Start finding unlisted homes with these five insider tips!

It’s tough to find your dream home in a market with limited inventory. When nearly every desirable listing receives multiple offers, buyers need an experienced agent who can craft an offer that will stand out from the pack. You will also need an agent who actively pursues unlisted inventory.

Recently, Urban Brokers’ own Mark Meyerdirk secured a gorgeous row house in 16th Street Heights in northwest D.C. before the listing even hit the market. And while we don’t want to give up all our secrets to the competition, we are willing to share a few tools we use to find unlisted properties for our buyer clients.

Here are five suggestions from our team of buyer specialists at Urban Brokers:

1. Investigate homes under construction.

In Washington D.C., homes under renovation are required to post a building permit. Renovations are often an indicator homeowners are sprucing up their residence before putting it on the market. As you drive or walk around neighborhoods you like, start a list of homes with building permits. This is a great way to scout for prospective properties.

Next, take note of the owner and contractor’s names and phone numbers (these will be listed on the permit). Ask your buyer’s agent to give them a call and inquire about the anticipated list price and date. We know this works because we’ve experience it ourselves. Urban Brokers clients Jack and Laura found their new home when principal broker Mark Meyerdirk employed this technique for their historic Anacostia property — with views of the Capitol Building and Washington Monument.

2. Seek out pocket listings.

Pocket listings are signed real estate listings with a specific Brokerage that are not yet entered in the MLS. About 80% of sales in the area are transacted by 20% of the local agents. So, seek out a top producers who have access to a steady pipeline of new listings. Going directly to the Realtor may provide you the chance to glimpse your perfect home before many other homebuyers. This method is how clients Andrew and Lisa secured their new home in Brookland — they found the upcoming listing at Urban Brokers.

Alternatively, if your top-producing agent doesn’t have a new listing of their own, ask the company about their connections to top-producing colleagues at other firms.

3. Gain access to “Coming Soon” listings.

Recently, our local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) launched a new status, “Coming Soon.” These listings are only available to licensed Realtors. The truth is if you don’t have a Realtor working on your behalf, properties are slipping through your fingers before you ever know they exist. While “Coming Soon” properties cannot be shown until they are switched to “Active” on the site, a surprising number of these homes sell before their anticipated list dates. Also, individual Brokerages may have their own “Preview” or “Coming Soon” status of properties that are not listed in the MLS. Earlier this week, our clients Bilal and Natasha secured their new home through this method. Their Urban Brokers agent worked to arrange a viewing before the listing went active. They loved it, made an offer and were under contract within 24 hours.

4. Seek out wholesale opportunities.

Investors frequently buy fixer-uppers at rock-bottom prices through estate attorneys or desperate sellers. But it’s also common for those investors to later balk at spending money on a full renovation. The result? They try to sell the poorly maintained properties to another investor or individual with a high tolerance for risk. Ask your agent to seek out investors looking to sell properties at wholesale value. If you are willing to take on a project and put in the sweat equity, these properties can offer a great below-market opportunity.

5. Tenants, listen up! You still have rights.

Though Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) laws are in the midst of an overhaul, renters in multi-family homes are still currently entitled to TOPA rights. While buying an apartment building might seem overwhelming as a first-time homebuyer, it can offer an amazing investment opportunity for those willing to take the risk. If you’re considering such a purchase, perform your due diligence to ensure the building has a solid history of reliable renters. Keep in mind lenders can use the income from the other units to help you qualify for your mortgage.

Nathan, a client of Urban Brokers, lucked out when his Georgetown apartment building was contracted by an investor at a below-market price. Through TOPA — and by paying attention — Nathan matched the agreed-upon sales contract and ended up buying the property for a price several hundred-thousand dollars below its appraised value. The lesson? If you’re a tenant in a building up for sale, do some research. With an experienced Realtor at your side, you might be able to invest in a property that keeps you in your home and offers a solid investment. Be sure to enlist your own representation under this circumstance – hire a Buyer Broker that does not work for the same real estate company as the Seller.

Remember: Finding off-market opportunities is but half the battle. In these situations, sellers often need an incentive to sell the property before it goes to the market. Securing a good buyer representative is crucial to understanding the benefits and risks of off-market properties. You should hire a professional who can give you both an analysis of the property’s current value and its potential resale value. For example, will the property sell quickly if the market softens? Will that nearby development project have a positive or negative impact on value? Will pending legislative changes (TOPA, policies for short-term rentals such as Airbnb, etc.) impact the property’s value?

Partner with an Urban Brokers Buyer Agent!

If you are interested in partnering with a top producer to assist with your real estate needs, please get in touch. Give us a ring or complete the form below to request a confidential consultation with an experienced professional.