Some MLS (multiple listing services) offer an off-market service which provides a comprehensive list of data on off-market properties including, but not limited to, a market value estimate, information about the property, current owner’s address, etc.
The subscription on these can be costly, but they will save you some time and energy. Usually, brokers are the ones that have access to these tools, and some MLS are strictly limited to professionals only. Some commercial MLS do not have these restrictions in place and can be used by anyone.
Hire a broker
Brokers often have connections or can make connections through their connections. They also have access to a ton of tools and resources at their fingertips that should aid them in their search. They can leverage their connections and might even already have a list of properties that are open to offers.
Brokers get paid when you make a purchase and will work tirelessly to help you find what you’re looking for. Obviously, they do not come without their price as they take a commission from the sale, but it takes a lot of the leg work out of searching for a property.
It’s the most hands-off method that will allow you to kick your feet up and relax while they do the dirty work. And because they are working on your behalf, they will fight to get you a great deal. If they can’t make the sale happen, they don’t get paid.
Pro tip: keep the line of communication between you and your broker open. Even if they keep sending you properties that don’t meet your criteria, let them know. They will toss that one aside and continue the hunt. Establishing a professional trusting relationship can also help you further down the line should you decide to need the broker’s service again.
Market your interest
A simple, but sometimes costly and time-consuming method is to put the word out that you’re interested in buying a property. Using tactics such as targeted direct mail campaigns, email blasts to your contacts and other tactics can provide you with a few leads. You just need to be careful as you may get some leads that are offering a barely habitable structure and could leave you with their headache.
Foreclosures, auctions and wholesalers
Caution should be taken if you decide to go this route as these are more likely to have issues and/or complications with the property. If you’re willing to take on more risk or have the resources readily and easily available to help you with the transaction and any repairs, then this could be a viable option.
Determining the value of the property
Before making an offer, you need to determine the value of the property. You can determine the market value of the property by comparing the building to other similar buildings sold in the area. The closer to your property to the ones you’re comparing, the better. It may tough to get an accurate estimate (especially without having access to the property), but you should be able to get a ballpark figure.
To find the assessed value, you can go online or visit the county Tax Assessors office and get a record of the previous assessed value of the property. There are also tools that allow you to get an assessed and market value estimate, particularly commercial MLS.
Finding the owner
Finding the owner can be a challenge without access to the right tools. Some MLS will tell you who the owner is there on the platform. Other tools such as PropertyShark, for example, are designed specifically for this. These tools will give you publicly available information, but take out all the legwork for you, saving you a lot of time.
If you do not have access to these tools, you can still find the information on your own, typically for free. You just have to be ready to get your hands dirty. You can find information about the property from the county Tax Assessors Office or you can get the name and contact information of the property owner from the tax records.
You will need to know the address of the property and it’s sometimes helpful to also have the plat number or the lot/block of the property. Once you gain this information you will also get access to additional information about the property features, and whether or not the property has a tax lien or deficiency against it.
Submitting an offer
Once you have determined who the owner is and where they can be reached, you can now begin making an offer. There are various methods in which this can be accomplished.
You can send them an offer/letter of intent through the mail. It’s the least obtrusive method of contacting the owner, but there is a higher chance of being ignored. Send it through the mail. Do not just drop it in their mailbox yourself.
You can personally go to the owner’s property, but care needs to be taken when doing so. Hopefully, you’ve been practicing your sales pitch.
About the author
Emily Benjamin works for Biproxi, an end-to-end commercial real estate listing platform that connects buyers and sellers and is committed to providing the best tools, data, and applications to empower brokers to sell intelligently, and buyers to invest confidently.