with any real estate transaction, the buyer wants to buy low while the seller wants to sell the home at top dollar. 

Here is where a real estate agent can be valuable. Unless you’ve negotiated off market deals before, you may not be as effective as someone who has been through the process dozens or even hundreds of times like most experienced real estate agents. 

Choosing to work with a real estate agent to handle negotiations could allow you to secure better deals and turn a larger profit when it comes time to sell the property after renovations. However, real estate agents receive a commission on each deal they’re involved in, so keep that in mind when thinking about your potential ROI on the deal.

Buyers who choose to negotiate on their own behalf should understand how to negotiate off market deals before jumping in headfirst without any preparation. You’ll need to understand how to negotiate pricing terms, closing dates, and any contingencies like home inspections or appraisals.

Contracts

Savvy real estate developers, wholesalers, and flippers often have a database of contracts required to secure off market deals. This includes purchase agreements, property disclosures, escrow agreements, title reports, and much more. Keep in mind that real estate agents will typically handle the paperwork in off market deals as part of their commission for facilitating the transaction.

But if you’re handling all the contracts and paperwork yourself, do your homework! Contractual obligations for off market deals vary state by state, so educate yourself on all the requirements before entering into any agreement or closing the deal. Otherwise, your business or even your livelihood could be at stake. 

Selling Off Market

Selling a distressed home is overall beneficial for you and for those in your community.
If your home looks like this, it’s time to sell!

The process of selling an off market property can differ depending on your circumstances. For example, distressed homeowners typically have a different selling process compared to investors who are selling a renovated property off market. 

Selling a Distressed Home

Homeowners of distressed properties are prime targets for real estate developers and wholesalers. If you find yourself owning a distressed property, you’ll need to decide if now is the right time to sell.

Distressed and dilapidated properties generally don’t contribute to the overall well-being of society, and in most cases, it’s beneficial for someone to transform the property into a well-kept and desirable home. In turn, home prices in the community will increase and fellow neighbors will be happy that the unsightly property is no longer standing.

However, market conditions play a role in deciding when it’s the optimal time to sell. In recent years, we’ve experienced a strong sellers market, meaning home prices are higher than usual and there’s often lots of competition for properties on the market. In other words, now is a great time to sell your distressed property.

On the flip side, a buyers market is, of course, more advantageous to those buying real estate. Home prices are lower in buyers markets while high competition and bidding wars are less common.

Other Ways to Sell Off Market

While “selling off market” typically refers to the sale of distressed properties, some investors or average homeowners choose to sell their properties off market as well. 

Average homeowners selling off market may choose to list their homes as a “for sale by owner” or FSBO listing, while investors may find a buyer through word of mouth without listing the property on a public real estate marketplace.

For Sale By Owner (FSBO)

Although some FSBO listings are technically on the public real estate market, many are promoted off market and may not make it onto the MLS. Nonetheless, FSBO listings are non-traditional and are worth mentioning here.

FSBO listings are generally discouraged by the real estate community for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes FSBO homeowners aren’t savvy enough to fully understand the ins and outs of negotiations, contracts, contingencies, and market dynamics. This makes them vulnerable to the possibility of losing out on money from the sale in addition to potential legal implications.

Additionally, FSBO listings typically don’t receive as much exposure as traditional listings marketed by a real estate agent. Popular real estate websites like Zillow and Trulia may not always feature FSBO listings on their site, which means there will be less competition and little negotiating power for sellers. 

Off Market Selling as an Investor

Real estate investors often have connections and partners that refer deals to them and vice versa. This means that investors may have more success selling properties off market than the average homeowner.

Skilled investors acquire properties under market value, make renovations, and try to sell the property for more than their initial investment and renovation costs. They also know how to make financial projections for renovations and understand the current market conditions that will determine the future sale price. In a sellers market, this puts investors in a strong position for potential profits. 

If you find yourself looking to sell your renovated property off market, you probably already have a strong understanding of how the process works. To find a buyer, we recommend tapping into your existing connections, sharing your listing in local Facebook groups, and doing everything you can to get the word out about your property to generate interest in the local community.

Final Thoughts

Off market real estate deals are a hot topic of discussion for many in the real estate community. While these transactions offer the potential for profits, there are also several downsides and risks involved.

It’s important to educate yourself to understand the full scope of the off market buying and selling process to protect yourself from legal and financial implications down the line.

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